Bahrain upper house approves funding bill

18 February 2003
The upper house of Bahrain's parliament on 17 February approved unanimously a $500 million government spending plan, rejected on 4 February by the lower house. The bill seeks funding for a Formula One (F1) motor racing track, a tourist resort, and an upgrade for Aluminium Bahrain (Alba)and for Bahrain Petroleum Company's (Bapco)Sitra refinery. Bahrain won the contract to stage the World F1 Championship 2004 event against strong competition from Dubai, Egypt and Lebanon. Deputies in the lower house rejected funding for the track and the resort on the basis that they were incompatible with Islamic values: 'If F1 comes to Bahrain then bets will come too,' said chairman of the services committee Isa al-Mutawa. However, a legislator in the appointed upper house, Mansoor al-Arayedh, said: 'We have approved these projects because they are infrastructure projects which will give a good boost to the economy.'

The funding bill now returns to the lower house, and if it is rejected again will go before a joint session of both houses, where it is likely to pass. A spokesman for Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, one of the Shiite Muslim groups which boycotted October's parliamentary elections, said that the 17 February vote was symptomatic of the limited democratisation so far implemented, showing that elected representatives had no more power than the king's appointees. Abduljalil also complained that 'they are wasting their time debating issues that are beyond their control,' referring to the fact that construction has already begun on the F1 track (MEED 18:10:02).

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