Raising meat payments: A week in Parliament
During the weekly Parliament session MPs voted in support of an urgent proposal to increase meat subsidy compensation payments, following widespread complaints that the existing payments were far too small. This will now put pressure on the Government to be seen to address this issue.
Much of the session was taken up with discussion of a number of private bills which had been put forward by MPs and rejected by the Government, with a number of predictably angry responses by parliamentarians. Proposals were also approved for centres for supporting those suffering from Autism and mental disabilities.
Meat subsidy compensation increase
During the 3 November weekly session of the elected Council of Representatives, MPs voted to increase monthly meat subsidy compensation payments to BD 10 to each Bahraini citizen. This is double the amount previously offered to the head of each household.
This measure comes around a month after measures were implemented by the Government for removing subsidies on meat. Many deputies stressed that they still favoured the smart card option for subsidy reforms, and saw compensation cash payments only as a temporary measure.
MPs also voted in support of compensating butchers and investigating the situation facing meat markets following the subsidy cuts. Adel al-Asoumi said that a clause in the Labour Fund Tamkeen’s charter stipulated the necessity of compensating those harmed by such measures. Several other MPs supported a role for Tamkeen in compensating butchers.
Ali Bufarsan argued that butchers were facing a crisis. He said that the Labour Fund Tamkeen had supported struggling businesses during previous crises and should also support the butchers. Mohammed al-Jowder said that the Government was “punishing butchers because they took a stand over the public’s inability to afford these prices”. He called for butchers to receive compensation.
Support for autism and mental disabilities
During the weekly session MPs discussed and approved a proposal for establishing a centre for children suffering from autism. Co-sponsor of the proposal, Osama al-Khajah, said that the Government’s response was incompatible with the proposal as it referred to non-specialist centres. He noted the specific needs faced by those suffering from autism.
Ibrahim al-Hammadi said that he had both a daughter and sister with Down syndrome and because of a lack of suitable facilities they had been incorporated into public schools. Al-Hammadi said that his daughter had been the subject of repeated insults and that the community treated Down syndrome sufferers “like beasts”. He asserted that there was a need for dedicated centres to incorporate children with such special needs.
Jamila al-Sammak also criticized the Government’s response, saying that many parents couldn’t afford to benefit from the services available from private institutions.
During the same session, MPs voted in favour of establishing a holistic centre for those with mental disabilities. Al-Sammak noted that current facilities failed to house many of those facing problems, which had resulted in a number of patients being housed in centres in Jordan.
Private bills rejected
There was frustration among MPs at the Government’s rejection of a number of proposals to build or renovate youth and sports facilities. Ali al-Muqla noted that the Government had said that it aspired to build youth facilities in Arad in the future if funds were available. However, Al-Muqla claimed that this was an empty promise if it lacked a timescale.
There was particular anger from the Hamad Town MPs, like Mohammed al-Ammadi, Abdulhamid al-Najjar and Jamal Dawoud, who argued that the area offered nothing for young people.
Al-Ammadi went further and criticized Parliament for its approach in dealing with the Government, saying that MPs were protesting against decisions which they had failed to take action about in previous legislation. He noted that the Government claimed that many private bills were too expensive, but that MPs had failed to allot funds for such proposals in their discussion of the Budget. Al-Ammadi added: “Now we have missed the current Budget, but we can discuss this in the next Budget”. He noted the lack of youth facilities Hamad Town locality led some young people to resort to drugs and terrorism.
Several Islamist and conservative MPs criticized the rejection of the proposal to halt the “un-Islamic” profits made on retirement funds. Jamal Buhassan said that the State should protect the rights of the public and invest their wealth in a manner suitable with their beliefs, which would encourage them to invest.
Abdulhalim Murad said: “In 2011 we were plotted against and we entered a psychological war… so how can we fight against God through usury? This money belongs to the public and has been put in profit-making banks against the will of the public.”
Muhsin al-Bakri observed that numerous Islamic banks had been established, but the Government continued dealing with non-Islamic banks. He noted that most citizens supported the use of Islamic finance.
Deputy Chairman of Parliament Ali al-Aradi noted the anger of MPs towards the Government’s responses and asked how greater levels of cooperation could be achieved. He added: “I don’t feel that there is cooperation and seriousness in the Government’s dealings with Parliament, especially regarding private bills. The responses appear to have been written with great care so as to create the impression that we have been offered nothing”.
During the weekly session, MPs voted to reduce the fees imposed on companies for employing foreign workers. Ahmed Qaratah said that the measure aimed to reduce pressures on employers and would encourage small businesses to invest. The Information Minister claimed that such a proposal was illegal and should be modified. However, several MPs noted that the proposal couldn’t be illegal, because the Government had already in the past adopted similar measures with temporary halts in such fees.
Commercial use of domestic areas
During a discussion of a proposal for removing abandoned cars from domestic areas, Ali Al-Muqla noted the lack of clear definition of residential and industrial areas, which led to numerous garages being set up in areas near homes.
Adel al-Asoumi noted the availability of alternative areas better suited to commercial garage plots. He noted that there was such a conglomeration of garages in his Houra locality (35 along a single road) that even the rats had become addicted to engine oil!
Muhsin al-Bakri lamented the fact that lack of professionalism forced MPs to abandon their legislative work and focus on municipal issues. He added: “We presented a question to the Minister, but he responded with a vague answer about the strategic plan for 2030. I wager that we will get to this year and nothing will have been accomplished”.
Preference of Bahraini workers
After several months of proposals being shunted between the two houses of Parliament for new measures to ensure the preference of Bahraini workers, the appointed Shura Council on 1 November approved a new labour law. This law allows companies to get read of foreign staff ahead of Bahraini staff if their businesses are undergoing financial difficulties.
Earlier proposals had been rejected after the Labour Ministry successfully argued that they were in contravention of the International Labour Organization’s anti-discrimination rules.
Previous editions of A Week in Parliament
Anger over subsidies:22 - 29 October 2015
New political alliances: 15 - 21 October 2015
A new beginning: 8 - 14 October 2015
Know your deputy: MPs profiles
Adel al-Asoumi - 1st Capital
Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ahmed Qaratah - 2nd Capital
Adel Bin-Hamid Abdulhussain - 3rd Capital
Deputy-Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Abdulrahman Bumjaid - 4th Capital
Nasser al-Qaseer - 5th Capital
Ali al-Atish - 6th Capital
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Osamah al-Khajah - 7th Capital
Shaikh Majid al-Asfour - 8th Capital
Mohammed Jaffar Milad - 9th Capital
Nabil al-Balooshi - 10th Capital
Ali Bufarsan - 1st Muharraq
Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports
Ibrahim al-Hammadi - 2nd Muharraq
Jamal Buhassan - 3rd Muharraq
Isa al-Kooheji - 4th Muharraq
Mohammed al-Jowder - 5th Muharraq
Abbas al-Madhi - 6th Muharraq
Ali al-Muqla - 7th Muharraq
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali - 8th Muharraq
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Fatimah al-Asfour – 1st Northern
Deputy Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh - 2nd Northern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters
Deputy Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports
Hamad al-Dossary - 3rd Northern
Ghazi Al Rahmah - 4th Northern
Ali al-Aradi - 5th Northern
Deputy Chairman of Parliament
Rua al-Haiki - 6th Northern
Shaikh Majid al-Majid - 7th Northern
Dr. Isa Turki - 8th Northern
Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar - 9th Northern
Deputy Chairman of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Mohammed al-Ammadi - 10th Northern
Chairman of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People
Jamal Dawoud - 11th Northern
Jamila al-Sammak - 12th Northern
Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children
Khalid al-Shaer - 1st Southern
Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee
Mohammed al-Ahmed - 2nd Southern
Abdulhalim Murad - 3rd Southern
Second Deputy Chairman of Parliament
Mohammed al-Maarifi - 4th Southern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Services
Khalifa al-Ghanim - 5th Southern
Anas Buhindi - 6th Southern
Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters
Abdullah Bin-Huwail - 7th Southern
Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs
Dhiyab al-Noaimi - 8th Southern
Mohsin al-Bakri - 9th Southern
Deputy Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment
Ahmed al-Mulla - 10th Southern
Chairman of Parliament