x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

FNC's caution on 2013 UAE budget underfinancing

The Federal National Council passes next year's budget after grilling finance minister Obaid Al Tayer for three hours over the lack of funding for some ministries.

Council members questioned the finance minister Obaid Al Tayer for three hours over what they said was inadequate funding for some ministries before finally passing the budget.
Council members questioned the finance minister Obaid Al Tayer for three hours over what they said was inadequate funding for some ministries before finally passing the budget.

ABU DHABI // Next year's Dh44.565 billion federal budget will leave some ministries underfinanced and unable to develop, members of the Federal National Council warned yesterday.

Council members questioned the finance minister Obaid Al Tayer for three hours over what they said was inadequate funding for some ministries before finally passing the budget - 39 per cent of which will go to social services, 22 per cent to security, 2 per cent to infrastructure and building and 37 per cent to "other expenses".

Despite passing the budget, members gave the Cabinet a list of observations that included requests to increase the budgets of the Health Ministry and two federal universities - Higher Colleges of Technology and United Aram Emirates University - and for all emirates to contribute funds.

They also urged that the Marriage Fund to be given greater financing so that it could increase the current level of Dh70,000 paid to Emirati men who marry Emirati women.

Throughout the session, members asked Mr Al Tayer why no contributions to the budget were being made by the Northern Emirates, why no funds had been set aside for Emiratisation drives and why some ministries had been denied requested increases.

After tackling a report prepared by the finance committee - compiled with the help of various ministries - they expressed unhappiness that the Ministry of Social Affairs had been denied funds to host a seminar on rights and integration and that the Marriage Fund had been denied funds for a number of programmes, including one aimed at young people who are about to marry.

Other ministries also suffered from a lack of financing, said members, who warned that even where increases were awarded, these would cover only salaries and promotions.

The 2013 budget of the Federal Authority for Human Resources, for example, was increased Dh14,050,000 from 2012 to cover salaries, appraisals and logistics. The Marriage Fund's budget will increase by Dh3m in 2013, also for salaries, appraisals, compensation and social pensions.

UAE University's budget will increase by Dh5,737,000 and Zayed University's by Dh103,346,400 for salaries and promotions.

"The budget does not help in development," said Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman).

"Yes the budget is half a billion more, but that is for salaries. It does not achieve any development. If it was not for the president's infrastructure and development programmes, we would not move forward."

Studying the budget also led the council to spot a duplication in proposed programmes by the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Marriage Fund.

The ministry was assigned Dh33,203,990 and the fund Dh8,272,000 for the same programme on family solidarity.

The report warned that previous deficits at UAEU and HCT and interest owed to banks "could affect their international accreditation in the long run".

Meanwhile, some members expressed confusion over what deficits, if any, the budget would entail.

"If the budget has no deficit, then it is a zero-based budget," Dr Abdulrahim Al Shahin (RAK) said. "But at the end of last year there was a deficit which the government had to pay for. So this is not really a zero based budget - it is contradictory."

The minister replied that a zero-based budget did not necessarily mean there would be no deficit.

The budget will now be passed back to the Cabinet before it is forwarded for presidential approval.

osalem@thenational.ae

hdajani@thenational.ae