x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

FNC seeks help for drought-hit farms

Council will also pursue issue of health insurance for Emiratis.

"The problem gets worse by the day," says the FNC member Musabah Al Kitbi, who campaigned on a promise of help for farmers whose land is drying out.

ABU DHABI // The Environment Minister will today face questions from the Federal National Council about support for the eastern UAE's drought-hit farms.

The discussion will be led by Musabah Al Kitbi, who won his seat in Sharjah with pledges to help farmers struggling to cultivate ever-drier land.

"This is not a new problem, it has been there for 10 years, but the problem gets worse by the day," said Mr Al Kitbi. "I have received many accounts from people, all pleading with me to raise the issue to ministers."

He will get his chance today to ask the minister, Dr Rashid bin Fahad, what assistance the Ministry plans to offer.

"I hope that the minister does not reply and say we cannot solve the problem for financial reasons," said Mr Al Kitbi. "Because anything like that can be resolved, even if we charge farmers.

"There are many solutions they can put forth and I hope to hear them doing one."

He Mr Al Kitbi said the problem had been resolved for some farmers, but mainly unlicensed ones.

"We need a solution on the federal level," he said. "The central area used to be a green oasis. Now we must import food, prices of which are continuously increasing, and the safety [of the food is] unknown."

Dr bin Fahad will also face questions from Hamad Al Rahoumi (Dubai) about last year's sinking of a ship carrying tonnes of diesel off Umm Al Quwain.

A month ago, Dr bin Fahad said in a written reply that the ministry was consulting specialists and had asked the Umm Al Quwain police to prosecute the ship's owner.

But rather than leaving it to the court, Mr Al Rahoumi is adamant that the ministry should not have left the ship in the water, where it could have leaked diesel into the Gulf.

He summoned Dr bin Fahad to the last FNC meeting two weeks ago to answer that charge in person.

The minister was abroad at the time but Mr Al Rahoumi said he had been assured he would attend today.

Also at today's meeting will be the Minister of Finance, Obaid Humaid Al Tayyer, who will face questions from two members.

Ahmed Al Amash (RAK), will again try to get details about comprehensive health insurance for Emiratis.

On January 3, the Minister of Health, Abdulrahman Mohamed Al Owais, told the FNC that such a scheme fell under the Finance Ministry's remit, not his department's.

Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman) will ask about the difference in water and electricity charges between the emirates.

"The question implies that there is a difference between emirates in prices," he said, but would not be drawn further.

He will also ask about the regulation of the banking industry, specifically about progress on setting up a higher advisory board to oversee Islamic banks - for which legislation was passed in the 1980s but which was never set up - and on establishing a credit card data collection authority.

At the second part of the session, members will go over a draft law covering the trading of precious stones and metals.

The session will be held at the FNC headquarters in Abu Dhabi and is open to the public. It begins at 9am.

osalem@thenational.ae