Budget to benefit all

THE UAE budget for the coming year amply reflects the great growth that this nation is witnessing now; reason why it lits up a smile on all our faces, and raises hope that things would be better for us this coming year.

It cannot but be, also in view of the confidence expressed from top quarters that the private sector, that employs the bulk of the residents here, can cope with (and perhaps match) the salary hike that has been recommended in the budget for the federal government staff.

This, of course, is the largest-ever budget in UAE's history, and a zero-deficit one at that, for the fourth consecutive year, and one that promises a salary hike of the highest order so far for the federal government staff. The allocations for the new fiscal year has risen by over six billion, marking a rise of about 24 per cent. The conditions for such a projection are created, of course, by the increase in the oil income, growth in the productivity of non-oil sectors, efficient planning and, above all, good governance and smart leadership. The fixing of a target of 25 per cent growth rate is a true reflection of the leadership's aspirations and the ground realities. In fiscal terms, this, simply, is a breathtaking projection, considering the single-digit growth scenarios elsewhere.

That education and health get top priority in the budget is indicative of the direction that the nation would take in the coming years. Education gets the highest allocation; at nearly Dh10 billion. This will ensure a decisive build-up over and above the growth that is being witnessed in the sector in recent years, rising from the modest beginnings in the past two decades. The higher education sector is still in its infancy, and will need to catch up fast, matching the overall growth for the nation and the economy.

So with the health sector, allocations for which show a 66 per cent increase. While a host of popular international brands have set up shop here in recent years, this sector is yet to demonstrate the dynamism it requires to make an eminent mark. Both for education and health, UAE is expected to emerge as a top destination for the entire region in due course. The budget allocations should help in this respect.

The sharp 70 per cent hike in the salaries for federal government employees is impressive, indeed. No doubt, they deserve a raise; and it is reflective of the attention they get from the UAE leadership, which will, in turn, promote efficiency of the administration and act as a boost to staff morale. The minister concerned has explained the hike as a step to match the salaries of local government staff, and he indeed has a point. But, sound principles of economics dictate that it shouldn't stop there. A sound economy requires rationalisation of the salary structure, which is overdue here; and it should include both the government and private sectors. Let the New Year bring smile to every face.

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