NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Spiralling rents dent pockets of tenants
UAE - OCT 4: The departure of more than 200,000 people as a result of the amnesty is yet to have positive impact on accommodation, The Gulf Today has learnt. People who were expecting rents to go down because of the amnesty are disappointed to see the spiralling rents in some parts of the Sharjah.
In Rolla, which was arguably a cradle for illegal aliens, matters have not changed to positive either. "I have just settled my rent dues paying the same amount as last years, but I feel it that soon they will come for hiked figure as is the case to many in neighbouring flats," said a man running one of the groceries here.
Residents said that half of their earnings are going towards paying rent, which is on the rise since a couple of years.
"For the last three years, rent has been steadily increasing to a level of taking more than half of my salary," cries a senior staffer in one of Sharjah companies.
"Even the little that is left goes to school fees and the hiked groceries," adds the man who is in his late 40s.
Another lady from a different company agrees. "A room used to go at Dhs28,000 a year ago, but the same room now goes at Dhs37,000. I know many people who spend 40 per cent of their salaries on rents in the region," she said.
She said that at first they kept shifting from one place to another, but the difference is not only non-existent, but even most of the houses are occupied.
Jamil S'ad showed optimism that in future, rent rate in Sharjah may lower "once other buildings get connected with water and electricity: the natural economic law of demand and supply shall prevail."
In Dubai, rent rate is at an exponential rise. "Imagine most of our basic salaries are at Dhs1,000 and Dhs1,200 yet a room in old buildings goes at Dhs2,500 to Dhs4,000; what shall we do?"
The immediate option which many go for is sharing a room, something the authorities resent. "I think they want to get rid of 'miscreants' out of the desert" opined a fellow in Deira identified himself as Abiil.
"After meeting rent costs, I also have to settle water and electricity bills separately," said Halima Nakato, a resident of Abu Shagara in Sharjah.
How DNRD helps illegals go home
DUBAI — OCT 04: Illegals who have completed the amnesty formalities but have no resources to buy the air-tickets, can look forward to a Good Samaritan — the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD).
A senior DNRD official has said the department would be providing air-tickets to the illegals once it’s verified that they indeed are not in a position to buy the tickets.
Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, director of DNRD, said they had already come across a few such “special humanitarian cases”. He added: “When amnesty-seekers approach our department claiming they cannot return home because of financial problems we look into their situation,” Brig. Al Marri said.
One such case to draw the attention of DNRD is one of Hanifa, a 40-year-old single Ugandan woman, who has been living as a homeless in Dubai for more than five months now. Brig. Al Marri has pledged help to the Ugandan woman after being apprised of her wretched condition.
Hanifa was brought to the UAE by a cleaning company on a visit visa in September 2005. She worked for the company till October 2006 when she was fired from the job. “At that time I was working on a visit visa, which expired in December 2005. I used to share an apartment with two women in Al Hamriyah area. In May this year, I was forced to vacate the place as I did not have the money to pay the rent,” she recounted.
Ever since, Hanifa has been leading a homeless life. “I tried very hard to search for a job but nobody wanted to recruit me because of my age and my illegal status. I used to offer cleaning services to some houses to survive.”
Hanifa cannot seek the help of the embassy of Uganda as there is no Ugandan mission based in the UAE. The nearest embassy of Uganda is located in Saudi Arabia.
For many months now, Hanifa has been living in a tent in a residential area in Hamriyah in a precarious situation, surviving on the meals provided by a Kenyan lady who lives nearby. Since she completed the amnesty formalities, Hanifa has been longing to go back home. The DNRD promise has made her hopes soaring. And lately, she has begun smiling, something she had forgotten for quite sometime.
Landlords beat rent cap
DUBAI — OCT 04: Landlords are finding innovative ways of circumventing Dubai’s 7 per cent rent cap, which came into effect last January, by imposing additional charges on tenants for using facilities such as car parking.
One Dubai-based real estate company recently sent a note to its tenants stating: “As per the company policy, effective 1st October 2007, all tenants of Al Rostamani Real Estate will be charged for the car parking spaces occupied at our properties. The annual charges for each parking space will be Dh3,000.”
One of the tenants hit by the charges at the Seagull building in the Al Qusais area of Dubai, Osama Osman, said: “The step is a new creative way to bypass the decision (to impose a rent cap) to limit rent hikes in Dubai.” He said that each tenant had received a hand-delivered letter by the company’s security staff.
Typically, facilities such as car parking have been included in the annual rent. The practice of charging has left tenants concerned that the use of other amenities, such as a swimming pool or gym could also incur charges.
Osman said: “Will we expect a letter one day asking us to pay for annual charges against using the elevator, swimming pool or even for using the reception lobby?”
Commenting on these charges, an official at the recently formed Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), part of the Dubai Land Department, said: “RERA rental regulation will start at the beginning of the year and all tenant rights will be registered within the contract with us. For now they can object to paying the amount and they have the right to do so.”
The Rent Committee at Dubai Municipality will continue to hear tenants’ complaints but these are expected to diminish as the rights of tenants and landlords are more clearly laid down in standard rental contracts approved by RERA.
In August RERA CEO Marwan bin Ghalita said: “We will introduce standard rental forms, with some flexibility to add different things, and certify all kinds of rental agreements.”
If the policy of charging for additional facilities were to become widespread it could undermine the government’s attempt to curb inflation, the main reason for introducing a rent cap in the first place.
Inflation is running at an annual rate of nearly 10 per cent, of which housing costs are a significant contributor.
Six-month prison for stealing bag at airport
DUBAI — OCT 04: The Dubai Criminal Court has sentenced a 27-year-old Bangladeshi man to six months in prison, followed by deportation, on the charges of stealing a passenger’s handbag at the airport park.
The bag contained Dh16,235, Syrian Liras1,750, a passport, some documents, and cards. The convict, Z.A, who used to collect trolleys at the airport, found the bag lying abandoned and stole the money. Twenty minutes later, when the victim returned to collect the bag he had forgotten to pick up at the airport park, he found it gone.
However, the airport cameras had clicked the pictures of the accused while hiding the bag. The accused has confessed to his crime and said he had hidden the bag under a parked car after taking away the cash.
Parking fee payment through SMS shortly
DUBAI — OCT. 04: Drivers will soon be able to use the SMS to pay the parking fee, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced yesterday.
Engineer Maitha bin Adai, CEO of the Traffic and Roads Agency, said that at present the system is in an experimental stage.
“The service has been launched in association with Emirates Telecommunication Company (Etisalat) and is known as ‘mParking’.
Through this system, users can pay the parking fees through mobile phone subscriptions,” she explained.
“The service is not open to the public as yet, but soon a phone number will be announced where people can send the SMS,” she explained.
Explaining the procedure, Maitha said that an SMS has to be sent to a certain number quoting the number plate of the vehicle, zone code, and number of parking hours. “The subscriber will receive an SMS confirming payment has been made so as to park the vehicle up to the specified time. When the specified parking time requested by service applicant is about to expire, he (or she) will receive another reminder SMS advising that the specified parking time is about to expire.
Should the user be interested in extending the parking time to more than one hour, he (or she) could send another SMS stating the number of parking hours to be added. If the user is interested in additional parking time for only one hour, he (or she) could send an SMS inserting the asterisk sign (*) and one further parking hour will instantly be added to the parking time.
Meanwhile, the RTA is ready to launch the Phase-8 of Public Parking Control Project in Dubai very shortly.
“This phase is among the biggest projects of controlling car parks and it consists of three key stages to be completed at a cost of around Dh42 million,” said Maitha.
The first stage includes installation of 578 Parking Control Machines in public car parks covering several areas in Dubai, including Al Garhoud, Damascus Road between Al Qusais first and second Industrial Area, Al Nahda Road, Al Mina Road, Al Mankhool Road, Al Hamriya area up to Al Mussallah Road, Al Karama area between Khalifa and Zaíabeel Roads, Oud Maitha area, Shaikh Zayed Road towards Al Quoz 1, Al Muraqabat between Al Riqqa and Al Muraqqabat Roads near Dubai Central Laboratory, Al Hudhaiba area, Al Kuwait Road, and Al Rasheed Road.
She said the second stage involves upgrading the existing 1,600 old-type Parking Control Machines as well as installing 650 modern parking machines.
“Upgrading of old machines covers fitting them with power-saving systems, fitting internal memories, and modernising transceiver systems to enable them cater tor multiple types of e-payment cards,” she explained.
Maitha said the stage three address development of a central system of parking machines where the previously applicable communication technology will be replaced by GPRS technology, along with fitting the machines with adding new configurations in order to upgrade the levels of parking services in Dubai to the highest technical and technological standards.
She said that according to the schedule, installation of parking control machines will be completed in two phases. During the first stage, 350 machines will be installed before the end of 2007. In the second stage, 228 machines will be installed and the work is expected to be completed by April 2008.
Maitha also said that the number of parking controllers monitoring car parks currently exceeded 550. “More than 80 per cent of them are UAE nationals,” she said.
“Adopting new technologies, however, does not abolish the role of controllers, who play an effective role in streamlining traffic at car parks, preventing violations, and attending to some instant problems arising from time to time,” she remarked.
iPHONE? MORE LIKE AN iCON
UAE - OCT 04: The most desirable gadget in the world, the Apple iPhone, is on sale in the UAE – but it comes at a hefty price. The iconic device is changing hands for as much as Dh4,000 – more than twice the recommended cost – and not all of its functions will work in this country.
Computer giant Apple, most famous for their bestselling iPod music player, caused a sensation when it launched the revolutionary iPhone – selling for $500 (Dh1,835) – in the United States earlier this year. Since then, a grey market has opened up where the phones are imported from North America, “chipped” and unlocked to work with unauthorised mobile networks outside the US.
Apple, which is keen to control the markets where the iPhone is available, has since issued a software update that will make “chipped” devices “permanently inoperable”.
Despite the warning, banker Faisal Hadi, 22, of Dubai, bought his iPhone from a Virgin Megastore for Dh3,800 – without a warranty.
“I was waiting until it had been officially launched in the UAE, as I did not want one that was locked,” he said.
“But then a friend said it was on sale at Virgin so I thought if they’re selling it, then it must be OK.” However, Hadi said the phone had limitations because not all its features, such as visual voicemail, are supported by UAE service providers. He has also been unable to receive text messages.
Student Cyrus Henderson, 23, also of Dubai, discovered an iPhone for sale on souk.com and was set to meet an unof ficial supplier last night and pay Dh3,100 for the device.
He said: “I know that if something goes wrong I cannot get it serviced here, but I it’s the most amazing thing and I had to get it.” Sales assistant Jessica Borbon at the Apple store in Ibn Battuta Mall, said they had been told the iPhone would not be on sale officially in the UAE until next year.
She said: “There will be no warranty as we do not support the grey market.” Emirati Abbas Jaffar Ali, editor-in-chief of two technology websites – megamers.com and teabreak.com,said : “It will always be a game of cat and mouse as iPhones imported from the US will not support Apple updates, even when the devices are officially launched.
“This means they will have to be hacked. I cannot use updates such as visual voicemail because I do not have a service provider to support this.” In the US, Apple has signed an exclusive deal with AT&T. Etisalat and du said they had not been approached.
iPhone combines a touchscreen interface with an iPod, full-graphic web browser and e-mail device.
Attempt to fleece tourist backfires
DUBAI - OCT. 04: The driver of an illegal taxi thought it was his lucky day when he charged a tourist Dh500 for a short trip from the Dubai International Airport – until he ended up paying Dh5,000 fine. The Asian private car driver reportedly approached the European visitor at the airport and offered him a ride to his hotel. Once at the four-star Deira hotel, the driver demanded Dh500 and the tourist – unsure of local prices – paid the fare.
However, once inside, hotel staff informed the man that his ride should not have cost more than Dh30.
Hotel management helped the European to inform the tourist security department of the General Department of Criminal Investigation (CID).
Police went to the hotel and used security cameras outside the premises to identify the car’s number plate.
Within a few hours, the driver was caught and admitted to having taken the money.
He was asked to return the money to the tourist.
The tourist security department officials then referred him to the Roads and Transport Authority.
The driver was fined Dh5,000 for using his vehicle for an illegal purpose.
Police tackle illegal vendors
DUBAI - OCT. 04: Inspectors arrested 274 people taking part in illegal activities in Dubai last month.They included street vendors, beggars and unlicensed car washers. Counterfeit goods, pirated CDs and food that was unfit for human consumption were seized in the joint operation involving the municipality, police and Naturalisation and Residency Department.
“In September our inspectors caught 55 street vendors, 206 beggars, eight car washers and five illegal butchers and fish cleaners,” said Obeid Salem Al Shamsi, the municipality’s assistant director-general of administrative and general services.
The 764 fake items recovered included clothes, perfumes, cameras and watches. About 2,000 pirated DVDs and 15 pornographic movies were also seized.
80 lashes for drunk brawl
FUJAIRAH - OCT. 04: Fujairah Court of Misdemeanour ordered a Pakistani, identified as SZA, to be lashed 80 times on charges of drinking alcoholic beverages. In addition, SZA along with an Arab identified as ASM, and three Bangladeshi nationals identified as MMA, MHF, MHB, were sentenced for one-month jail and a Dhs500 fine each with the stay of execution after they had been involved in a fight.
Fujairah Police received a complaint stating that a quarrel occurred among a group of workers in Al Madhab, causing injuries to many. Police patrols rushed to the scene and arrested the quarreling workers.
Investigation into the incident revealed that SZA quarreled with MHB while he was under the influence of alcohol. Therefore, the other two Bangladeshi workers stepped in. In an attempt to disperse the fight, the Arab accused ASM interfered with a stick.
The five convicts were then referred to the court of misdemeanours where they reconciled and were sentenced to the above-mentioned judgments.
Dubai - Facebook not barred
Dubai - OCT. 04: Access to social networking web site www.facebook.com has not been barred, according to Etisalat. Users having difficulty logging on had expressed concerns the site had been blocked. “We have not blocked it. There have been some problems… but this is a site problem,” an Etisalat spokesperson said.