10 more days of holidays, FNC member says

A proposal to make the last 10 days of Ramadan a public holiday is also under discussion

ABU DHABI // The last 10 days of Ramadan should be public holidays, a leading Federal National Council member said on Sunday.

Not having to work would give people more time to worship, shop for Eid, perform haj and visit family late into the night, said Mosabeh Al Kitbi (Sharjah).

Mr Al Kitbi has raised the idea with the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Abdullah Al Gergawi, and it will be discussed at the FNC tomorrow.

“As elected members from the public we always work to bring up issues debated by them,” Mr Al Kitbi said. “And one of the requests that is always being made is to turn the last 10 days of Ramadan into a public holiday.”

He said it was known that the full impact of fasting began 20 days into the month, marking the start of the last, and holiest, 10 days of Ramadan. “This is something that affects both the employed and the unemployed.”

“It is important to keep in mind that the employed include women, the elderly and people sick with chronic diseases … so the effects of fasting are greater on them than others,” Mr Al Kitbi said.

“They are in a state that does not help them in working.”

Government employees had 15 public holidays this year, including five – a whole working week – for Eid Al Fitr at the end of Ramadan. However, other countries in the region have more: public-sector staff in Qatar have 12 days off for Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr alone, and in Saudi Arabia there were 23 public holidays last year.

Staff in the private sector have considerably fewer public holidays, and some companies even deduct them from employees’ annual leave entitlement.

At their last session of the year tomorrow the FNC will also conduct what is expected to be a lengthy final debate on the Dh49.1 billion federal budget.

The Cabinet approved the budget, an increase of Dh2.9bn on the previous year, in October. Ministers said spending would target health and education, social service benefits and the development of government services for citizens.

Members will also pass a Dh800 million increase to the 2014 federal budget after some entities asked for additional financing to cover urgent requests by the leadership.

“There are no deficits, these are new projects that needed to be carried out immediately,” said Ali Al Nuaimi, deputy head of the council’s finance committee.

The FNC is also expected to discuss a proposed law against begging.

Ahmed Al Zaabi (Sharjah) said new legislation was needed to criminalise begging in all emirates and to protect the rights of those believed to be beggars but later found not to be. He said existing punishments were insufficiently harsh and needed to be restudied.

“We also need to look into where the money is going,” he said. “Beggars might be using the money to finance illegitimate organisations.”

Members will also discuss a proposal to introduce physical education as a major subject at state universities.

The public session will be held tomorrow at the FNC headquarters in Abu Dhabi starting at 9am.

osalem@thenational.ae

Published: December 21, 2014 04:00 AM

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