FNC: The Inside Story

As some members debated the budget for a final time, others hoped to instil recommendations for the benefit of future councils.
FNC member for Ras Al Khaimah, Abdulrahim Al Shahin. Fatima Al Marzooqi /The National.
FNC member for Ras Al Khaimah, Abdulrahim Al Shahin. Fatima Al Marzooqi /The National.

ABU DHABI // The federal budget debate last Tuesday was the final one for some outgoing Federal National Council members.

And, just as it was in previous years, the discussion was long, intense and completely transparent.

One thing that was different, however, was the members’ accumulated experience and knowledge from discussing the budget last year and in 2012.

Looking back, some members had not always been this budget savvy.

In 2011, when 36 of the 40 members were new to the council, just as they got comfortable in their seats, veteran member Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin, who had served a previous four-year term, asked why the council had not seen the budget.

Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) said that because of his query members realised that the budget should be presented to the FNC every year.

A week into the new year the council was told why it had not seen the 2012 federal budget. Dr Anwar Gargash, the Minister of State for FNC Affairs and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said the Cabinet needed to pass the budget without consulting the FNC because there were concerns that too much debate would cause delay.

Dr Al Shahin said this was in breach of the constitution – the first time such a strong statement had been made in the council that year.

This set a precedent for the types of discussions expected in budget debates.

In the first budget wrangle for the 36 new members in 2012, they were confronted with figures showing the lack of contributions by the Northern Emirates, the lack of financing for some ministries, and large allocations to salaries in the budget.

A member also noted that had it not been for grants by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, the country would have faced major financing issues.

These issues continued to be a problem in last year’s budget debate and surfaced again at this year’s discussions.

As no one knows who will return to the council for the next four-year term, a few members took it upon themselves to urge change.

Ali Jassim (UAQ), the council’s longest-serving member, already said he did not expect to return for another term.

Although pleased to see how the budget had developed over the years with pressure from the FNC, on Tuesday he said the budget structure needed to be amended to allow greater spending on programmes rather than salaries. He called the budget a “salary budget”. Mr Al Shamsi agreed. He said he would like the budget to address development and not just operational costs.

“We hope the budget continues to develop and to match the speed of the progression of the economy,” he said.

“We hope the Federal Government supports the budget more and focuses on development, particularly in the Northern Emirates as they have limited income and rely heavily on the budget for health, education. We know and hope our recommendations are heard.”

osalem@thenational.ae

Published: December 27, 2014 04:00 AM

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