ABU DHABI // Frustrated by bureaucratic bottlenecks that can mean a five-year gap between a law being passed and its coming into effect, the Federal National Council has decided to impose new drafting deadlines on officials.
"We want to speed things up," Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin, an appointed FNC member from Ras Al Khaimah who has spearheaded the push, said during the council's last session.
Under the constitution, laws passed by the President, Sheikh Khalifa, must then be published in the official gazette. Only then can the ministry concerned begin writing the regulations needed to put the law into effect.
The constitution requires the publication to happen within two weeks of the law being passed by the President. Often, though, it takes longer.
Further, once a law has been published in the Gazette, years or even decades sometimes pass before ministries write the relevant regulations. For example, the Ministry of Finance has yet to issue the statutory instruments for a 1985 law on the regulation of Islamic banks.
To speed up the process, the FNC will, as it deems necessary, add a clause to bills it passes that sets a deadline for the ministry concerned to write the laws.
One of the first bills with such a clause concerned certification of precious metals and stones. It was passed at the FNC's last session, on January 17.
Members had wanted to set a six-month deadline, but the head of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology, Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, insisted that that was not enough.
"Giving the authority six months and another six months for its implementation would mean that the law would already take a year to work," Dr Al Shahin said.
Dr Al Shahin added that 90 per cent of the law was the same as the one it replaces. "We already had a law, if it was not implemented, then you are responsible," he said to Mr Fahad.
Dr Al Shahin had broached the issue of delayed Gazette publication with Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for both Foreign Affairs and FNC Affairs, at the FNC session on January 3. Other members have since joined Dr Al Shahin's call.
"We need the laws to be published so ministries and other authorities know what their rights are when putting together the bylaws," he said.
His frustration grew at the January 17 session. Then - two months after the new FNC first met - members received the official announcement of the start of the council's 15th legislative chapter, along with the 40 members' names.
"These should have been in the first session," he said.
Ali Jassim (appointed, Umm Al Qaiwain) echoed his frustration. "This is a pressing issue," he said. "The names of the members we saw in the papers before the session started was through the media's own efforts."
Mr Jassim also called for laws to be published not only in the Gazette, but also in the press. "These laws affect citizens," he said. "They should know about them."
At the suggestion of the Speaker, Mohammed Al Murr (appointed, Dubai), the FNC voted to make an official complaint about the delay to the Ministry of Justice. "Some laws stay for five years and they are not executed," Mr Jassim said.
Still, the debate on the new law for the certification of precious metals showed that for some FNC members, faster is not necessarily better. Indeed, the standardisation authority's Mr Fahad did find some sympathy on the council when he asked for more time to write the bylaws.
"A lot of work is needed in this," said Ahmed Al Amash (elected, RAK). "The authority saw that it needs at least this time."
Ahmed Al Manouri (appointed, Dubai) agreed. "This business is big; hundreds of tonnes have been imported from Dubai, that is billions," he said. "I agree, six months is not enough."
After a half-hour debate, members agreed to Mr Fahad's request for a one-year limit.