x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

FNC to hear ministers' answers on labour cards, hospital, credit

FNC members prepare to ask questions of ministers.

ABU DHABI // Labour, health and finance ministers are expected to respond to questions from Federal National Council members at today's session.

Although the ministers will not be attending the session, their responses will determine whether they will be summoned to the FNC's next session for in-person grilling.

The Minister of Labour, Saqr Ghobash, is expected to reply to a question on labour card fees for recruits. The fee can reach Dh3,000.

Salim Ali Huweidan (elected, Sharjah), a member of the health, labour and social affairs committee, said the fees were too high.

"I have received a lot of complaints from nationals and investors because of this amount," he said. "Economy now is different - some companies are still suffering from the economic crisis."

He said that while the Wages Protection System (WPS) protects labourers and ensures they are paid on time and directly into their accounts, the rights of owners and investors also need protection.

"The Dh3,000 is very problematic for the investor and the Emirati, we need to find a solution for this," he said. "These high fees were introduced at a time when the WPS was not introduced. Now it is there, so the fees do not need to be so high."

He said the fees do not benefit the ministry, company or employer.

"It stays in the bank, the bank then gets interest, in five or six years, this amount goes down to Dh2,000. Who benefits then, other than the bank?" he said.

If the minister's reply does not meet Mr Huweidan's expectations, then Mr Ghobash will be asked to come to the next session.

The Minister of Health, Abdulrahman Al Owais, was sent a question from Rashid Mohammad Al Shuraiqi (appointed, Ras Al Khaimah), on the opening of a new Masafi Hospital.

Mr Al Shuraiqi was out of the country yesterday and not available for comment.

News of the forthcoming hospital in Fujairah has been in the media for eight years. The many delays of its opening have angered local residents. The hospital is now expected to open in April.

Ahmad Abdullah Al Amash (elected, Ras Al Khaimah) sent the minister a question on the new federal law to organise full health insurance for Emiratis.

The Minister of Finance, Obaid Humaid Al Tayyer, was sent two questions, both by Ali Eissa Al Nuaimi (appointed, Ajman) on establishing a company to collect and store credit records and the establishment of a higher advisory board to oversee Islamic banks.

The minister last month was asked about the 2009 ruling establishing a federal health authority to upgrade the qualifications of government health infrastructure and their quality of service - a body expected to replace the Ministry of Health.

A response from the ministry told Salim Mohamed Al Ameri (elected, Abu Dhabi), the chairman of the health, labour and social affairs committee, that Mr Al Tayyer was out of the country.

Hamad Al Rahoumi (elected, Dubai), the head of the agriculture and fisheries committee, said the Minister of Environment and Water, Dr Rashid Ahmed bin Fahad, would not attend today's session as he was out of the country. He was asked last month to address issues surrounding the White Whale, a ship that sank off Umm Al Qaiwain.

Also, Ministry of Social Affairs officials will be present today to continue discussing the new federal law on abandoned children.

The session will be open to the public and will start at 9am at the FNC headquarters in Khalidiyah.