The New Statutory Civil Service in the Maldives: Towards a Decentralized Human Resource Management Model?
The Civil Service Act of 2007 was a significant enactment of reform in the island nation of the Maldives. It was part of the constitutional changes that the nation embarked on starting in 2003, which resulted in a new constitution leading to the country’s first multiparty elections for president and parliament. The initial focus of civil service reform in the Maldives was to change from a personalistic, patronage-driven system of public employment to a meritocratic employment system largely removed from the direct control of the elected government. Reforming the traditional centralized governance modalities was not the focus at that stage. The adopted civil service model was thus a continuation of a tradition of centralized governance through a statutory commission mandated with the overall human resource management of the civil service.
This chapter begins with a description of the centralized administration and an overview of the civil service before the recent reforms. This is followed by an assessment of six main features of the Maldivian civil service system: the scope of the civil service, its management, codes of conduct, a meritocratic recruitment system, pensions and retirement, political rights and neutrality. Lastly, the chapter assesses the recent delegation reforms in the civil service and examines whether the civil service system is shifting towards a decentralized human resource model.
The chapter argues that due to the infancy of the statutory civil service and the past centralized practices, the effectiveness and adaptability to the Maldivian context of a decentralized model is constantly questioned by the policymakers. Furthermore, given that the Maldives is an emerging democracy, contestation between politics and administration appears to continue. Although the establishment of a statutory civil service has led to a more widespread application of merit principles in appointment, any delegated or decentralized human resource model is at risk to political intervention. The chapter concludes by arguing that without strong backing from policymakers and the necessary legal framework, there is a significant risk that the Maldivian civil service will revert back to a centralized human resource model and that the personalistic and patronage-based features will re-emerge.
In June 2017, beyond the time frame for this case study, there has in fact been some reversal of the delegation reforms of 2015.
KeywordsCivil service Decentralization Maldives
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