The boost in social welfare spending featured big on front pages of today’s newspapers.
The National reported that cabinet ministers approved a draft budget that will increase spending on social services, health care and higher education by two per cent next year. The National underlined that priority will be given to social services, health and education projects for Emiratis, according to an announcement made by Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid, the prime minister of UAE.
According to the figures published by Gulf News, AED19.7 billion or around 47 per cent of the AED41.8 billion budget will be spent on social development next fiscal year. The paper added that the other 42 per cent of the draft Federal budget will be spent on the ministries of defence, interior, justice, foreign affairs and other Federal administrations.
Khaleej Times also shed some light on the budget deficit. The paper reported that UAE’s 41.8 billion dirham budget for 2012 drastically cuts deficit to AED400m which is just 0.04 per cent of the economic output of the second largest Arab economy. Last year’s deficit was around AED3 billion, the paper added.
Both Gulf News and Khaleej Times reported the take over of Dubai Bank by Emirates National Bank for Development (Emirates NBD), the largest of Gulf banks in terms of assets.
Gulf News said the Dubai Government owned bank was incorporated into Emirates NBD under the orders of Sheikh Mohammed, the ruler of Dubai. “Dubai Bank will remain another Islamic banking brand within the group along side Emirates Islamic Bank,” the paper quoted Emirates NBD chief as saying.
Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman Emirates NBD, told Khaleej Times that the step is a practical translation of the Dubai government’s commitment to implement a comprehensive and integrated financial and economic approach.
The National’s editorial highlighted the prisoner exchange between Hamas and Israel which will see the return of 1,027 Palestinians from Israeli jails whereas one Israeli man, Gilat Shalit will be released from Gaza. The editor, while noting the lasting effect on both society and politics in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, expressed his dismay at the non-inclusion of top Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti whose release could have helped unify the nation. The article asked Hamas to back the Palestinian Authority’s bid for statehood which could help strengthen demands of justice for prisoners languishing in Israeli jails. It also called upon PA to reach out its hand in the better interests of its people.
Khaleej Times focused its attention on neighbouring Syria where the formation of opposition Syrian National Council (SNC) has raised the political temperature in Damascus. The paper says beleaguered President Bashar Al Assad has already warned governments across the world not to recognise the council. “Time, however, is running out, not just for the thousands of civilians who are now in this neck deep but for Assad as well. For how long can he hope to suppress a movement on the basis of brute strength?” the article asked while reminding how deadly and overwhelming the protests have turned during the last seven months. “Concessions will have to be made by both the government and the opposition. Unless this is done Syria will continue to burn and this is not something that is conducive to regional peace and stability,” the editor concluded.
By Moign Khawaja ~ Editor – Arabian Gazette