3 – 9 December 2015
 

MPs have very reluctantly approved a rise in the debt ceiling to BD 10bn, only five months after approving a previous rise to BD 7bn in July – after having rejected the same proposal just a few months before. As recently as 17 November, MPs voted in favour of a motion preventing the public debt level from rising above 60% of GDP – demonstrating what a sensitive issue this is.

The 8 December vote was a very close one, with 18 MPs voting in favour, 14 MPs voting against and three abstaining. Notably, a high proportion of those who voted in favour were from the new 11-member “National Participation Bloc” led by Hamad al-Dossary. The Accord Bloc all voted against; while the National Bloc vote was split.

Even those who supported the vote stressed that they were doing so with great reluctance. Many of them asked the Finance Ministry for clear information about where recent debt was being spent and demanded a strategy for bringing debt levels under control and reducing public spending, while not allowing citizens to be adversely affected. Below is a sample of the comments from MPs during the session:

Chairman of the Financial Committee Abdulrahman Bu-Ali questioned how Bahrain had reached this situation, when much of its development had taken place with much lower oil prices. He added: “I am not comfortable about increasing the public debt, but reality has imposed itself on us. It is we who passed the Budget based on oil process of $60 and thus disaster has befallen us and the public… We cannot avoid approving this debt ceiling and we call on the Finance Minister to abide by all the government projects which we agreed on within the Government Action Plan.”

Parliament Chairman Ahmed al-Mulla said “the exceptional climate which Bahrain and the Gulf are passing through has given rise to difficult economic and political circumstances. This necessitates that we all stand with our leadership and demonstrate our complete solidarity.” Al-Mulla’s deputy, Ali al-Aradi, acknowledged the differing views, but called on MPs to undertake their “national responsibility” and approve the increase.

Mohammed Milad noted that the Finance Minister had previously promised that there would not be an increase beyond BD 7bn. He added: “We are compelled to borrow, but where are these funds going and how will they be repaid? There are administrative failings in the Government’s financial authorities.”

Shia cleric, Shaikh Majid al-Majid said: “He who resorts to borrowing will always continue borrowing. We previously agreed to increase debt levels for the public good, yet now we are being asked to increase the national debt to BD 10bn. I perceive that the Finance Minister has not been clear in giving us information. We must therefore ask: How has previous borrowing impacted projects? Or is this borrowing for the sake of borrowing? Where have these funds gone?”

Adel Bin-Hamid said: “We find ourselves in a predicament and have no idea where we are going. We are told that everything is fine, but reality indicates otherwise. We perceive an absence in governmental strategic planning, as well as financial and administrative corruption… Our economy remains dependent on oil, yet the Government still hasn’t considered diversifying sources of income, despite the fact that this has become the Finance Minister’s catchphrase.”

Head of the National Participation Bloc Hamad al-Dossary said: “We are faced with a decline in oil prices, so we must increase the debt ceiling and approve all the measures the Government is taking to protect the interests of the public. The National Participation Bloc stresses the importance of the public’s wellbeing and praises the measures which the Government is taking in the context of the current situation… We call for a programme with a timescale for addressing the implications of the public debt and the economic situation in Bahrain

Mohammed al-Jowder said: The Council of Representatives is between a rock and a hard place regarding the national debt. We find ourselves placed between the expectations of citizens and the demands of the Government. We have no idea where the previous BD 7bn went, yet the Government immediately demands increasing it to BD 10bn.”

Separating religion from politics

The Shura Council on 6 December approved draft amendments to the Political Societies Law, banning active religious clerics from membership of political societies and involvement in political activity.

The amended law states that any member of a religious political society cannot simultaneously be preaching in mosques or involved in religious activities, even on a voluntary basis.

The Shura Council Legal Committee urged the authorities to go even further with legislation separating religion from politics “especially as many men of religion become involved in politics, forgetting their primary mission of preaching and religious guidance”. The Ministry of Justice also strongly supported the proposed amendments and urged parliamentarians to support them.

Several Shura Council members expressed concern about the failure to fully implement such legislation. They noted a ban on political societies operating along sectarian lines, yet there are several political societies which operate along a clear sectarian orientation with obvious sectarian objectives.

The Shia cleric, MP Jawad Abbas supported the proposal and voiced his concerns about “exploitation of religious platforms”. The only MP who strongly spoke out against the proposal was Adel Al-Moawdeh from the Salafist society Al-Asalah, who criticized the way that “men of religion” was defined and said that clerics should not all be banned because of the abuses of a minority. He said that if being a preacher was a conflict of interest, then weren’t also lawyers, businessmen and others subject to the same conflict – shouldn’t everyone be banned from politics?

 

Previous editions of A Week in Parliament

A new beginning: 8 – 14 Oct 2015

New political alliances: 15 – 21 Oct 2015

Anger over subsidies: 22 – 29 Oct 2015

Raising meat payments: 30 Oct – 4 Nov 2015

Tattoos & sorcery: 5 – 11 Nov 2015

Clash over debt law: 12 – 18 Nov 2015

Combatting terrorism: 26 Nov – 2 Dec 2015

Political blocs in the Bahrain Parliament

Committees in the 2015-2016 Bahrain Parliament

 

Know your deputy: MPs profiles

Adel al-Asoumi – 1st Capital

Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment 

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-adel-al-asoumi-1st-capital

Ahmed Qaratah – 2nd Capital

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ahmed-qaratah-2nd-capital

Adel Bin-Hamid Abdulhussain – 3rd Capital

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-adel-bin-hamid-abdulhussain-3rd-capital

Abdulrahman Bumjaid – 4th Capital

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-abdulrahman-bumjaid-4th-capital

Nasser al-Qaseer – 5th Capital 

Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-nasser-al-qaseer-5th-capital

Ali al-Atish – 6th Capital

Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ali-al-atish-6th-capital

Osamah al-Khajah – 7th Capital

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-osamah-al-khajah-7th-capital

Shaikh Majid al-Asfour – 8th Capital 

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-shaikh-majid-al-asfour-8th-capital

Mohammed Jaffar Milad – 9th Capital

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-mohammed-jaffar-milad-9th-capital

Nabil al-Balooshi – 10th Capital

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-nabil-al-balooshi-10th-capital

Ali Bufarsan – 1st Muharraq 

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ali-bufarsan-1st-muharraq

Ibrahim al-Hammadi – 2nd Muharraq

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ibrahim-al-hammadi-2nd-muharraq

Jamal Buhassan – 3rd Muharraq

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-jamal-buhassan-3rd-muharraq

Isa al-Kooheji – 4th Muharraq

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-isa-al-kooheji-4th-muharraq

Mohammed al-Jowder – 5th Muharraq

Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs

Deputy-Chairman of Parliamentary Human Rights Committee

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-mohammed-al-jowder-5th-muharraq

Abbas al-Madhi – 6th Muharraq

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-abbas-al-madhi-6th-muharraq

Ali al-Muqla – 7th Muharraq

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ali-al-muqla-asalah-7th-muharraq

  

Abdulrahman Bu-Ali – 8th Muharraq

Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-abdulrahman-bu-ali-8th-muharraq

Fatimah al-Asfour – 1st Northern

Deputy Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-fatimah-al-asfour-1st-northern-1

Jalal Kadhim al-Mahfoudh – 2nd Northern

Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Financial and Economic Matters

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-jalal-kadhim-al-mahfoudh-2nd-northern-1

Hamad al-Dossary – 3rd Northern 

Deputy Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-hamad-al-dossary-3rd-northern

Ghazi Al Rahmah – 4th Northern 

Chairman of Committee for Youth and Sports

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ghazi-al-rahmah-4th-northern

Ali al-Aradi – 5th Northern

Deputy Chairman of Parliament

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ali-al-aradi-5th-northern

Rua al-Haiki – 6th Northern

Chairwoman of the Committee for Women and Children

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-rua-al-haiki-6th-northern

Shaikh Majid al-Majid – 7th Northern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-shaikh-majid-al-majid-7th-northern

Dr. Isa Turki – 8th Northern 

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-dr-isa-turki-8th-northern

Abdulhamid Abdulhussain al-Najjar – 9th Northern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-abdulhamid-abdulhussain-al-najjar-9th-northern

Mohammed al-Ammadi – 10th Northern

Chairman of Committee for Supporting the Palestinian People

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-mohammed-al-ammadi-minbar-10th-northern

Jamal Dawoud – 11th Northern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-jamal-dawoud-11th-northern

Jamila al-Sammak – 12th Northern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-jamila-al-sammak-12th-northern

Khalid al-Shaer – 1st Southern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-khalid-al-shaer-1st-southern

Mohammed al-Ahmed – 2nd Southern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-mohammed-al-ahmed-2nd-southern

Abdulhalim Murad – 3rd Southern

Second Deputy Chairman of Parliament

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-abdulhalim-murad-asalah-3rd-southern

Mohammed al-Maarifi – 4th Southern

Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Services

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-mohammed-al-maarifi-4th-southern

Khalifa al-Ghanim – 5th Southern

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-khalifa-al-ghanim-5th-southern

Anas Buhindi – 6th Southern

Deputy Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Shari’ah and Legal Matters

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-anas-buhindi-6th-southern

Abdullah Bin-Huwail – 7th Southern 

Chairman of the Permanent Committee for Foreign, Defence and National Security Affairs

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-abdullah-bin-huwail-7th-southern

Dhiyab al-Noaimi – 8th Southern 

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-dhiyab-al-noaimi-8th-southern

Mohsin al-Bakri – 9th Southern 

Deputy Chairman of Permanent Committee for Public Utilities and Environment 

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-mohsin-al-bakri-9th-southern

Ahmed al-Mulla – 10th Southern

Chairman of Parliament

http://www.citizensforbahrain.com/index.php/featured-articles/entry/know-your-deputy-ahmed-al-mulla-10th-southern

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