New ‘line of basic life needs’ is under study

A NEW ‘line of basic life needs’ is under comprehensive study to replace the existing BD336, according to Social Development Minister Osama Al Asfoor.

He told MPs in an open debate during the weekly session of Parliament yesterday that 17,430 Bahrainis were living below the current ‘line of basic life needs’.

The BD336 line, for families of six members and above, was set following a study in 2013.

Yesterday’s debate focused on the government’s policies to determine families in poverty, the calculation mechanism of social welfare payments, and the amount needed to meet basic needs today.

Several MPs confronted Mr Al Asfoor, with Hamad Al Doy asking the minister if he was mocking the people, and Zainab Abdulamir demanding that he step down if he thought BD336 could cover the needs of a family.

She also referenced the minister’s monthly wage at BD10,000 including income from other posts he had earlier held besides having his ministry’s headquarters at the Bahrain Financial Harbour.

Veteran parliamentarian Khalid Bu Onk said some people were homeless while some others were sleeping without food.

“MPs should stop painting a wrong image of the country; showcasing people here in misery and dire poverty is telling the world something that is not true,” cautioned Parliament Speaker Ahmed Al Musallam.

However, he admitted that there were people who are in a bad situation and the government should be providing for them.

“The minister will meet with us personally to talk about measures planned to help these individuals,” he added.

Mr Al Asfoor said those receiving aid were also automatically included in general social welfare, like the anti-inflation and meat allowances.

He added that people with disabilities or their families received BD100 monthly.

“The BD336 is an identification of the lowest and we provide payments to people whose income is up to BD1,000.

“The line is under comprehensive study and Parliament’s feedback will be considered.”

The GDN earlier reported that monthly social welfare aid for needy individuals is BD77; for a couple, it is BD132, with BD28 given for each additional member. The aid is doubled for Ramadan.

The individuals or families also receive monthly discounts ranging between BD10 and BD20 on their utility bills.

The GDN also reported earlier this month that Bahrainis who have been ‘victims of economic and financial circumstances’ could receive social aid after the Shura Council gave the green light to an amendment to the 2006 Social Security Law, which would give the Prime Minister the power to expand the social aid list following a presentation by the Social Development Minister.

Those currently covered include families, widows, divorcees, abandoned women, the elderly, relatives of prisoners, people with disabilities, those incapable of work, unmarried girls, young boys and orphans.

The amendment will now be referred back to Parliament for a fresh review and if Parliament agrees, it will be sent to His Majesty King Hamad for ratification.

Meanwhile MPs yesterday also approved two government-drafted legislations based on proposals by the Shura Council, to have all annual closing financial statements of the Social Insurance Organisation (SIO) and the Unemployment Fund brought to Parliament and the Shura Council for review and approval following scrutiny by auditors.

The legislations have been referred to the Shura Council for review.

“We are currently reviewing individual cases presented to us by Bahrainis under the Social Development Ministry’s Step scheme for home productions,” said SIO chief executive Eman Al Murbati.

“Even though the new pension laws start a day from now, those cases if found valid, will be counted under the former retirement system, treated and paid accordingly,” she added.

“For the case of the Unemployment Fund, we have BD542 million currently in the coffers.”




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