A PROPOSAL that would have seen citizens exempt from paying a one-time registration fee on their property was rejected by the Shura Council yesterday amid a heated discussion about justice and fairness.
Under the proposed amendments to the 2013 Real Estate Registration Law, approved by parliament, citizens registering their property for the first time at the Survey and Land Registration Bureau (SLRB) would be exempt from paying two per cent of the property’s worth as a registration fee.
According to a report by the Public Utilities and Environment Affairs Committee, which urged the council to reject the proposal, the financial and economic affairs committee found the exemption would negatively impact the national budget, even if limited and slight.
Shura Council member Dr Abdulaziz Abul said the proposal lacked specifics making its implementation difficult and amending it near impossible.
“The phrasing of the proposed amendment is itself the problem,” he said.
“It is asking to exempt all citizens but hasn’t specified a criteria, and we all know there are citizens who are millionaires and others who are living on a limited income.
“It is not right to have a blanket exemption.”
His concerns were shared by legislative and legal affairs committee vice-chairman Khamis Al Rumaihi who said approving the proposed amendments in their current state would be damaging.
“Amendments need to be more specific; there are citizens who require aid and exemptions and others who don’t as they are wealthy.”
Meanwhile, public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Faoud Al Haji said the committee would not take the proposal back for further study and urged the council to reject it.
He said the fee was previously 3pc and reduced to 1pc, which proved detrimental and impacted the SLRB budget, leading to the current amendment at 2pc.
“The amendment is supposed to help those with limited income and not to exempt every single citizen,” he said.
“Those with low income are already exempt from the fee as they are under the umbrella of care by the Housing Ministry and are getting land plots, apartments or houses.”
Council vice-chairman Jamal Fakhro said no convincing reason was presented to exempt all citizens from paying the registration fee.
“The proposal isn’t practical or realistic – those with low income are already taken care of so there is no reason to create a blanket exemption,” he said.
Meanwhile, Financial and Economic Affairs Committee chairman Khalid Al Maskati highlighted that SLRB revenues last year were recorded at BD38 million while expected revenues for 2019 dropped to BD22m, posting a 42pc fall.
However, council member Ahmed Al Haddad said a large segment of society would benefit if the proposal was approved while services committee vice-chairwoman Dr Ebtisam Al Dalal stressed the importance of expanding the categories to include those with medium income as well.
The proposal will now be sent back to Parliament.
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