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The UAE - The Council Of Ministers

Over the past 27 years, the Council of Ministers (or federal cabinet) has evolved into a fairly effective institution with powers to execute main policy lines adopted by the Supreme Council. The ministerial portfolios are distributed proportionately among the seven emirates, with some only represented by two ministers. Its powers at present are derived from the Presidency of Shaikh Zayed, as Abu Dhabi finances most of the federal budget. The cabinet, described in the Constitution as "the executive authority" for the federation, is headed by a prime minister who is chosen by the president in consultation with his colleagues on the Supreme Council. The prime minister currently holds the post of vice president as well, although this has not always been the case. The prime minister selects the ministers. In theory, the ministers may be picked from any of the emirates, but in practice the proportions of population and wealth are respected.

The latest cabinet shuffle was on March 25, 1997. The 21-member cabinet, comprising seventeen ministers and four ministers of state was appointed under

the terms of Decree No. 67 of 1997 and according to the proposal of Vice President Shaikh Maktoum, who had been requested by the president to form a new government.

Eight newcomers were inducted into the cabinet, including a new oil minister - with Western-educated technocrat Obeid Bin Saif Al Nassiri appointed to the post. The current cabinet contains both veterans and young personalities with experience in the respective fields.

The last major reshuffle was in November 1990, after the death of Dubai's former ruler Shaikh Rashid. His eldest son Shaikh Maktoum took over as premier and appointed a new cabinet on Nov. 20, with 25 members. The distribution of posts was geared to satisfy the aspirations of prominent business families and tribes, with fewer shaikhs in the cabinet. Many of the ministers in the previous cabinet were 30 to 35-year-old university graduates. The full list of the current cabinet, appointed in March 1997, is as follows:

- Prime Minister & Vice President Shaikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum - Deputy Prime Minister: Shaikh Sultan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan - Foreign Minister: Rashid Abdullah Al Nuaimi - Petroleum & Mineral Resources Minister: Obeid Bin Saif Al Nassiri - Defence Minister: Gen. Shaikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum - Interior Minister: Lt Gen. Dr Mohammed Saeed Al Badi - Finance & Industry Minister: Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum - Information & Culture Minister: Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan - Planning Minister: Shaikh Humaid Bin Ahmed Al Mualla - Economy & Commerce Minister: Shaikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qassimi - Higher Edcn. & Scientific Research Minister: Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan - Health Minister: Hamad Abdul Rahman Al Madfa - Electricity & Water Minister: Humaid Bin Nasir Al Owais - Agriculture & Fisheries Minister: Saeed Mohammed Al Ragabani - Communications Minister: Ahmed Humaid Al Tayer - Public Works & Housing Minister: Rakad Bin Salem Al Rakad - Education & Youth Minister: Dr. Abdul Aziz Al Sharhan - Justice, Islamic Affairs & Awqaf Minister: Mohammed Nukhaira Al Dhaheri - Labour & Social Affairs Minister: Mattar Humaid Al Tayer - State Minister for Foreign Affairs: Shaikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan - State Minister for Supreme Council Affairs: Shaikh Majed Bin Saeed Al Nuaimi - State Minister for Cabinet Affairs: Saeed Khalfan Al Ghaith - State Minister for Financial & Industrial Affairs: Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash

Among the eight new cabinet members, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Mattar Bin Humaid Al Tayer and State Minister for Finance and Industrial Affairs Dr. Mohammed Khalfan Bin Kharbash are from Dubai. Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Obeid Saif Al Nassiri is an Abu Dhabian who in a way still belongs to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA), where he used to be director of the Commodities Department. He replaced the acting oil minister since June 1995, Rakad Bin Salem Al Rakad, who is now the Public Works and Housing Minister. The other new ministers are:

- Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Information and Culture Minister, is the son of Abu Dhabi ruler Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Under the

direction of Shaikh Abdullah, the Information Ministry is in the process of modifying the publications and intellectual property laws. A revision of the UAE's media laws are being undertaken to make it more in line with the multi- media approach favoured for information distribution at present. Shaikh Abdullah was formerly the Undersecretary at the Information and Culture Ministry, a post to which he was appointed in 1995. He was also Deputy Chairman and Director General of the Emirates Broadcasting Corporation. He was educated at the Emirates University in Al Ain, from where he graduated with a first class honours degree in political science. He has been Chairman of the UAE Football Federation since 1993.

- Shaikh Fahim Bin Sultan Al Qassimi, the Economy and Commerce Minister, was the of Secretary General of the GCC from April 1993 until April 1996. He had joined the UAE Foreign Ministry in 1977, serving as Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva between 1977-1980 and as Permanent Representative at UN HQ in New York from 1980-1984. Between 1984 and 1992, Shaikh Fahim was the Director of the Legal Department in the Foreign Ministry, before taking up his GCC appointment. He has a BA in law from Cairo University in 1974 and a masters degree in international politics from John Hopkins University in the United States, which he received in 1977.

- Shaikh Majed Bin Saeed Al Nuaimi, the State Minister for Supreme Council Affairs, is from the emirate of Ajman. He was formerly Chief of the Emiri Diwan in Ajman, a post to which he had been appointed in 1996. He graduated from the Emirates University with a BSc in business administration in 1986, and was subsequently Director of the Office of the Ruler of Ajman from 1986 to 1996.

- Dr. Ali Abdul Aziz Al Sharhan, the Education and Youth Minister, was Deputy Vice Chancellor for Planning Affairs of the Emirates University before his appointment. He has a BA in English from the University of Baghdad, which he obtained in 1976. He then got a masters degree in linguistics from the American University in Washington in 1983 and a PhD in linguistics from Britain's University of Essex in 1988. Dr. Al Sharhan had been Assistant Undersecretary for Finance and Administrative Affairs at the Ministry of Public Works and Housing from 1976 to 1980, when he resigned to continue his education. Upon receiving his doctorate, he joined the teaching staff of the Emirates University in 1988. He became Director of Research at the University's Research and Heritage Centre in 1989, Dean of the Basic Education Programme in 1990, and was appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor in 1994.

- Mohammed Nukhaira Jumaa Al Dhaheri, the Justice, Islamic Affairs & Awqaf Minister, was previously the UAE's Attorney General, a post to which he was appointed in 1992. An Abu Dhabian hailing from the prominent Al Dhaheri family, He had served as Deputy Director of the Military Judiciary from 1982 to 1992. His higher education was at the Emirates University, where he got a law degree in 1982.

It is significant that parallel to and, on occasion, interlocking with the federal cabinet, each of the seven emirates has its own local government. Although all local governments have been expanded as a result of the UAE's growth since the early 1970s, they differ in size and complexity from one emirate to another, depending on a variety of factors such as population, area, and degree of economic development. The powers of the various federal

institutions and their relationship with the separate institutions in each emirate are laid down in the constitution and have evolved and changed since the establishment of the state.

According to the constitution, rulers may relinquish certain areas of authority, prescribed as being the responsibility of individual emirates, to the federal government, one significant such decision being that to unify the armed forces in the mid-1970s. In the judiciary as well there has been a trend towards voluntary relinquishment of local authority to the federal institutions. These new systems have not, however, completely replaced the traditional forms which continue to co-exist and evolve alongside federal institutions. The opposite trend also exists, i.e. away from federalism in favour of local government. For example, education has been falling increasingly under the control of the local governments as they develop the personnel and expertise in this area - whereas in the past it used to be handled on their behalf by federal authorities.
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Publication:APS Review Downstream Trends
Article Type:Article
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jun 8, 1998
Previous Article:The UAE - The Supreme Council Of The Federation
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