IRI Maldives Poll Shows Concerns over Corruption, High Cost of Living, and Illicit Drugs, Support for Decentralized Governance

Malé, Maldives— A new nationwide poll of the Maldives by the International Republican Institute’s (IRI) Center for Insights in Survey Research (CISR) reveals concerns over corruption, the high cost of living, and illicit drugs, as well as support for a decentralized system of governance.

When asked about important problems facing the country, 22% chose corruption and 17% said the high cost of living. Illicit drugs were cited by 15%.

 “While there isn’t a singular dominant issue, our poll underscores a series of problems that have a direct effect on the Maldivian people,” said Johanna Kao, Director for the Asia-Pacific at IRI. “However, it is reassuring to see the government is actively working to address public concerns about drugs.” 

 The survey also found that 74% agree a decentralized system of governance is important for the country. At the same time, a smaller share of 45% are satisfied with the pace of decentralization. 

“Citizens are firmly in favor of decentralized governance, but expect faster implementation,” said Kao. “To build upon this, policymakers should prioritize measures to ensure local councils are further empowered to deliver on community expectations.”  

The key institutions associated with decentralization, local councils and Women’s Development Committees (WDC), enjoy support. Sixty-seven percent rate their local council as effective for waste management, and half rate it effective for maintenance of public infrastructure. 

Overall, 31% know “a lot” or “something” about their WDC’s work. Awareness of WDC activities is highest on islands with fewer than 4,000 inhabitants with 46%, indicating a particularly active role of WDCs in more rural settings. 


The survey was conducted on behalf of IRI’s Center for Insights in Survey Research by the Institute for Research and Innovation, Villa College between August 12 and September 11, 2022. Data was collected using a multi-stage stratified probability sample through in-person, in-home interviews. The sample consists of 1,292 respondents aged 18 and older and is representative of Maldivian adults nationally, excluding the 6% of the adult population residing on resort islands. The margin of error does not exceed plus or minus 2.7% at the mid-range with a confidence level of 95%. The response rate was 72%.

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