News headlines

Excerpts from U.A.E. Dailies

Rents soar by double the 15 per cent cap

Dubai :18 May:Residential rents in Dubai increased in the first quarter of this year by an average of 17.13 per cent over the previous six months and 30.05 per cent over the first quarter of 2005, it was revealed yesterday.

Comparatively, rents in the third quarter of 2005 rose an average of 11.25 per cent over the first quarter of that year, data released yesterday by property services company Asteco show.

The 15 per cent cap on rents was announced by the Dubai Government on November 11, 2005.

“The numbers imply that the rise in rents has been larger after the rent cap went into effect than before. The likely explanation is that a lot of landlords increased rents in anticipation of the cap, thereby skewing the numbers for that quarter,” a senior property consultant said on condition of anonymity.

Residents are, however, complaining that landlords are finding inventive ways of beating the rent cap.

Estate agents say that some landlords are converting buildings into serviced apartments and kicking out the families currently living there.

“Some landlords who have not increased rents for the past year or so are feeling cheated by the 15 per cent rent cap imposed by the government. So they are applying to the real estate authorities to convert their buildings into serviced apartments, which means they can break up each large apartment into smaller units and rent out each one at almost the same amount as the entire apartment,” said Francis D’Mello, an estate agent who operates in Deira.

“My landlord tells me I have to pay Dh90,000 per annum and convert my Dh50,000 lease into a serviced apartment contract if I want to continue living in this house,” said Emily Cushman, who lives on Muraqqabat Road. “That’s an increase of almost 90 per cent. It’s impossible!” Asteco’s data also show that the average rents of one-, two- and three-bedroom residences in the Jumeirah area witnessed the highest increase – 48.81 per cent – in the first quarter of this year compared to the same quarter last year.

The highest rise compared to the third quarter of 2005 was witnessed in Umm Suqeim, where a three-bedroom residence now costs an average annual rent of Dh150,000. This rent level is comparable to three-bedroom units in Dubai Marina, where two-bed units are, however, still cheaper than in Umm Suqeim.

Demand appears to be moving inexorably to the expanding southern areas of Dubai. “The reality is there is little space in that part of town, and not much becoming available. Most of the property is made up of villas and larger apartments, which command higher rents.

“And there is the beach and location factor to consider,” said Andrew Chambers, Managing Director of Asteco.

“Everyone coming into Dubai with a large corporate budget to spend on accommodation wants to settle there because they’ve heard it’s a desirable place to live,” he added.


It’s business as usual in capital

Abu Dhabi- 18 May:The new Friday-Saturday weekend set to be implemented from September should not greatly affect lifestyles in Abu Dhabi – except that there will be more parking spaces free on Saturday, a top policeman said yesterday.

The senior traffic police official said the only visible sign of the change will be the reduced traffic and more parking spaces available on Saturdays instead of Thursdays.

“What use to happen on Thursdays will now happen on Saturdays.To think that traffic situation will ease is a fantasy, unless there is a mechanism that some government offices are given the option of Thursday or Saturday,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.

Although people employed in Abu Dhabi’s private sector work a six-day week, the change in school days is likely to have an impact. Private schools in Abu Dhabi said they will abide by the instructions of the Ministry of Education. There are an estimated 80 to 90 private schools in Abu Dhabi, attended by more than 10,000 students.

VK Kaul, principal of Abu Dhabi Indian School – the largest community school in the emirate – said he prefers Saturday to Thursday. “We will go by the traditions of this country and whatever the Education Ministry decides,” he said.

Others said there should be an option for schools to decide.

Diplomats have also appreciated the measure because of its synchronisation with other parts of the world.

Alison Hall, spokesperson for the British embassy in Abu Dhabi, said: “The new schedule will bring the UAE and the UK working close together, which we hope will facilitate trade and cooperation between the two countries.” Attalla Hoshang, public affairs officer at the US Embassy, said: “I personally believe this will expedite work between Abu Dhabi and Washington, a day will be saved.”


Workers expect no change to their lives

Dubai: 18 May: Construction workers in Dubai say that a governmental decision to make official weekends on Fridays and Saturdays will not make much difference to them. The workers said they get only one day off in week and that usually is a Friday.

Radha Krishnan, a construction worker in Al Quoz, said: “I work six days a week. Changing weekends will not make any difference to me. Normally construction workers are off on Fridays. I don’t think that there will be any change to that.” Mohammed Khan, a Pakistani worker in Sonapur, said there were advantages to working on Fridays. “Those who work on Fridays get overtime payment and the afternoon off. On Fridays we usually work up to 11.30am and return home early. It is also good to work on Fridays because there is not much traffic.”


U.A.E. : 18 May: Leading UAE hotels said yesterday that they have plenty of time to adapt to the government’s announcement that weekends will officially be Friday and Saturday from September.

Patrick Antaki, General Manager at Le Meridian Al Aqah Beach Resort in Fujairah, said he would be making some alterations but was happy with the timing and the notice given for the move.

“We will have to change the rostering system and working patterns within the hotel to ensure we have the right number of people,” he added.

“You have to reorganise all booking systems and all the distribution channels and reservation systems. But the timing for all this has been perfect before schools go back and we have been given enough notice.” With hotels’ busiest days being Thursday many in the industry will hope the change means that Fridays will now also be as busy.

Anabela Radosevic, sales and marketing director of Jebel Ali International Hotels, which runs the Hatta Fort Hotel, said the hospitality industry was quite adaptable by nature.

“The Hatta Fort Hotel has already been operating with Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays as the weekend days, mainly due to the fact that various other private business sectors have always had the option to incorporate a Thursday or Saturday in addition to Friday as part of the weekend,” she added.

At Dubai’s exclusive Burj Al Arab, the change is not expected to have a huge impact on business.

A spokesperson said: “At the Burj Al Arab and in our other Jumeirah hotels in Dubai, we are enjoying very high levels of business throughout the week. We therefore don’t expect the change in weekend days… to have a large impact on our operations.”


Two days off for pvt firms under study

DUBAI — 18 May: The Ministry of Labour is studying a proposal to include the draft amendment to the Labour law to give two weekly off days to the private sector as well.

This was revealed yesterday by Dr Ali bin Abdullah Al Kaabi, Minister of Labour, noting that the proposal was made by the ministry and will be forwarded to the business community and the Consultative Council of the emirate.

The ministry recognises the power and the influence of the private sector on the country’s economy, the minister said. If the private sector feels that two weekly off days |Two days off

might affect their work employers could ask workers to observe just one day’s weekly off, he said.

“But in this case employers would be required to pay their workers compensation for the worked two weekly off days as per the labour law. The compensation should be one and a half day salary," he observed.


Dh5,000 fine for the litter vandals

Dubi - May 18:Dubai Municipality yesterday announced it will fine people who vandalise rubbish bins.

At the launch of a campaign against “the abuse of rubbish containers”, it was announced that 20,000 warning stickers in various languages will be fixed to the bins.

Hasan Makki, the assistant manager of environment administration and head of the rubbish services department in the municipality, called on the public to help catch people who littered the contents of bins or damaged them.

Members of the public should inform regional municipal offices, or the emergency branch in the municipality if they see anyone flouting local order number 11 of 2003.

The stickers warned that throwing rubbish out of the bins or damaging them was punishable by a Dh5,000 fine.

Makki said that the content of municipal bins was considered the property of the municipality as long as it was inside the bins.


Night - Only work shifts seen as a humane step

ABU DHABI — 18 May:Since the call for a night-shift for outdoor workers began, your favourite No.1 newspaper Khaleej Times has spoken to various medical experts, labourers, engineers and the general public. While the public response to this call is positive, and more and more people see this as a humane step, some suggested that extra care should be taken to avoid problems that could be associated with the proposal such as noise pollution etc.

When Khaleej Times asked some residents about the call for the night shift for outdoor workers, they welcomed the initiative. “Definitely nobody wants to work in the heat, and everyone can identify with the workers,” says Sandhya, an Abu Dhabi resident.

She added: “But there needs to be adequate lighting for work efficiency and safety.”

She also pointed out that the night shift solution can evoke the ire of the people if it is adopted in residential areas."  She suggested that the all-night shift be introduced only on construction sites in industrial areas and in highway construction.  This was echoed by a 35 year old IT professional. "In residential areas there could be a system where they work only till 10 p.m. or maximum till 11",  she says.

Many were in favour of the split shift shedule in residential areas. 19 year old Ayesha being one of them. "They can work from 5 to 10 in the morning and 6 to 9 in the evening, from May till Mid october. That's eight hours."

25 year old Mandeep welcomed the move saying it was great for the workers but he expressed concern over the increased likelihood of accidents due to vision problems at night. He said the construction companies must ensure proper lighting and reflective or fluorescent clothing for the workers to combat the problems relating to the vision.

"Adopting the night shift scheme in residential areas would be unfair to the residents", says Annie, although she agreed that the night shift would greatly benefit the workers and alleviate health problems. "So often in the papers I read letters sent by harrowed residents who are disturbed by the noise of the construction sites next to their houses. I think construction work should only be till 9", she explained.

Another advocate of the split shift timing suggested that work commence from 6 in the morning till 11 in the morning and then from four in the evening till 7 or 8.

As 20 year old Christy, the split shift schedule does not interfere with the biological clocks of the workers. "So many IT professionals work till 8 and nine in the evening. News boys wake up early in the morning at 4 and 5 to work." She felt that splitting their work timings from 5 to 10 in the morning and then from 5 to 7 is a smart idea as it does not affect the workers or the residents adversely.


Bharat Shah’s expulsion from IAD declared illegal

DUBAI — 18 May: The Dubai Court of First Instance on Tuesday passed a judgment in favour of Bharat Kumar Shah that the resolution by Indian Association Dubai dismissing him was illegal.

The leading Indian businessman Shah was expelled on March 6 for protesting against IAD's alleged move to collect membership renewal fee by not providing any receipt. The incident took place when the IAD allegedly asked all members to drop Dh50 in a box for renewal of membership. The businessman who was a member for more than 10 years and some other members objected to this and demanded a receipt. He was told by the counter staff that they were not authorised to issue a receipt.

After two days, he was informed of his expulsion from the association's membership for not payment of renewal fees. The expulsion letter was signed by the treasurer and the secretary of IAD. Shah was dismissed without issuing him a warning. The businessman had also objected that the IAD during the past 25 years never opened the membership to every one. Shah had served a legal notice to six members of the managing committee of IAD demanding to be reinstated  as a member and as a managing committee member with out any late fee payment and tender an apology for wrongful termination. He also demanded the control of the association to be returned to the elected president. Shah  approached K.K. Sarachandra Bose, partner of Dar Al Adalah advocates who filed a case against the association on January 2006.

Bose said Shah was a member as well as a committee member of the Indian Association Dubai. When he raised certain issues on unfair practice such as not opening up of membership to all Indians, the secretary and the treasurer of the Association with the support of the management devised plans and terminated Shah from the Association. The modus operandi, explains Bose, was that when Shah and two other members went to renew their membership by paying a sum of Dh50, the employees of the Association ridiculed them by asking them to deposit the cash in a box without a receipt. These three members refused to deposit cash in the box and hence refused to pay the membership renewal fees. The management of the Association knew pretty well that the members would certainly not pay the fee in such a manner and therefore the management would be able to terminate the membership of such members. So fraudulent thoughts, said Bose.

He said that this is the first case of its kind. "As I know, most of the Indians in the UAE are afraid to go to court and fight against such social injustice thinking that there is no law to support them. Moreover, in most of the cases that I got involved, the management of the social bodies used to bring in some heavy weights and suppress the wrong doings," he said. "In fact there are so many such incidents to my knowledge. For instance, there is an association of Indians in Dubai, supposed to be of the elite group, that is currently accused by its members of misappropriation of funds, forgery and fraud, but as usual the association brought in a well connected local person and tried to get away with it. In my opinion, at least some of the social bodies of Indians in Dubai are not functioning as per the local rules and regulations."

Bose added: "I notice that the regulatory authorities in Dubai are not well equipped with controlling the functioning of the expat associations. In the case of Bharat Kumar vs Indian Association Dubai, I personally approached the regulatory authority to see that the matter was resolved amicably but in vain. On the contrary, in Abu Dhabi, the recent election held in an association was cancelled by the Ministry of Social Affairs in its capacity as regulatory authority on a complaint filed on the election process. Whereas in Dubai I am of the opinion that some of the regulatory authorities do not take complaints of individuals seriously."

"Dubai being a highly organised and a well placed city where the government takes maximum care to see that all are served well, I would advise every one to respect the laws, rules and regulations and create harmony among members of the community. Foreigners are well protected under the provisions of the UAE Constitution."

Bose said: "Licensing and regulation of social bodies may be left to the exclusive authority of the Ministry of labour and Social Affairs. And to the best of my knowledge; this is the law as well. Members of the governing boards of such social organisations must demonstrate high level of integrity, trust and social commitment, and serve the community without any bias or personal gains. Individuals form society and wherever individual rights are not respected and protected, the society collapses, in the sense you may have a body, but without soul."

Bose said that the Indian community has expanded in  Dubai and the composition of the Indian Association does not reflect this. The number of ordinary members is 200 compared to thousands of Indians who live in Dubai, he added.

When Khaleej Times contacted Bharat Bhai Shah, he said: "I am very happy about the court verdict. This is a success of justice. Actually this verdict is a warning for the other Indian institutions who indulge in non-democratic activities."

"He disclosed that he is planning to file a suit against IAD for court expenses.

"The way IAD dealt with me cannot be justified. I was confident that I can fight against this injustice in court. The court verdict proves that my stand was correct," he added.

However, the Indian Consulate officials were not available for any comment on the verdict and the status of the defunct association.


Shindagha Tunnel in 'excellent condition'

Dubai: 18 May: Engineers have declared that the Shindagha Tunnel is in "excellent" condition after a major maintenance study was carried out.

Dam, bridge and tunnel specialist Socotech International was drafted in to carry out the work in association with Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

The RTA and Socotech engineers checked for cracks on the inside walls of the tunnel and sent concrete samples to the UK for analysis and officials said these showed the walls were in a good state. Maitha Obaid Bin Udai, Chief Executive of the RTA's Roads Department, said studies showed the steel was also in tip-top condition.

"The maintenance work done in 1985, a decade after the tunnel's construction, involved coating the walls with special materials and paints to prevent the oxidation of iron, and this has contributed to the excellent condition of the structure to date.

"The condition of the tunnel, three decades after it was built, is ample proof of the quality of the construction and maintenance works," she said.

She said maintenance studies on the tunnel were planned every three years and would continue to involve experts from across the world.


Hour-long power failure hits parts of Jumeirah 

Dubai: 18 May:The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority's quick response claims were put to the test yesterday, when a power outage hit parts of Jumeirah.

Residences, shops and restaurants in the area were affected by a power failure, which affected areas from Al Safa to the Beach Road around 1.20pm. It was restored after an hour.

With the ongoing roadworks in the area, a Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) official said a third party was responsible for the temporary power outage.

"The situation was caused by cable damage sustained by excavation in the Jumeirah area," said Dewa Acting Executive Vice-President for Customer Services, Rashid Humaidan.

"Due to the ongoing construction taking place in the area, a cable was struck, which resulted in an hour-long power outage, which was quickly attended to and power returned to normal.

"We managed to identify the problem and had it resolved in a short period of time," said Humaidan.

Businesses in the area experienced some disruption but were pleased with Dewa's swift response.

"I called Dewa and they were helpful, saying the power would only be out for a further half an hour," said a salon receptionist, Maya. "Our hair appointments had to be put on hold because we couldn't use the driers. Fortunately the outage didn't last too long."

Waitress Gigi Caumpay said although the power cut did not last a long time, her café did lose a few customers, as they were unable to serve anything.

A waitress at another café in the area said the power cut definitely came at the wrong time.

"Although it only lasted for an hour, it was our busiest time because people come for lunch," said Mary Con. "We had around 15 customers leave because we couldn't make coffee, or use the cash register."

Steady electricity supply in summer, says official

The officials of Dubai Water and Electricity Authority (Dewa) reassured the public that electricity and water supplies would not be interrupted in the summer months.

Responding to concerns regarding the possibility of water shortages and a repeat of last year's citywide power outage resulting from a failure at Jebel Ali Power Station, Dewa officials said that supplies would remain constant.

"Dewa services will continue throughout the summer, just as they do year-round," said the Dewa Acting Executive Vice-President for Customer Services, Rashid Humaidan.

"Like anywhere in the world, situations can occur that may cause a disruption. However, we have world-class abilities to deal with these crisis situations, and emergency teams and contingency plans in place. ... I would like to reassure the public that no water shortages or power outages are expected but we are fully prepared ... to deal with any problem that may arise." Humaidan said the public still needs to get on board with ongoing water and energy conservation efforts.

"The use of air-conditioning systems ... puts the most strain on electricity supplies," said Humaidan. "Some people tend to set the temperature very low and not on energy-saver mode. Simply by adjusting the setting, a great deal of energy can be saved."

He added: "It is incredibly important to conserve water, particularly during the summer months."




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