Social Security Law amendment approved

BAHRAINIS who have been ‘victims of economic and financial circumstances’ could receive social aid following amendments to a key law.

The Shura Council yesterday 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The legislation, presented by former MPs, was withdrawn last year after the Shura Council services committee recommended its rejection. However, the committee yesterday gave the go-ahead.

The amendment will now be referred back to Parliament for a fresh review and vote following insertions by Social Development Minister Osama Al Asfoor, who was present at the session. If Parliament approves, it will be sent to His Majesty King Hamad for ratification.

The government had earlier explained in writing that unwarranted financing would breach the 2002 National Budget Law.

Committee chairwoman Hala Fayez, however, said during the weekly session yesterday that the budget for social welfare was flexible and that it depended on the number of eligible beneficiaries which keeps changing every month.

She further explained that the new approach wouldn’t force the state to give aid to ineligible individuals or families; it rather gives it more flexibility to consider cases on a humanitarian basis.

Mr Al Asfoor stressed that it was a national, religious and social duty to deliver aid to people in need.

“Individuals receiving the aid have to be nationals living in Bahrain and we have a computerised link with relevant authorities to ensure it is the case, or we get an alert to suspend aid,” he explained.

“We want to help people, provided they fall in the ‘needy’ category and this move will ensure eligibility is adjusted according to circumstances.

“As in the case of individuals suffering from disabilities, we determine social aid following assessment from independent medical commissions that the disability is permanent and accordingly set aside monthly payments.”

The minister suggested that associated laws and legislations are added to reflect a more flexible integrated approach.

Meanwhile, Shura Council member Abdulla Al Nuaimi called on the government to set aside 2.5 per cent of state revenues as ‘official government Zakat’ in a special fund.

“The government can easily manage new beneficiaries by allocating, for example, 2.5pc of its revenues as official government Zakat under a special fund,” he said. “Should there be a surplus, the collected money could be circulated to cover other social commitments within the country.”

Mr Al Asfoor told MPs last month that 17,341 Bahrainis were living below the ‘line of basic life needs’, which continues to be calculated at BD336.

It was determined following a comprehensive study in 2013.

The GDN earlier reported that monthly aid per individual is BD77 and 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 minister said those receiving these payments and support were also automatically included in general social welfare, like the anti-inflation and meat allowances. He further explained that people with disabilities or their families receive BD100 monthly.

Meanwhile, the upper chamber of the National Assembly was notified of a written reply by Education Minister Dr Mohammed Mubarak Juma to a question on safety procedures and guarantees in schools during accidents and emergencies. A delegation of students from universities under the Bahrain Institute for Political Development was present during the session.

Shura Council Chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh welcomed the new initiative for students wishing to see them one day as legislators.




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