News headlines

Excerpts from UAE Dailies

Open roads lead to work as office hours shift 

Dubai - Aug 13: Ten companies in Dubai have agreed to introduce staggered working hours for their staff as a way to reduce congestion on the emirate’s trafficchoked roads.  The move – prompted by the Roads and Transport Authority and likely to be adopted by other large employers – is intended to cut the number of commuters on roads during peak hours.

The companies – which include BurJuman Centre – hope productivity will improve as their employees are spared the fatigue that comes from spending long hours on roads.  “We have started implementing the idea of working in shifts and it is going well,” said BurJuman Retail Operations Manager Bruce von Kaufmann.

“It saves staff from unnecessary delays and exhaustion on way to work.” The move is in line with a travel plan drawn up by the RTA, following a study by leading transport consultancy firm WSP Transportation and Development.

The initial 10 employers were selected and a plan for their staff was developed.

“All the companies that we selected have agreed to implement the travel plan with their staff,” said Engineer Muhammad Zaid Ayub of RTA’s Strategic Transportation Planning Department. “We intend to sell this plan to other companies in Dubai.” The transport authority has embarked on the campaign to involve the public in its bid to deal with the problems of congestion and pollution.

The plan encourages companies to introduce different working hours and patterns of days worked.

The RTA believes the initiative could also be applied to government departments, schools and banks.

Other proposals include the promotion of car pooling among staff, the provision of company buses and encouraging employees to use public transport.

“We believe that employers can help encourage their staff to change their commuting choices,” said Ayub.

“In principle, all the establishments that took part in the study have agreed to the ideas.” The RTA has set up a mobility management unit that will implement and monitor the plan.

The unit will also endeavour to rope in other companies in the initiative.

“The unit will help ensure smoother transport movement and generate ideas to be adopted by the public,” said Ayub.


3-year-old girl injured in carousel accident

SHARJAH — AUG 13: A three-year-old Yemeni girl had a narrow escape on Saturday afternoon when her hand got stuck in the luggage conveyor belt at Sharjah Airport for at least 15 minutes. She was badly injured in the mishap.

Her family told Khaleej Times that the girl was saved by fellow passengers. She was rushed to Al Qasimi Hospital where she is currently receiving treatment for deep cuts and bruises on her right hand.  The girl, Anood Ahmed, had arrived at the Sharjah Airport with her parents from Sana after spending the summer vacation with family in Yemen. Her father said he was shocked to see his daughter on top of the conveyor belt with her hand stuck on the side. “I tried to prevent her from getting injured but failed,” he explained.

He, however, admitted that he and his wife were busy claiming their luggage and in the process let their daughter roam in the area. “My daughter could have lost her hand because the airport ambulance came after a long wait,” he alleged.

Dr Saqr Al Mualla of Al Qasimi Hospital said that Anood would have to stay in the hospital for a few days to recover. Sharjah Police have confirmed the accident.

Meanwhile, the Sharjah Civil Aviation Authority has referred all media queries on the case to its Marketing and Research Department. However, the official spokesperson, Nawal Al Mamari, could not be reached for comments.


India-Pakistan show to mark Independence Day

DUBAI — AUG 13: A host of eminent Indians and Pakistanis are set to share a common platform to celebrate 60 years of their Independence.

They will come together during a live TV show to be telecast by GEO TV Network in association with NDTV to mark the celebration of 60 years of Independence of Pakistan and India on August 14 and 15.

The show will go on air live from Dubai, with the guest panels to be available from Islamabad in Pakistan and Mumbai in India.

The show will be hosted by group executive director of GEO TV, Dr Shahid Masood, who will be accompanied by NDTV’s managing editor Barkha Dutt.

For the first time ever, two former army chiefs of the neighbouring countries — General (Retd) Shankar Roy Chaudhary and General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Baig — will come face to face to discuss the issues that have bogged India and Pakistan.They will be joined by India’s eminent journalists and politicians, including Shekhar Gupta and M.J. Akbar, Pakistan’s Senator Mushahid Hussain, Pakistan’s railway minister Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad, Dr Farooq Abdullah, cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, Kashmniri leader and former president of Azad kashmir Sardar Abdul Qayum, MMA president Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Indian actress Shabana Azmi and India’s former finance minister Yashwant Sinha. The event, in many ways, will be a first, and marks the improving relations between the two countries.

To be a part of this historical event, one can contact the numbers 050 144 1957/ 050 836 72 99/ 04 4272 451


Etisalat offers sops to Indian, Pakistani expats on I-day

ABU DHABI — AUG 13: Etisalat has offered to expatriate residents of India and Pakistan in the UAE to call their homelands at off-peak rates to mark the Independence Days of both countries.

The off-peak rate to Pakistan will be applicable from 9pm on Monday, August 13 till 7am on Wednesday, August 15, and for India, it will commence at 9pm on August 14 until 7am on August 16.

Etisalat customers who are subscribed to the Favourite Country Plan and have selected India or Pakistan as their destination of choice will be able to enjoy additional discounts of 30 per cent on their fixed line calls, 25 per cent on their postpaid mobile calls, and 20 per cent on their Wasel prepaid mobile calls. All of these discounts are on the off-peak rates to these countries, resulting in substantial savings for the caller.


Indian residents plan five-month freedom
UAE - AUG 13:
At the stroke of midnight, India will celebrate 60 years of freedom – and numerous events have been organised to mark the special occasion in the UAE.

Indian expatriates are putting the finishing touches to plans for celebrations on Wednesday, their independence day, to commemorate the handover of power by the British.

And the party will continue for five months, with cultural events taking place right up until Republic Day on January 26, 2008.

The Indian consulate in Dubai has organised a mega musical show to spread the message of friendship and patriotism.

Consul General Venu Rajamony will start the celebrations on Wednesday by raising a flag at 8am at the Indian High School in Dubai.

As part of the official independence day function he will read extracts from the address to the nation by new Indian President Prathibha Patil.

“These events over the coming months will showcase India’s heritage, vibrant and plural society and its rapid growth in economic strength and technological capabilities,” said a consulate spokesman.

“Cultural performances by top Indian artists, talks by eminent Indians, a media campaign to highlight India’s economic achievements and capabilities, debates and quiz competitions for school children are all part of this fivemonth programme.” A highlight on Wednesday will be Tiranga, a multi-media presentation inspired by India’s flag.

“This programme will bring together for the first time ever in Dubai maestros of Indian classical music such as Pandit Jasraj, Pandit Hari Prasad Chaurasia, Vidhwan U Srinivas, Pandit Bhawani Shankar Kathak, Vijay Ghate and SV Ramani, accompanied by renowned poet Javed Akhtar,” said the spokesman.

“Through their music and poetry these maestros will pay tribute to India and its tricolour national flag.” Jasraj and Chaurasia have been awarded the Padma Vibhushan Award in recognition of their contributions to Indian music and culture.

Jasraj is a leading vocalist in the Hindustani tradition and Chaurasia is the nation’s best known flute player.

Indian associations and schools will also be staging events to mark the day.


Firm owners should play ‘active’ role

ABU DHABI — AUG 13: Owners of companies have to personally supervise their business and avoid acting as sleeping partners so as to avert violations related to the country’s labour laws, advised Engineer Mohsen Al Awlaqi, owner of an Abu Dhabi-based maintenance company.

The businessman’s advice came shortly after18 workers filed a complaint with the Ministry of Labour (MoL) against the maintenance company, claiming that they were not paid their salary for the past three to seven months.

Al Awlaqi claimed that he was away during that period and was not aware that the employees were not paid their salaries. Speaking to Khaleej Times,  he said,  “It is not true that the employees were not paid for more than five or six months. The salaries were late for just one month and I pledged at the MoL to clear all dues.”

Owners and partners of many companies don’t pay attention to partnership obligations inviting trouble related to labour violations, Al Awlaqi admitted. Explaining the salary problem, he said: “My relative who was managing the company passed away and only then I  came to know about the pending salary problem. I  mainly handle legal responsibilities for the company.”

He said he was ready to give the employees a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) to allow them, if they wished, to transfer their sponsorship to another company.


Not a cheap drink

UAE - AUG 13: It is cheaper than oil and, barring a cow cataclysm, probably will not ever run out. But milk has one thing in common with black gold: It is trading at record highs.

Reasons include growing appetites for dairy foods in China and elsewhere in Asia, where fast-food and coffee chains are introducing taste buds to cheeseburgers and lattes, as well as rising costs for animal feed, shrinking European stocks and droughts in Oceania, the world’s largest milk exporting region.

Paying more for milk, a source of nutrients like calcium, is causing uproar in Germany and other countries where many families consider providing children with an affordable glass of milk a fundamental right.  Prices are likely to remain high until dairy farmers add more cows or shift production to powders, more easily traded than the liquid stuff.

Milk prices in the US hit a record  last month, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
It forecasts prices will remain high throughout the year. International dairy product prices increased by 46 per cent between November 2006 and April 2007, with milk powder prices increasing even faster, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation.

Companies like candy giant Hershey  that use dairy for their products are feeling the pinch. But in many parts of the globe, dairy farmers  are cheering. “Global demand has been extraordinary for American dairy products, but global supplies of dairy products have been exceptionally tight,” said Michael Marsh, head of the Western United Dairyman trade group in California, the top dairy-producing US state.

“From the American dairy farmers’ perspective, you have almost a perfect storm.” In China, milk consumption has soared along with rising incomes, a massive expansion of the dairy industry, and the rising familiarity with – and taste for – non-native foods among young urbanites.

Pizza Hut sells its cheese-laden pies even in smaller cities, and milk, yogurt and individually packaged cheese slices can be found in small local supermarket chains. Foreign-owned stores such as France’s Carrefour, Germany’s Metro and Wal-Mart of the US cater to slightly more sophisticated tastes, selling crumbly blue cheeses, wheels of gouda and red-waxed balls of Edam.

Products from Chinese dairy giant Mengniu even carry the label of being the official milk of the Chinese space programme. Its drinks promise to ‘fortify the Chinese people’, with packaging showing a space-suited boy clutching a glass of creamy goodness. The Dairy Association of China estimates consumption will rise by 15-20 per cent annually in coming years.

Premier Wen Jiabao, on a visit to a dairy farm last year, said his “dream” is for each Chinese child to consume half a litre per day. He is boosting production to try to keep up with demand – but the world’s most populous nation remains a net importer of dairy products including milk powders.

The boom in biofuels is also pushing up corn prices and, as a consequence, making animal feed more expensive. Farmers have responded by raising milk prices.  Corn futures indicate that the price  Prices have also risen for soybeans, another feed crop. The impact on the price of a carton of milk differs across the globe because dairy markets vary significantly from region to region, skewed by domestic and trade policies and other factors such as geography.
Governments in the US, Canada,  European Union, and Japan have a range of policies including tariffs and quotas which insulate their milk from international prices, according to the FAO. These systems are under strain, as high rewards in the globalised market are inspiring milk producers to challenge the old practices.
In Germany, where milk prices are set annually after negotiations between producers and powerful retailers such as Aldi, Lidli and Edeka, David took on Goliath – and won. Since May, the price for a 250 gram packet of butter has gone up from  $1.06 to $1.13 in Germany, while the price for one litre of milk has increased from $3.20 to $3.60. No surprise then, in country where beer is still cheaper than milk, higher prices for dairy products have led to a flurry of condemnation.


The price of a litre of milk in selected cities around the world:

Paris: $1.50
New Delhi: 50 cents
London: $1.20
Copenhagen: 90 cents
Stockholm: 70 cents
Cairo: 50 cents
New York: $1.20
Mexico City: 90 cents
Dubai: $1.40




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