Obaid Humaid Al Tayer with Noora Mohammad Hilal Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, during the FNC session. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Members of the Federal National Council on Tuesday passed the UAE’s federal budget of Dh60.3 billion for 2019 of which more than 59 per cent will go to education and social development.

The House reviewed the 2019 budget in the presence of Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs.

The UAE Cabinet approved in September the largest federal budget in the country’s history of Dh60.3 billion, an increase of 17.3 per cent from this year’s Dh51.4billion budget.

17.3%

increase in the 2019 federal budget over this year’s budget

Of the 2019 budget, Abu Dhabi contributes close to Dh17.1 billion and Dubai Dh1.2 billion. The rest of around Dh42 billion comes from revenues earned by federal bodies rather than other emirates.

A budget of Dh180 billion for 2019-2021 was also approved.

The budget meets directives by President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to achieve the targets of Vision 2021.

Dh25.5b

for social development programmes, about 42.3% of the budget

Social development programmes are the foremost priority and will receive Dh25.5billion, or 42.3 per cent of the 2019 budget, slightly less than the 43.5 per cent share allocated this year.

Dh10.25b

education’s allocation, about 17% of the federal budget

Education will receive Dh10.25billion, 17 per cent, and the health care sector will receive Dh4.4 billion, or 7.3 per cent, unchanged from this year.

Abdul Aziz Abdullah Al Za’abi, a member from Sharjah, asked whether the federal law on health insurance for Emirati citizens will see the light next year.

Al Tayer said a draft law on health insurance for citizens has been approved by the Ministry of Fianance, which also finalised the actuarial costs.

“We expect that within three months the draft law will be presented to the legislitative committee at the Justice Ministry, which will present it to the Cabinet for approval,” Al Tayer said.

He added in case it is endorsed by the Cabinet next year, the Finance Ministry will present the funds required to the Cabinet in the form of an additional allocation.

Shaikh Khalifa has also approved a Dh1.97 billion national budget increase. The federal budget is distinct from the budgets of the individual seven emirates.

There was “no excuse” for ministers in failing to implement federal targets in education, health and security, said His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

“The citizen is our top priority and we allocated the bulk of the budget to ensure [the citizen’s] prosperity, health, education and security,” Shaikh Mohammad said.

“We have new responsibilities and a renewed vision, and the people have future aspirations. Ministers and managers have no excuse today not to implement their strategies to achieve the UAE’s Vision 2021,” Shaikh Mohammad added.

Some 17 per cent of the 2019 budget, nearly Dh10.25 billion, has been allocated to education.

Other allocations included Dh4.4 billion to health, Dh1.7 billion for housing programmes, Dh6.6 billion for the Federal Electricity and Water Authority, Dh1.4 billion for the UAE University, Dh485.2 million for Zayed University and Dh1 billion for the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCTS).

A report by the FNC Financial and Industrial Committee suggested that the Government works out studies of the socio-economic impact of the value-added tax (VAT) and inflation and its effects on salaries, retirement payments and social security.

The UAE federal budget accounts for only around 15 per cent of overall fiscal spending in the UAE. The seven individual emirates, mainly Abu Dhabi and Dubai, make up the rest.

The House also approved the draft federal bill endorsing the closing accounts of autonomous institutions for the fiscal year ending on 31 December, 2017.

Members of the council insisted a surplus of any federal authority be transferred to the treasury.

The audit report for 2017 showed the Federal Electricity and Water Authority has achieved a Dh1.4 billion surplus, which was not referred to the treasury.

However, Al Tayer said there was no breach of the budget law because the Cabinet mandated the Federal Electricity and Water Authority to keep its surplus to finance its ongoing projects.


Federal fees too costly, says FNC member

Samir Salama, Associate Editor

Abu Dhabi: A member of the Federal National Council raised a question on the hefty fees imposed on services delivered by some federal authorities.

Saeed Saleh Al Rumaithi, a member of the House from Abu Dhabi, asked about the role the Ministry of Finance in determining these federal fees.

Al Tayer said the federal fees are regularly reviewed in the light of their socio-economic effects.

He said early this year a Cabinet decision was made to improving economic and social stability of UAE.

“Under the decision, public services fees in the UAE will not be increased for three years to support our industrial and commercial sectors and attract more foreign investments,” he said.

The UAE prioritises the socio-economic stability of citizens and residents. “UAE competitiveness is the main priority for the government,” Al Tayer said.