Elderly Bahrainis may soon benefit from 50 per cent discounts on – or outright exemptions of – all government fees. Shura Council members yesterday unanimously approved amendments to the 2009 Elderly Rights Law.

The members were earlier divided on whether to approve open or conditional discounts, or exemptions. However, they gave a go-ahead yesterday, leaving it to the Cabinet to determine the deductions or exemptions for citizens.

MPs last month unanimously approved amendments to the law to include a 50 per cent discount on all government fees.

The legislation is back in Parliament and if the MPs agree with Shura’s conditional discounts or exemptions, the bill will be referred to His Majesty King Hamad for ratification.

Also under the proposed changes, Bahrainis aged 60 and above could get other deductions from companies and businesses seeking to support the move.

The Cabinet has called for a rethink on the suggested amendments, telling legislators that such discounts were already being given to the elderly in certain government services.

It also pointed out that decisions on extending discounts should be left to the government to ensure it properly manages revenues without harming its Fiscal Balancing Programme.

Finance and National Economy Ministry told Shura’s services committee that the move would have a negative impact on the national budget.

“The discounts are not just for a year or two but for many fiscal years to come, and yet, no impact assessment has been presented by legislators on the short and medium term,” the ministry said.

“Fees are divided amongst ministries and the extent of drop in revenues has not been calculated, individually or collectively, or its effect on planned programmes, schemes and services.

“The current format for discounted fees is manageable and is not a burden on the revenues as the services and discount percentages are clear and taken into account.”

Shura members were also divided over renaming the elderly as ‘pioneers or senior citizens’.

However, Shura’s legal commission head Dr Nawful Al Ghirbal said the legislation only dealt with open or Cabinet-authorised discounts or exemptions, asking members to focus on the key issues.

Social Development Minister Osama Al Asfoor said during the weekly session yesterday that discount cards were no longer made available, stating that such benefits on select government fees were now being given following a smart card number.

“The elderly, 60 and above, without any exception are eligible for 50pc discounts after they provide the relevant details on their smart cards,” he said.

“We have a dedicated department at the ministry that checks and follows up discounts for fees approved by the Cabinet. It also works to get business discounts for the elderly, from partner shops and outlets, besides providing consultancy services.”

He highlighted a national platform under the Labour Ministry where experts and former senior government officials can register and provide consultancy services for young Bahrainis.

Mr Al Asfoor confirmed there were 76,284 registered elderly Bahrainis aged 60 and above.

His comments were made following a proposal by Shura member Abdulla Al Nuaimi to form a department in the ministry for elderly affairs. Mr Al Nuaimi referred to a former Works Ministry official, Mohammed Salman, in 1980s, who helped people overcome government obstacles and avail services, saying that he deserved support for the work he did amongst other former officials.

Shura’s woman and child committee chairwoman Dr Fatima Al Kooheji asked if the elderly would be eligible for discounts or exemptions on tickets to events like the Spring of Culture.

“It is not just the basic services that the elderly should get discounts or exemptions in, even recreation is a service and they should be covered under it,” she added.

Shura’s second vice chairwoman Dr Jihad Al Fadhel asked if health services and medicines were covered under the bill.

Council Chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh said health services and medicines were already available to Bahrainis of all ages free of cost.

The Bahrain Society for the Care of Parents backed Parliament’s proposed amendments while Al Hekma Retired Society backed Shura’s amendments to substitute the words “all government services” by “all government services determined and updated by the Cabinet”.


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