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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

FNC members' resolve as strong as ever on council's 46th anniversary

Members Salem Al Shehhi and Hamad Al Rahoomi say they still have many issues they wish to bring before the government 

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, opens the first FNC session of the year 2013. On Monday the FNC celebrates 46 years since its formation. Wam
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, opens the first FNC session of the year 2013. On Monday the FNC celebrates 46 years since its formation. Wam

On the 46th anniversary of its formation, members of the Federal National Council are not patting themselves on the back, rather continuing to protect the interests of the country’s citizens.

Issues from health to education, salaries and security have always topped their agendas and while the council has evolved with time, the members’ resolve has yet dwindled.

“I always look if the elements of a citizen’s personal life-plan are complete: family, salary, residence, job – are all those things stable in his life?” asked Ras Al Khaimah member Salem Al Shehhi.

The issue he has turned his attention to is whether an Emirati’s income is compatible with inflation and increasing cost of living.

“Debts are very stressful; how can we unburden the people of their debts?

“The government sometimes differs with us as they have their own plans, but we raise these points over and over, because the people need legislative decisions to run their matters,” he said.

The biggest concerns relayed to him by locals are salaries, education and health.

“There is a big fraction of society who are retirees or benefactors of social pensions, or even working, but their income does not cover their living costs.”

He gave the example of a widow who receives Dh5,000 from social affairs, but must pay her house maid Dh2,000 and her nurse another Dh2,000, “and she has to provide food and drinks - the five thousand has already run out.”

Mr Al Shehhi has been vocal about education over the past three years, particularly when the minister failed to attend council despite being repeatedly summoned. The Minister of Education, Hussein Al Hammadi, ended up attending the FNC in December 2016.

Mr Al Shehhi said he was concerned about the new curricula that were suddenly introduced and led to many pupils failing.

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“If you want to establish a [high level education] vision for the UAE, OK fine, but that does not lean you have to do it in the form of jumps,” he said.

“Where is the evaluation that follows each phase?”

Hamad Al Rahoomi, a Dubai member of the council, said he too has many issues he wishes to put forward.

“One of them is how to protect palm trees against weevil, because we know the problems it creates.”

He said this came down to unregulated trade and incorrect transfer methods.

“I also need answers [from the government] on the following: how can we control inflation? Do we have any control over prices? Is there anyone regulating prices offered to different people? Raising and dropping prices is based on what?”

All of this, he said, has a cause-effect relationship with fees.

“When you impose fees on a producer, he will automatically raise the prices of products. Is this allowed?”

In general, he said ministers have been co-operative with answering the council’s queries as of late. In the past, members have complained about the lack of updated data from the government ahead of debating a topic.

“We have raised this issue more than once, and now we are seeing better cooperation,” Mr Al Rahoomi said.

He pointed to the FNC’s most recent session which involved a long-awaited debate on the Central Bank’s policy.

Central Bank governor Mubarak Al Mansouri presented thorough details and figures on the latest updates.

“I see this as a positive sign,” he said, but suggested that the information be distributed to members a week ahead of the session.

“So when we debate, we are on the same page.

“If for example I received information saying Emiratisation has reached 30 per cent, and then the minister says during the session no it has been raised to 50 per cent, this doesn’t work – there must be an update ahead of time.”

Mr Al Rahoomi said his greatest accomplishment at the council so far was when the government put his good conduct certificate proposition into action.

He proposed that foreign workers should present a good conduct certificate from their countries of origin or residence, prior to being accepted for work in the UAE.

This will ensure that criminals do not enter the country to work and threaten its public security, and it will save the government a great deal on policing and judicial costs, he said.

This was translated into a cabinet decree which came into effect on February 4.