Salaries make up big slice of 2015 UAE federal budget

Ali Jasim, an FNC member from UAQ, told the Minister of Finance: “For years now this problem has not been dealt with. This is a salary budget, this is what this is.”
Ahmed Mohammed Rahma al Shamsi, Federal National Council member from Ajman, speaks during the session at the FNC chambers in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National
Ahmed Mohammed Rahma al Shamsi, Federal National Council member from Ajman, speaks during the session at the FNC chambers in Abu Dhabi. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // The FNC on Tuesday approved a Dh49.1 billion budget for next year after a debate about fiscal shortfalls.

Although next year’s budget is Dh2.9bn more than this year’s, FNC members said it would not be able to fund several projects they had hopes of being introduced next year.

FNC members and Obaid Al Tayer, the Minister of State for Financial Affairs, spent three hours reviewing a report on how the budget would be used.

Education, health care, social affairs and housing services were lacking in funding, said FNC members, as more than 80 per cent of most federal agencies’ budgets were allocated to salaries.

“This has been noticed in previous budgets and probably in future budgets,” Ali Jasim (UAQ) told the minister. “For years now this problem has not been dealt with. This is a salary budget, this is what this is.”

For instance, 83 per cent of the Ministry of Education’s Dh4.86bn budget was designated for salaries.

The FNC noted that the ministry’s first goal for next year was to improve teaching methods, but only Dh15,000 had been set aside. No money was allocated to help recruit male Emirati teachers, which the ministry needs.

At the Ministry of Health, 89 per cent of its Dh3.9bn budget has been earmarked for wages.

Mr Al Tayer said salaries were necessary to foster a productive workforce to accomplish the Government’s goals.

He also announced a plan to close the gap between federal government wages and the usually higher local government salaries.

“Like in the ministries of health and education, they are getting closer,” he said. “This doesn’t happen at once but over time.”

According to the FNC, the Ministry of Health was not allocating a sufficient amount of pay for doctors. There are 160 doctors for every 100,000 residents in the UAE, below the ideal level of 300 to 350 doctors for every 100,000 people.

The FNC also said that the ministry had not budgeted for schemes such as preventative programmes for cancer and chronic diseases, training for doctors and pharmacists, and premarital programmes.

The ministry’s budget also did not include the provision of healthcare services to remote areas, the FNC said. “Where is the budget for medication? For medical equipment?” Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) asked. “All we see is a budget for salaries.”

FNC members asked why some healthcare improvement plans were not on their work list for next year, including ambulance services. But that was not a matter for the Ministry of Finance, Mr Al Tayer said.

FNC members also criticised the lack of contribution to the federal budget by emirates other than Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Abu Dhabi has given more than Dh17bn towards the federal budget, while Dubai has provided Dh1.2bn, FNC papers show.

“Only Abu Dhabi [and Dubai] are contributing to the budget,” Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin (RAK) said. “The problem is that not only are other emirates not contributing to the budget, but they are also taking the country’s revenues.”

Citing taxes on tobacco and traffic fines, “they are going to the local government and not to the federal government as they should”, said Dr Al Shahin.

Mr Al Tayer said the ministry acknowledged the matter, and used a graph to illustrate other emirates’ lack of contribution to the federal budget.

“[My] question was direct, the answer was not,” Dr Al Shahin replied. “I did not ask to see the table.”

osalem@thenational.ae

Published: December 23, 2014 04:00 AM

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