Former MP Ibrahim BouSandal: Gov’t Sweeping Dirt under the Rug
2019-03-21 - 6:38 p
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): A wave of popular discontent among Bahraini citizens struck after the House of Representatives passed a legal amendment allowing the government to put its hand on the Unemployment Insurance Fund to finance the voluntary retirement program.
The government referred the law to the House of Representatives as a matter of urgency, after the registration procedures of the voluntary retirement program were completed. The number of government employees referred to voluntary retirement reached over 8000. The program came as part of what the government called the financial balance program, a plan it said was aimed at reaching a break-even point in the country's budget, which suffers from a cumulative annual deficit.
The funds that will be at the government's disposal amount to about 230 million dinars.
Former Salafist Al-Asalah bloc MP, Ibrahim BouSandal, attacked the House of Representatives and the government for this decision. Via his Twitter account, BouSandal said that the surplus of the pension fund should not be used for other purposes as the law enacted for the fund stipulates: "If an actuarial report indicates a surplus in the account, this surplus shall be transferred to the general reserve account of the account, and it is not permissible to use it unless for either increasing the minimum and maximum compensation and subsidy limits".
It is stated that increasing the amount of compensation and subsidies, which the Government as an excuse in its request for a legal amendment, does not require a law; only a decision made by the Council of Ministers is sufficient, pursuant to the same law.
He pointed out that the House of Representatives already submitted from 2006 to 2017 more than ten bills to amend and improve the unemployment insurance law, but the government did not accept almost any of them "and when the government wanted the amendment, it submitted four or five bills in just two weeks, which were passed. This perhaps shows the nature of the ability of the Bahraini parliament to legislate."
"I expected the Asalah bloc to reject the funding of early retirement from the unemployment insurance fund. I have been informed that MP Ahmad Al-Ansari first opposed it and then changed his view. Brother Ali Zayed also rejected it at the beginning and then changed his made and even turned into a godfather of the project, calling MPs and urging them to approve," noted BouSandal.
He also considered MP Zeinab Abdul-Amir's vote in favor to be a strange position after her previous statements against it. "She made strong statements (against the project) and promised that she will address this and described it as a manipulation of public funds, yet she remained silent throughout the session... and then agreed to the amendment. I think she later deleted her tweets. A very odd position indeed," he stressed.
In response to the whole issue, BouSandal said that the removal of thousands of citizens by very early voluntary retirement was an unfortunate solution, especially that some retirees are 40 years old or less. "This will exhaust pension funds and negatively affect the income of citizens... Solving the issue of increasing government expenses is throwing the ball in the retirement yard, which is like cleaning one's house by sweeping the dirt under the rug."
For his part, lawyer Abdullah Hashim described the situation as "lean years that will empty the treasuries and funds, which will impoverish the public and enrich others." He said that "the question being asked is about what people have in funds such as the Unemployment Insurance Fund, but the public have not discussed the crisis government's tackling of oil revenues and its role in the financial balance program as well as the holes and funding mechanism in Tamkeen's work. "
Omar Al-Kooheji expressed his opinion by saying that "1% deduction is for the purpose of helping the unemployed. The surplus is evidence that the Ministry of Labor failed to use it correctly, since the unemployment rate is rising, so how is the surplus is being given up to solve other problems? And why is the deduction still taking place even though there is no need for it?"
He also said that "the surplus from the 1% deduction should be used to solve the problem of unemployment. The Ministry of Labor and Legislative Council should discuss ways and solutions for benefiting from the funds in the employment of unemployed Bahrainis and enabling them in the labor market. The issue of unemployment is one of the priorities of governments because of the damages it results in."
This fund was supposed to be invested in support of the unemployed until they get a job," said Ahmed bin Najib Al-Dawi in a tweet. "The existence of this surplus indicates the lack of use and investment and today the private and public sector employees bear the weight of the government's voluntary retirement program; this is an infringement on the people's funds which is unacceptable."
The former secretary-general of Wa'ad Society, Ebrahim Sharif, said in a sarcastic tweet: "Three partners in a fund. Have you heard of a fund that was founded equally by three partners? They opened an account in which they deposited their money. Then one of the partners decided to withdraw more than the value of his share of the deposited funds, without giving the others the same right. This is the issue of the unemployment fund... The tragedy is that the representatives of the other two partners helped out partner number one."
In another tweet, Sharif shared a statement by Labor Minister Jameel Humaidan in 2016, in which he said: "The surplus of the unemployment fund is the people's money and contributions." Sharif commented on that by saying: "The minister is still the minister, the government has not changed, the unemployment fund is still the same, and the people are still entitled to the funds that are being waived. So what has changed? Beware, Minister, of what you say, for the the people's memory and mockery has become as intense as their pain and frustration."
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