News Column

Budget statement rejected as MPs voice reservations

June 25, 2014

PARLIAMENT has rejected the government's closing budget statement for last year over violations that MPs claim have not been addressed.

It is the eighth consecutive year that MPs have refused to rubber stamp the government's financial statement. They cited a lack of transparency and under-spending on government projects despite borrowing money as they took a vote yesterday on whether to approve Bahrain's public sector accounts.

MPs also criticised the government for not handing over detailed spending charts. Among those who expressed alarm was MP Latefa Al Gaoud, who accused the government of ignoring parliament's concerns over public sector spending and recommendations.

"Those reports are important for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and, accordingly, Bahrain's ranking is determined. But if no transparent breakdown is presented, the country can't climb the ladder," she said.

"It is vital to have clear reports and proper spending policies because it gives the country credibility.

"For eight years, we have been waiting to have Bapco's finances separated from the Finance Ministry as we were promised, but nothing has been done."

She raised doubts about government borrowing, suggesting the money was not even needed.

"It is borrowing without usage that worries us, since it means the government was paying interest on money it doesn't need," she said.

Meanwhile, MP Ali Al Durazi accused the government of basing its accounts on an outdated system.

"The economic policy is wrong," he said.

"For example, we asked for a support fund for low earners in the private sector that would have cost BD28 million a year, but it is still in one of the Shura Council's drawers and the government objected - while its annual spending on government employees, who might have joined the private sector if it was appealing, has increased by BD100m annually."

Parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Hassan Al Dossary claimed some government bodies were not spending anywhere near their budgets.

"Spending was between 10 per cent and 40pc (of public sector budgets)," he said.

"But the General Organisation for Youth and Sports (Goys) - which I asked to furnish the Jasra Youth Centre - told me in a letter that it couldn't because their budget was finished.

"Yet they only spent around 18pc of their funding."

Meanwhile, parliament chairman Dr Khalifa Al Dhahrani quipped the new National Assembly complex on the Manama coastline that should have been finished years ago was still in the planning stage.

Parliament second vice-chairman Shaikh Adel Al Maawada called for an evaluation of all spending by ministries and government bodies, accusing some of asking MPs to approve for more funding that they didn't need.

The government's closing financial statement for last year has now been referred to the Shura Council to study once it resumes work in December.

The Shura Council has never rejected any such statement, but has included MPs' reservations and recommendations as attachments.

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Source: Gulf Daily News (Bahrain)

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