NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Ministry calls for steps to curb cost of living
ABU DHABI — 31 Aug: The Ministry of Economy has asked municipal authorities to take effective measures to control the rising costs of living. In one of the emirates, the cost of living has gone up by 36 per cent over the past couple of years, an official said.
“It is not within our jurisdiction to intervene in matters relating to rents of residential and commercial premises. Even then we have shared the results of a study on economic indicators and the impact of price rises on the overall cost of living. The hikes are having a negative impact on the economy," said Abdullah Ahmed Al Saleh, Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Economy.
He did not disclose the content of the letter written to the respective municipalities and the actual findings of the economic report, though he did mention that in one particular emirate, the cost of living has shot up by 36 per cent. This needs immediate action, Al Saleh asserted.
Regarding the abnormal hike in rents, the official said such issues are within the jurisdiction of each emirate. "Some emirates have taken effective measures in this regard, while others need to do much more to handle the situation," he said.
But, he added, that the ministry can intervene in cases where landlords get buildings vacated and do not rent it out.
"The government is serious about tackling the root causes of inflation. The Consumer Protection Law is one way of addressing them by plugging the legislative loopholes," he said.
Al Saleh added that the Competition Law under consideration will be a step ahead in addressing issues relating to the formation of 'cartels and monopolies' by vested interest groups.
On the Consumer Protection Law, the Ministry of Economy official said that currently, the statutes are being worked out to give a complete picture of the law, detailing its scope, setting procedures and mechanisms, defining duties and responsibilities of different key components in the new Consumer Protection Department (CPD) and the supra body — the Higher Consumer Protection Committee.
The CPD, which will take a complete shape by the year end, will have officials chosen from various ministries and departments, including the Ministry of Justice, since it will not only investigate the complaints, but will also penalise those found guilty of irregularities, the official said. If companies and individuals are found not complying with the CPD's decisions, the matter will be referred to the Higher Consumer Protection Committee, he said.
Acting upon the CPD's findings, cases against offenders will be sent to the routine judicial process in the emirate concerned for prosecution. On the composition of the CPD, Al Saleh said it will be headed by the Minister of Economy and the members will include officials from government departments and others. Asked about the establishment of consumer courts, the Under-Secretary said that there was no recommendation to this effect.
Replying to a question regarding inflation hitting 20 per cent in the wake of rising housing costs and price hikes, the official said that it was an unfair assessment of the situation.
He said that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) will reflect the price trends in the country and the Planning Department in association with the Statistics Department will carry out surveys and studies.
On inflation, the official emphasised that price hike is just one among a host of factors including the impact of monetary policy, interest rates, liquidity, import of inflation from other economies in the shape of currency peg, etc.
He added that a number of housing projects are being completed in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to maintain the supply-demand equilibrium resulting in lowering of rents.
50 pink taxis to hit Dubai roads
DUBAI — 31 Aug: Some 50 pink taxis, exclusively for women, will hit Dubai roads starting January 1, next year.
Driven by national women drivers, the pink taxis will be a sight to behold on Dubai's roads, said Ammar bin Tamim, Director of Dubai Taxi Department at the Public Transport Agency in the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).
The taxis can be booked over the phone, and will also be available at places most frequented by women such as shopping malls, hospitals and clubs.
"Already 11 national women have been hired while three are still under training," said the director.
He also said that the taxis will offer different services from the taxis allocated only for airports as those taxis catered to families.
"The pink taxis will be for women only," he pointed out.
Before the drivers officially start ferrying passengers, they will be tested for their dealing with passengers.
Forged documents put doctors in spot
ABU DHABI — 31 Aug: Local health authorities have decided to ban 11 doctors and technicians, mostly Asians, from practising their profession on the charge of forging their credentials, according a senior health official.
"The General Authority for Health Services for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi (GAHS) has decided to ban these doctors and technicians from practising the profession because they forged documents regarding their qualifications and years of experience," said Zaid Daood Al Suksuk, Director of the Health Regulatory Department at GAHS.
Elaborating on the case, the official told Khaleej Times that GAHS detected some of the forged certificates while conducting inspections on some private medical centres in the capital.
"Some of the doctors and technicians working in these centres were unlicensed. The authority asked these facilities to apply to the authority for licences for its labour force immediately," disclosed the official.
However, he said, the unlicensed physicians and technicians provided the authority with fake documents on qualifications and years of experience.
He, however, refused to disclose their names in the interest of ongoing investigations.
"After investigations it appeared that some of them have provided fake experience certificates from centres in their respective countries in an attempt to get a licence. Their passports showed they were inside the UAE during the date stated in the forged documents," said Mr Suksuk.
Answering a question on whether forgery was on the rise, the official unveiled cases of forged medical documents submitted by expatriate doctors and technicians to take up jobs in the private sector.
This phenomenon has dramatically increased as of late, he said.
"There has recently been a sudden increase in fraud regarding official documents and certificates of expatriate physicians and technicians who opt to practise the profession in the private sector."
"The authority used to receive one to three fraud cases per month but the cases of forgery have begun to surface as a phenomenon," the official noted.
On the procedures the authority will take against the centres where these people were working, the official revealed that GAHS will adopt strict measures against private medical facilities who recruit medical cadres without a licence.
"We call upon health centres and clinics not to recruit unlicensed medical cadres and adhere and respect the law. These cadres represent a threat to the community, especially those who have to handle sensitive issues related to people's life," added Mr Suksuk.
Nationals angered at no change to bank weekends
Dubai: 31 Aug: UAE nationals working in banks expressed their dissatisfaction at not getting the new Friday and Saturday weekends like government departments.
Many said that they would prefer to work in government departments even with a lower salary because that would allow them to live a normal life and be with their families.
Some of those working in banks and the private sector are looking for work in government departments while others had already left their job in banks and joined government departments.
Many UAE nationals working in banks are asking why banks here have to work on Saturdays while banks all over the world do not work on the same days as all governmental departments in the country and probably most or all of the private sector.
Mohammad Al Ghufili, Branch Manger at the United Arab Bank in Dubai, told Gulf News that Saturday was a global day off, especially in the financial sector.
"The Ministry of Economy has changed the day off in the UAE from Thursday to Saturday to benefit the country to become compatible with other parts of the world in order to avoid losses," he said.
He added that the Ministry of Labour announced the change in the day off for governmental departments and made it optional for the private sector but the financial sector was not mentioned.
Al Ghufili, who has worked for banks for the last ten years said that two years ago the holidays for banks used to be the same as the governmental sector.
"We cannot have a normal life and we cannot even plan for vacations with our families because we work everyday until 3:25pm and we have only Friday as a holiday and each one of us is due another day off every two weeks and we are on call which make our lives miserable," he said.
"In my branch many UAE nationals are quitting, especially females, to work in governmental department even with lower salaries," Al Ghufili added.
"It is our right to have two days off and that will encourage more nationals to come to the private and financial sectors," he said.
Al Aber Al Musafiri a UAE national who also works for a bank asked why if everybody was off on Saturday should banks in the UAE open.
"We cannot work like that. The authorities should take that into consideration and should solve our problem immediately. We are disparate and we do not know what to do. We want to work and serve our country but that should be done fairly," she said.
Eman Al Jasmi, a UAE national woman who has worked for banks for the past three years and is going to marry soon, believes that she cannot be a wife and a mother and work under these conditions.
She said that there should be fair treatment for those working in banks.
"If I get a chance to work in a governmental department of course I will go without any hesitation and that is because I cannot have two days off to be with my family and take care of them," she said.
She added that the authorities encouraged nationals to work in the private sector and banks but they should also be motivated and should be given the benefits of those working in governmental departments.
Fatima Al Najar, a UAE national married woman who works for a bank in Dubai, said that she rarely see her husband and she does not have any social life.
"My relationship with my family and my husband's family is affected negatively because of my working days. I have lost all contact with them and at the same time I cannot leave my work. Maybe if I get a chance to work in a government department it will fix the mess that has happened now in my life," Fatima said.
Fatima Al Bastaki said that she quit her job in a bank despite the fact that she was assigned to be a branch manger. "I am working now in governmental department with less salary but I can take care of my family."
"Maybe if I get a chance to work in a government department it will fix the mess that has happened now in my life." she added.
Parents warned of unlicenced babysitters
UAE - 31 Aug: Many parents looking for childcare are turning to unlicenced minders they find through classified sections of newspapers – despite the practice being frowned upon by the authorities.
Although it is mostly deemed unsafe to depend on unlicenced carers, they are in great demand as once schools re-open, many parents are left with no option but to leave their children in the care of housewives who offer their services in return for money. Parents argue that the high cost of sponsoring a housemaid and the lack of daycare services at schools leave them with little choice.
“I am frantically hunting for a babysitter for my four-yearold who will start his school this year. I work in Jebel Ali and can’t be home before 7pm, whereas he returns from schools at 1.30 in the afternoon,” said Sandhya Kurian, who has advertised for a child minder in a newspaper.
She did so because she could not find a school that offered daycare for children of working mothers and those that have day hostel facilities were open only to children of third grade and above.
“I am getting a lot of calls from people after I placed the advert. I hope to find somebody who is very close to my house so that dropping and picking up the child daily is not a problem,” said Kurian.
Another mother said: “When you hear parents saying that so and so is a good child minder you are happy to send your children there. A lot is done by word of mouth.” However, an official at the Family and Childhood Department under the Ministry of Labour cautioned parents against leaving their children in private homes.
“It is always better to look for suitable nurseries and daycare centres that take in a group of children who will be under the care of trained staff and nurses. When it comes to the private service, it all depends on the sincerity and good nature of the person, and there is no guarantee that your child will be well attended,” said the official.
Praseeda, a housewife from Mumbai has been babysitting at her home for nine years, said: “Rents have almost doubled, children’s school fee has increased while my husband’s earnings have remained the same. I take four children and that helps cover at least my kids’ school expenses.” Praseeda competes with companies such as Barjeel, which supplies babysitters and housemaids.
A member of staff at Barjeel said they got dozens of calls every day from parents who want babysitters.