During the weekly session, numerous MPs in the Chamber of Deputies gave vent to their frustration over the Governments actions on subsidy reform. As several deputies pointed out, the Government’s “unilateral” measures for removing meat subsidies had publically undermined parliamentarians after ministers were seen to ignore recommendations raised by the Parliament.
During the debate on subsidy reform, several MPs hinted at action which could be taken to regain the initiative, including interrogating ministers, refusal to cooperate on other issues and even taking a vote of no confidence. The weekly session also saw votes being taken on a wide number of proposals
As Al-Watan newspaper commented in its headline on the parliamentary debate: “Three hours of discussion on subsidies and nothing new”. The debate was essentially an opportunity for MPs to restate their positions in opposition to the Government’s subsidy reforms. Several MPs had opposed holding the debate, on the grounds that there was little it could hope to achieve ahead of submission of the report from the parliamentary committee entrusted with investigating the subsidies issue. However, numerous MPs alluded to their readiness to take the matter further and use the powers at their disposal to enforce greater cooperation from the Government. Below is a summary of some of the key statements and quotes from MPs:
Salafist MP Nabil al-Balooshi stated: “Despite what we say in this session, we know that nothing will change. No benefit can be obtained from talking. We must stop dealing with the Government in this way. We are proud of having powers which could bring down the Bahrain Government. Bahraini citizens won’t die if they stop eating meat, but this isn’t about meat, it’s about human dignity… Some MPs fear talking to the Government in this manner because they fear for their positions, but what happened to the oath which MPs swore? …I stand with the Government and I am proud of my loyalty to it, but this Parliament must defend the public.”
Mohammed Milad called for an interrogation of the Commerce and Finance Ministers over subsidy reform. He argued that the Budget offered no legal framework for the reforms and said that the Commerce Minister had failed to open up the meat import market to competition; while the Finance Minister was discriminating between citizens over compensation payments.
Female MPs Fatimah al-Asfour and Jamila al-Sammak both raised objections to the meat subsidy compensation, on the grounds that men received more compensation than women. “The Government must look to alternative ways of addressing the Budget deficit. How were compensation levels arrived at and why do women receive a different amount from men?” questioned Al-Asfour.
Mohammed al-Jowder said that he saluted citizens who had adopted a brave stance in the face of meat subsidy reforms, after the Council of Representatives had completely failed to gain anything from the Government: “The Government has got itself into a tight spot. I say to citizens: ‘Be patient. We failed to obtain what you deserve. All MPs must stand together’”.
Muhsin al-Bakri said that there had been prevarication and deliberate delays in raising the parliamentary report on subsidy reform. He added: “Regretfully, the Government has covered its ears regarding what MPs have agreed on. As a result, the public has started boycotting meat. This has been largely effective and we support this boycott”. He warned of the monopolization of the meat import market by a single company and accused the registrations of other import companies as being “imaginary”.
Abdulrahman Bu-Ali said that MPs had hoped that the subsidies issue would be discussed after the Subsidies Committee had submitted its report. He said: “We fear that we will go to sleep with a particular wage and will then wake up the next day with a totally different income, as was the case with bonuses for doctors and teachers. This Parliament must take a courageous stance on this issue; activating Clause 65, holding ministers to account and interrogating them. What are you afraid of?“
Ibrahim al-Hammadi said that the public rejected the Government’s actions over subsidy reform. He said that the measures had been adopted without careful study “because many officials still have the mentality of ‘If you like it, fine. If you don’t like it, go bash your head against a wall’”.
Mohammed al-Ahmed said: “The Government has no clear strategy for subsidy reform. I wasted four months of my time on the Subsidies Committee with nothing to show for it. Why has the Government put us in this embarrassing position? What is our purpose if we cannot do anything concerning this issue?”
Khalifa al-Ghanim noted that: “This issue does not stop at increases in the price of meat, but includes increases in prices for all goods associated with meat, such as restaurants and labourers who used to be cheap but have now increased their costs. The levels of compensation announced by the Government offer no support to the public and are of no benefit.”
Alcohol sales and antiquated housing
A number of MPs had put forward a motion calling for a crackdown on alcohol sales on Reef Island. After receiving responses from several Government departments on this issue, Jamal Dawoud questioned why these ministries seemed to be passing the buck on who was responsible for licensing such outlets. Dawoud complained that the issue concerned a residential area and the sale of alcohol went against the customs and beliefs of residents.
Muhsin al-Bakri complained that developers were benefitting from the ambiguity as to whether the area was primarily residential or commercial, stressing that these business figures couldn’t be above the law. MPs voted in support of this proposal, which was referred to the Shura council for further debate.
Parliament also approved a proposal for taking possession of old buildings and replacing them with new housing. Jamal Dawoud said that these old homes had become locations for storing Molotov cocktails. Ahmed Qaratah claimed that there were 3,600 homes in Manama alone unfit to be occupied.
Ibrahim al-Hammadi asked how it was allowed to happen that there were homes falling down on their occupants and ruined houses used for prostitution and selling liquor. The Information Minister objected to implications by Al-Hammadi that the handling of these issues was swayed by the personal interests of officials. Al-Hammadi responded: “There is corruption. Why should we be quiet about this?”
Other new measures
During the weekly parliamentary session, MPs also found time to debate and approve the following proposals submitted by MPs:
- ·MPs agreed to increase the pension allotments for low-wage employees to 4% of their former income.
- ·MPs approved with amendments the proposal to set up a centre for Government services in the Northern Governorate.
- ·A number of MPs, including Osama al-Khajah and Jamila al-Sammak had proposed a mobile health centre for the elderly and those with special needs.
- ·Mohammed al-Ammadi and other concerned MPs had proposed widening the Wali al-Ahad and Hamala roads to ease congestion.
- ·MP Abbas al-Madhi had successfully proposed setting up a holistic services centre for the elderly in his constituency.
- ·A group of MPs submitted a proposal for displays in the Governorate buildings highlighting the achievements of successful local figures. However, during the session co-sponsors Al-Aradi and Al-Asoumi demanded the withdrawal of the proposal, saying that they disagreed with amendments which altered the nature of the initiative.
Previous editions of A Week in Parliament
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