Manama: A drive to strengthen Bahrain’s fiscal reforms has been welcomed by the cabinet.
The reforms included the establishment of six government task forces concerned with reducing recurring expenditure and the merging of 10 government entities.
Bahrain has pledged to introduce reforms to help overcome the economic challenges resulting mainly from falling oil prices.
The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, agreed to set up a task force concerned with expenditure related to maintenance of government buildings, headed by the Minister of Works, Municipalities and Urban Planning, and a task force concerned with expenditure related to travel expenses and transportation, headed by the Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications.
It also established a task force concerned with expenditure related to property rental costs, headed by the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and a task force concerned with expenditure related to advertisements, publications, subscriptions and stationery, headed by the Minister of Information Affairs and Parliament Affairs.
The Chief Executive of the eGovernment Authority will head the task force concerned with IT expenditure and the Ministry of Health’s Undersecretary will lead the task force concerned with expenditure related to medications and medical equipment.
In the second major decision by the cabinet at its regular weekly session on Sunday, the memorandum by the Executive Committee regarding the merging of 10 government entities was approved.
According to the memorandum, the Bahrain Exhibition and Convention Authority is incorporated into the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and the National Health Regulatory Authority into the Supreme Health Council.
The memorandum called for the transfer of the responsibilities of the Supreme Council for Vocational Training to the Labour Fund (Tamkeen), the merger of the eGovernment Authority and the Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) and the scrapping of the General Organisation for Youth and Sports and the transfer of its responsibilities to the Ministry of Youth and Sports
However, the Minister of Information and Parliament and Spokesperson for the government spokesperson Eisa Al Hammadi said that the plan did not involve laying off staff.
“The merger decisions would not lead to cutting down the number of employees in the public sector,” he said. “The decisions taken to merge ministries and government institutions aim first and foremost at tackling the current economic and financial challenges without affecting Bahraini citizens’ life,” he said at the press briefing following the cabinet session.
“Citizens’ interests have always been top priority for the government and the decisions to merge ministries and government institutions are part of its constant endeavour to work out suitable solutions for economic challenges, mend the gap between revenues and expenditure, create new investment opportunities and prepare a sound economic basis to deal with economic challenges, the minister added.
“The number of ministers has gone down from 23 to 18 and, then to 16, which reflects a general trend to reduce the government expenditure to tackle financial challenges.”