FNC members have ended their session proud of eight months of achievement - and pledged to work even harder in their next session.
UAE's Federal National Council ends on a high - with more to come
ABU DHABI // Federal National Council members have ended their session proud of eight months of achievement - and pledged to work even harder in their next session.
At the session's final meeting last week, which was closed to the press and public, the FNC speaker Mohammed Al Murr announced that 49 questions had been put by 23 members to a succession of ministers at 14 meetings.
Among the results obtained was an assurance from the governor of the Central Bank, Sultan bin Nasser Al Suweidi, and the Minister of State for Financial Affairs, Obaid Al Tayer, that a credit reference bureau would be established to stop borrowers taking loans from banks that were unaware of their debts with other lenders.
Members also asked the two men to lower the interest rates on loans, increase retirement pensions and have Islamic banks follow a uniform system.
The members received no direct answers on those issues, but the requests were forwarded to the Cabinet for approval.
After lobbying from the public, members successfully urged the Minister of Higher Education to exempt Emiratis in conflict areas from university attendance. The Minister of Culture, Youth and Social Development also backed the FNC call for a federal dress-code law.
During discussions of 13 bills, members were able to change the law to include improved rights for domestic workers, and in an adoption bill they removed an age limit for Emiratis who want to adopt children.
But members said they have much more planned for their next term, which begins in October.
Hamad Al Rahoumi (Dubai) said the new term would be a time for change for many members. He said now that the new members have had time to adjust to their parliamentary duties, work should speed up.
"I believe work then will be completely different," he said. "A lot of members will leave some committees and join others. There will be a lot of changes now that they know the work of the committees."
He said the Islamic Affairs committee, of which he is a member, plans to discuss the policies of Awqaf and the Friday sermon next term, but gave no further details.
Members also intend to debate population structure, housing, human resources and the policies of the ministries of economy, higher education, environment and water, and labour.
Mohammed Al Riqbani (RAK), said he plans to do more work to boost Emiritisation during the next term. He also hopes to see more members taking to the streets and meeting the public.
During this past term, only the health committee made field visits.
"There must be bigger presence of the members in the streets, and they must communicate with society, not just speak to the media," he said. "And they must visit all emirates, not just Dubai or Abu Dhabi."
Musabah Al Kitbi (Sharjah), said he hoped more issues would be better answered by ministers. Through questioning he found that some issues were "swimming", as no one took responsibility for them.
"I was shocked that no one was supervising career fairs. There is no entity doing this - and there are a lot of career fairs," he said.
Rashad Bukhash (Dubai) hopes awareness of the FNC will increase among Emiratis. One obstacle the members face is that once an Emirati file a request, he expects the problem to be solved immediately.
"They think if they asked today, tomorrow it will be accomplished," he said. "It's not that easy. We have the rights to summon ministers, ask questions, discuss general topics, but it could take up to months to discuss."