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FNC approves Dh431m increase to federal budget

The FNC yesterday agreed to a Dh431 million increase in this year's federal budget to cover deficits run up by more than 10 bodies.

ABU DHABI // The FNC yesterday agreed to a Dh431 million increase in this year's federal budget to cover deficits run up by more than 10 bodies.

As it stood, the budget increased funding only for the National Media Council, which asked for an extra Dh19m, and the tourism authority, which wanted another Dh463,000.

Other ministries asking for extra money included Foreign Affairs, Labour, Culture, Youth and Community Development, and Defence.

Members of the FNC finance committee said the Ministry of Finance had justified the increases to their satisfaction.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was granted an extra Dh130m for its overseas missions, and the Ministry of Culture had Dh24m more approved to cover the costs of National Day celebrations last year and this year.

The National Media Council is preparing for the 2015 Expo in Italy.

Defence needed funding for its air show, while Interior needed it for a new electronic passport system.

Labour needed more than Dh10m to hire more Emiratis, and the federal demographic council needed more than Dh5m to continue its studies. But when passed to the whole council, members demanded more detailed explanation of the requested increases.

"Usually in a zero-based budget, there is no deficit in the middle of the year," said Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin (Ras Al Khaimah). "They are based on strategic plans.

"These deficits mean the zero-based budget was not right. Today we have more than 11 entities that have deficits in the budget."

The Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Obaid Al Tayer, said the extra money would support Emiratis.

"The Ministry of Interior request for passports - these will ease the process for Emiratis," he said. "Some go to the airports and find their passports have expired."

In the case of the Foreign Ministry, the economic crisis in Europe meant it was a good time to buy embassies in countries such as Switzerland and Greece.

"And National Day is something we take pride in," Mr Al Tayer said. "So this is not related to the zero-based-budget. This is a country, there are needs."

He said the expenses were not likely to recur.

Some members were pleased the FNC had the opportunity to consider budget revisions and said they should back the increases to show their support for the council being kept in the loop.

"We see this as something good and we support it, and therefore would like to pass it," said Abdulaziz Al Zaabi (RAK).

But Dr Al Shahin said this was not a reason to pass the increases. He said it was only right that they were put to the council.

"You say the Foreign Minister wanted these embassies for years - if this is so, it should have been put in the budget before," he said. "National day, why? Is this the first time we've celebrated National Day? It is predictable."

Dr Al Shahin said other ministries should have anticipated other expenses.

However, the new budget was passed by a majority.

osalem@thenational.ae

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