Abu Dhabi: After a marathon debate, the Federal National Council’s (FNC) passed a draft 2013 budget of Dh44.6 billion.
Members of the House complained the budget proposal did not show the strategy of the government and the goals it seeks to achieve by it.
Dr Abdul Rahim Al Shaheen, a member from Ras Al Khaimah, asked whether the budget focused on education, health care or other services.
“In Malaysia, 33.1 per cent of its budget is allotted for education, while our budget is not focused on a particular sector or development scheme. It also fails to show its impact on citizens or a sector of our economy in general,” he said.
Salem Mohammad Al Ameri, a member from Abu Dhabi, called on all seven emirates to pay their fair share of the federal budget and not let the burden fall on Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Abu Dhabi contributed Dh17.7 billion, while Dubai’s share to next year’s budget is Dh1.2 billion.
The members also asked how many jobs the budget will create for citizens, calling for boosting development and research projects.
Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, told the House strategies of ministries were made by them in keeping with the Government’s 2021 Vision. “Programmes and activities of each ministry are then approved and funded accordingly,” he said, noting that the emirates’ contributions, return on investment and as well as fees and charges made up the buget’s revenues.
Members of the House, however, were happy that the FNC’s smart power worked and its firm stand on the government’s disregard of the parliamentary review of last year’s budget meant that a draft 2013 federal budget was reviewed.
They said it was submitted a little later than the date set by the constitution at the beginning of November or earlier.
In January, Dr Abdul Rahim Al Shaheen, a member from Ras Al Khaimah, called the government’s failure to present the budget to the House “unconstitutional”.
Saying he was proud that the FNC’s efforts were recognised by the government, Al Nuaimi, also a member of the committee on financial, economic and industrial affairs, stressed that the Ministry of Finance and other government entities were extremely supportive and made all required information available, a matter which helped them do their job efficiently.
Mohammad Saeed Al Raqabani, a representative from Fujairah and a member of the financial affairs committee, echoed these sentiments and said the move meant that the government was “honouring pledges of the FNC’s empowerment”.
Dr Anwar Mohammad Gargash, Minister of State for FNC Affairs, told the House in early January the federal budget had been passed by the Rulers of the Emirates, for fear of delay [if it was presented to the FNC for review].
Dr Gargash, while objecting to the representatives’ remarks, admitted: “No doubt matters were not proceeding ideally, but it should not be thought that the government was breaking the law or was not cooperating with the House.”
Members of the House then insisted a zero-based budgeting exercise be presented to the House before the beginning of the fiscal year on January 1, at least two months before presenting it to the Federal Supreme Council of Rulers for approval so that prioritisation among programmes can be made to ensure that the budget fits government policies and priorities.
The 2013 draft budget is 7.6 per cent higher than the UAE federal budget of Dh41.4 billion announced in 2011. It is part of a three-year government financial plan with total spending of Dh133 billion in order to implement the UAE’s strategic plans.
The federal budget accounts for only around 11 per cent of overall fiscal spending in the UAE, with mainly Abu Dhabi and six other individual emirates making up the rest.
Social spending will account for the largest share of 51 per cent of the budget while education stands at 22 per cent and water and electricity at 12 per cent.
The country booked a consolidated budget surplus of Dh36.2 billion in 2011, or 2.9 per cent of 2011 GDP, the finance ministry said earlier in October.