x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Social development is UAE Government's Dh44bn budget priority

The Federal Government budget for next year will focus on social spending but will not include the deficit of the previous two years

Social development will be prioritised under a Dh44.6 billion federal government spending plan for next year, approved yesterday.

For the first time in two years, the budget will be in balance and include no deficit.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai, announced the Cabinet approval on his official Twitter account yesterday.

"The budget is part of a three-year government financial plan with total spending of Dh133bn in order to implement our strategic plans," Sheikh Mohammed wrote.

The federal budget accounts for 11 per cent of total public spending, with larger chunks coming from the governments of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other emirates.

Social development will account for 51 per cent of spending, followed by 22 per cent for education and 12 per cent for water and electricity services.

"Priorities for the 2013 budget will be health, education and social benefits for citizens as well as the improvement of government services," Sheikh Mohammed wrote.

Next year's spending plan is larger than the Dh41.8bn proposed for this year, although the Government sometimes overshoots its original expenditure target.

It also returns the UAE to the balanced budget philosophy that officials stuck to in the seven years up to 2011.

The federal budget was expected to end the year with a deficit of Dh2 billion this year after racking up a shortfall of Dh2.8bn in the first half of the year, Saeed Al Yateem, executive director of budget and revenue at the Finance Ministry, said this month. The budget of the year before contained a deficit of about Dh3bn.

In the new budget,social services will receive a disbursement ofDh22.7bn.

Of that sum, Dh6.6bn will go to the Ministry of Education to "develop school environments" and to provide "state of the art equipment". Higher education and federal universities will receiveDh3.9bn for research and development and internationalscholarships for national students, among other projects.

The Ministry of Social Affairs will receiveDh3bn. Funds will be go towards ensuring "a good life for nationals and lessen their family burdens", according to Wam, the state news agency.According to last year's statistics published by the ministry, the government provided financial assistance to more than 34,800 people.

The Ministry of Health has been granted Dh3.4bn to develop care centres and to further boost Emiratisation in the health industry.

Many Emiratis have had difficulties securing positions in the sector, said TAA, an Emirati medical intern from Sharjah.

"The minister said there was no budget available to employ us," he said.

A sum ofDh5.2bn has been set aside to ensure that water and electricity capacity keep up with demand,particularly in the Northern Emirates.

Last year, the president, Sheikh Khalifa,announced investment in electricity and water infrastructure in the Northern Emirates totalling Dh5.7 billion.

The Defence, Justice, Interior, and Foreign ministries were allocated Dh18.3bn in the budget.

tarnold@thenational.ae

osalem@thenational.ae