FNC expresses discontent at lack of progress by midterm

Halfway through their term, FNC members expected to have achieved more by now but admitted schedule irregularity has led to a backlog in their work..

FNC meeting in Abu Dhabi on May 28, 2013.  Delores Johnson / The National
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ABU DHABI // Federal National Council members expressed disappointment with the council’s slow pace as they approached mid-term.

After four months of sessions, closed meetings and field visits, council members admitted schedule irregularity had led to a pileup in their work. They have called for sessions to intensify until the end of term.

There is less than four months left before the parliamentary break.

“The council’s work has been below expectations this term, we had expected to have done more,” said Ali Al Nuaimi (Ajman). “Unfortunately, due to some circumstances we were not able to achieve more.”

He and other members blamed the hiccups on poor session planning and a lack of cooperation by ministers.

“But what the FNC has achieved so far is not bad,” he added.

Since the council convened in November, it has tackled Emirati unemployment, passing a number of proposals to the Government to treat the situation, and called for a law on Emiratisation.

Members have also continued to demand better pensions, greater criminal checks on maids coming into the country, a solution to the ever-increasing hiring fees for maids, and passed an anti-fraud law.

In education, the council demanded more money be spent on scientific research and a lesser work load for professors to give them time to conduct research. It has discussed Cabinet decisions to abolish foundation year at universities, and dissolving the two-track arts and scientific system burdening public schools.

As a result of debates, members were able to secure a number of guarantees from ministers to resolve their concerns, including a new plan from the Ministry of Labour to draw up Emiratisation policies, the possibility of a future tie between pensions and inflation, and four years until foundation years at universities are obsolete.

But the biggest achievement for the council this term, said Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman), was passing the country’s first Child Rights law and adding sweeping rights for children in the country.

“The Child Rights law was a good achievement,” he said. “But we cannot neglect other work we’ve done. We have discussed a lot of laws and topics, but a lot are yet to be discussed. We achieved a lot but not what was expected.”

Hamad Al Rahoomi (Dubai) said it was crucial that for the next four months sessions are held regularly.

“We lost a month this year and a month last year, this is time we should not lose,” he said.

He said to make up for time lost in February, when the council went four weeks without meeting once in the capital, it was necessary to hold more and sessions more frequently than every fortnight.

“That is partially the reason why we will meet again this Tuesday, despite us just having had a session last week,” he said. “We have very important laws and topics to get through before the end of the term.”

Some of these include looking at the status of teachers in the country, debating policies of the UAE Central Bank, going through the new military service bill and a compulsory education bill.

And for the first time since its formation, the Human Right’s Committee will kick into high gear and study a plausible law on women’s rights.

The council this year has also looked into several women’s issues, including the situation of women abandoned by their husbands and early retirement.

“We definitely need to compensate for lost time,” Mr Al Nuaimi said.

Members were pessimistic, saying that even increased sessions would not help them to complete all their work.

“We will not finish in four months,” Mr Al Nuaimi said. “Work will [spill] into the next year.”