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Bahrain parliament approves $15.9bn budget

Manama, May 4, 2011

Bahrain’s parliament has approved a BD6 billion ($15.9 billion) national budget for the next two years after the government agreed to boost public spending by almost BD1 billion.

Government outlay over the two-year period will now hit BD6.199 billion, compared with the proposed figure of BD5.253 billion.

However, seven Al Asala and Al Menbar MPs voted against it, while 14 legislators voted in favour.

MPs have also achieved a slight increase in government revenue from the initial BD4.44 billion predicted by the government to BD4.636 billion, leading to a budget deficit of BD1.563 billion.

However, the already delayed budget had to clear a final hurdle on Tuesday when seven Al Asala and Al Menbar MPs voted against it. They wanted a 25 per cent pay rise for public sector employees, which is not included in the budget.

Fourteen MPs voted in favour of the budget, but there was uncertainty about whether the vote was valid - since this did not constitute a majority of the 40-seat parliament as required in the Constitution.

Eighteen seats were empty after resignations of 11 opposition MPs were accepted, while seven others are still pending.

Parliament legal consultant Dr Saleh Al Gatheeth said that because the budget was backdated to January, before the 18 opposition MPs submitted their resignations, it needed 21 votes to pass.

However, he added that not backdating the bill meant yesterday's vote was valid - since it would be based on the number of MPs in parliament on the date the legislation appears in the Official Gazette.

MPs repeatedly threatened to block the budget if their demand for public sector pay rises was not met, but it was approved following an agreement to increase spending in other areas.

The government wanted yesterday's budget discussions to take place behind closed doors, meaning the chamber was cleared for 15 minutes while Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa presented the case to MPs for discussing it in private.

However, MPs voted for the session to go ahead in full view of the Press and public.

The new budget includes increased recurrent expenditure of BD4.863bn over two years, as well as BD1.335bn for new projects - up from the BD1.105bn originally earmarked by the Finance Ministry.-TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Budget | Bahrain parliament |

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