PARLIAMENT yesterday approved the General State Budget for 2023-2024 following a debate that lasted several hours.Finance and National Economy Minister Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa said that “no effort was spared to ensure the highest percentage of citizens benefit from the budget while also achieving fiscal balance”.

He underlined the importance of reducing the deficit in order to achieve increased benefits for more citizens.“The consensus achieved was the result of one team working together to achieve the highest benefits and not two separate authorities,” said Shaikh Salman.“We are sparing no efforts to raise salaries in the private sector as well as increase the benefits the citizens receive, and the 2023-2024 budget is the first step in the right direction and we will continue moving forward.“Once these initiatives are implemented in collaboration with Parliament we will see a qualitative leap in the private sector.

“There is an initial parliamentary-government agreement to create an allowance for retirees whose pensions range from BD1,500 to BD2,500 and procedures will take their course through the Subsidy Redirection Committee.”Meanwhile, Parliament’s first deputy speaker Abdulnabi Salman stressed the importance of taking into account “public opinion”, adding that the “current budget doesn’t achieve the aspirations and hope of the people”.“As a legislative authority we haven’t overlooked the private sector employees and neither has the government and we are working hand-in-hand to close the gap between the public and private sectors,” said MP Hassan Ebrahim.

“There were three core pillars in the general state budget and all three pour into the benefit of citizens as the first is improving living conditions, the second service projects and the third is achieving fiscal balance.“This is an achievement in light of current challenges and we will achieve more through the Subsidy Redirection Committee.”The GDN reported yesterday that His Majesty King Hamad praised the consensus reached by the executive and legislative branches of government on the general state budget.

His Majesty stressed his keenness on improving low- and medium-income citizens’ standard of living as he chaired the weekly Cabinet meeting, in the presence of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Prime Minister, at Sakhir Palace.Addressing the session, he stressed the importance of achieving the goals of financial sustainability and spurring economic growth to create rewarding opportunities for citizens.“I have seen people in my constituency living below the poverty line with my own eyes,” said MP Abdullah Al Romaihi who was one among 10 MPs who refused to approve the budget.

“Rejecting the budget doesn’t mean I’m against the government or disloyal to the rulers but this is the voice of my constituents that must be heard,” said Mr Al Romaihi.MPs Dr Hisham Al Asheeri and Zainab Abdulameer stressed the importance of developing a special allowance for Bahrainis employed in the private sector to close the gap with the public sector.Ms Abdulameer even suggested withdrawing the budget for further review and comprehensive study.Several MPs reaffirmed that the current budget “doesn’t live up to the aspirations of MPs and the people” but added that given the current economic situation it is beneficial for the time-being.

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