NEWS FROM THE UAE
Source : THE NATIONAL
UAE'S Big Worries: rent, traffic, prices - Survey
ABU DHABI - Oct 05: High rents, traffic and inflation are the three most pressing problems facing UAE residents, a wide-ranging survey on life in the Emirates finds.
The survey, conducted by the market research company YouGov Siraj, asked Emiratis and expatriates to list the best and worst aspects of life in the country.
Respondents were divided by emirate of residence, age, income group, gender and ethnic group.
While they praised the country’s safety, and cited job opportunities as the reason for moving here, the survey highlighted the different perceptions among Emiratis and other ethnic groups.
“Emiratis, Asians and westerners seem to have quite different experiences,” said Maria Joao Neves, a regional research director at YouGov Siraj.
For example, the fact that the UAE is an Islamic country was one of the top three things praised by Emiratis and expatriate Arabs. That was low on the lists of Westerners, who said better career opportunities and lack of taxation were the things they liked most.
Expatriates from the subcontinent also cited tax-free status, as well as the clean environment and lack of political conflict.
Nationwide, high rents were the most commonly expressed problem, although heavy traffic was the main complaint from residents of Sharjah.
“Inflation is a big concern for everybody, including Emiratis,” Ms Neves said. “If the Government were to do something to check the rate of inflation, that would improve people’s perception.”
Westerners also referred to encountering rude and arrogant behaviour and uncertainty over legal rights.
Ms Neves said Westerners were probably more concerned about legalities because they were more likely than other expatriates to buy property. “Until very recently they didn’t know where they stood in terms of land rights.”
The third most popular reason for living in the UAE was that the respondents were born and brought up here.
“Locals do have privileges that a lot of expatriates don’t have and that does make people feel like they are outsiders,” Ms Neves said. “Expatriates can’t become citizens and that’s important to a lot of people.”
Khalid, a Yemeni born in the UAE who was not among the survey respondents, said inequality between Emiratis and residents like himself was troubling. He complained about the lack of citizenship rights for those who have no other home.
“I’ve never been to Yemen and I’m not going any time soon,” he said. “I’ve lived here all my life. My brother has lived here. He just went to university and now to come back he needs a visit visa.”
Recent changes to the visa system require those seeking visit visas to await the paperwork in their home countries. For people like Khalid, that would mean going to Yemen.
“I don’t know anyone there,” he said.
Sixteen per cent of the Emiratis surveyed said the country was too liberal.
Emiratis were the most likely group to say the UAE is a good place to raise a family.
One fifth of all Asians said they most disliked the discrimination against them.
While 59 per cent of all the people surveyed said they would recommend to others that they move to the UAE, the country’s most avid supporters lived in either Abu Dhabi or the Northern Emirates.
The lower the respondents’ monthly income, the more likely they were to say they felt a sense of belonging in the UAE. Less than 34 per cent of those who earned more than US$8,000 (Dh29,400 a month) said they felt at home here, compared with 59 per cent of those who made less than US$1,066.
“Before, people would stay for three to four years and then leave. Now the UAE is moving toward a more stable community,” Ms Neves said.
“It’s interesting that despite the transitory nature of the community … there was a sense of belonging. When asked ‘Do you feel at home?’ 85 per cent of people said yes, or that they felt a little at home … that means the country is certainly moving in the right direction. People are staying longer in Dubai and the UAE.”
'Consumerism and foreigners' greatest identity threats
UAE - Oct 05: Residents of the UAE say the burgeoning expatriate population and consumerism are the greatest threats to national identity, according to a study published today.
In the survey, conducted by the market-research company YouGov Siraj, 60 per cent of Emiratis questioned said they felt a sense of isolation as their cultural identity became increasingly diluted by large numbers of expatriates. In contrast, 71 per cent of the western expatriates surveyed said that the biggest threat to Emirati culture and identity was the country’s “highly materialistic and consumerist society”.
Despite those sentiments, 81 per cent of the 628 respondents – Emirati and expatriate – said they belonged in the UAE. More than half said the country’s safety record was the main attraction.
Most of those surveyed agreed that a sense of national identity could be developed by creating a “consolidated vision across the emirates that all citizens and residents can relate to equally” and by communicating traditional values.
High rents, traffic and inflation emerged as the three main problems residents have. Traffic was considered the biggest problem in Sharjah, where 56 per cent of those surveyed said it reduced the quality of their lives.
The survey found that nationals were the most likely group to say the UAE is a good place to raise a family. A fifth of all Asians questioned cited discrimination as a key complaint.
Most Western and Asian expatriates said their inability to speak Arabic had not been an obstacle to their career aspirations.
The survey will be featured this evening on Emirates Tonight, on the Arabic-language Emirates Channel.
Mental health overhaul planned
ABU DHABI - Oct 05: Mental health care in Abu Dhabi is to be overhauled as the Government attempts to tackle public attitudes and gaps in treatment and funding.
The Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) is researching how access to care can be increased and paid for while looking at ways to change perceptions of a traditionally taboo subject.
Mental health care in the UAE is haphazard, with a lack of psychiatrists and hospitals and no standardised means of funding treatment.
Dr Oliver Harrison, the authority’s director of public health and policy, said: “The authority is going through all our regulatory policies and standards to close up the gaps that we have.”
He said HAAD was investigating how services could be better paid for, as most private insurance plans do not cover mental health. It will consider what combination of private contribution, government payment and insurance coverage best suits Abu Dhabi’s needs.
“We would want to look at whether the government would directly pay for services for mental health care, or whether there are sources of funding, other than health insurance,” said Dr Harrison.
“Typically, where health insurance does not cover a condition, there are other options. The first is the Government pays, [perhaps through] setting up a charity fund. Another is that people pay out of pocket.”
People with mental health conditions can have difficulty paying for their treatment, he said, because of the effect the stigma can have on their lives.
He said that educating Emiratis about mental health was also key to improving the services, and that HAAD was conducting research into perceptions.
“We are trying to understand in Abu Dhabi, in the individual communities, why mental illness appears to be more stigmatising, in 2008, than it is in many other countries.
“There is something in the nature of mental health problems that makes people feel embarrassed or ashamed. It’s deserving of sympathy to have a heart attack or cancer, but it’s not OK to have depression, substance misuse, a personality disorder or schizophrenia.”
Dr Layla Asamarai, the head of psychology at Rashid Hospital in Dubai, said: “The biggest hindrance is a lack of knowledge about what psychological care means. Often people are very worried that you’ll think they’re crazy, but they’re not, they’re just troubled.”
Dr Sana Hawamdeh, assistant professor of mental health and behavioural sciences at Sharjah University, said often mental illness was mistaken for people with bad attitudes.
“They say she’s having a breakdown, that it’s her nerves, her way. They describe women as nakadah – the one who makes other people’s lives hell. The problem is part of her personality and nothing unusual.”
Dr Asamarai said the stigma even prevented people from studying psychology, leading to a lack of Emirati counsellors.
“It is hard for an Emirati woman to study psychology because men won’t marry them. They think that they might ‘catch crazy’ from their patients. The stigma runs very deep.”
Dr Harrison said the HAAD would also push to get more GPs involved in the treatment of mild mental health issues, such as depression, to base treatment in the community and reduce stigma.
Currently, many doctors feel unequipped to deal with the situation, either choosing to ignore or downplay the problem.
“We want to make sure that people receive treatment in an environment most appropriate to their condition,” said Dr Harrison.
“In the West, you see psychiatric hospitals used for just psychosis, which is where people have a distorted picture of reality, as opposed to more common disorders such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.”
He said for many patients, receiving treatment in a psychiatric hospital disrupted their lives and could damage their reputation.
“People might create rumours or feel embarrassed or ashamed about the fact that they have psychiatric disorders.
“We do believe that a substantial proportion of GP consultations are mental health related, and those mental health problems can present in a variety of different ways, including chest pain, pains around the body, headaches, nerves, anxiety, stress, alcoholism, substance misuse.
“They should also be aware of what counselling services offer by psychologists, religious groups and support groups within their community, so they can give advice to people about where they should turn to next.”
Dr Yousef Abou Allaban, a psychiatrist from the American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology in Abu Dhabi, said it was important to train GPs in how to deal with mental health complaints if they are to become the service’s “gatekeepers”.
“To people here, trained in general medicine, psychiatry is a taboo – mental health is a taboo. This can lead to situations where doctors are either unaware that their patients have mental health issues, or do not know what to do about it.
“GPs are just not aware of the issue,” said Dr Hawamdeh. “In the medical curriculum there is not a focus on mental health. The doctors in community health centres say they’re not qualified because they have not had enough courses, they are even worried about referral.”
he HAAD plans to have its new policy document published within 12 months.
The proposed changes would only affect Abu Dhabi but the mental health problem is so significant that other health authorities are also looking at it.
The Ministry of Health announced last month that it would be including psychological tests in a health survey of children. Dubai Health Authority is consulting professionals from around the world on mental health provision.
Mental health care is split into two fields. Psychiatrists are medically-trained doctors who specialise in treating mental disorders. Some have undergone extra training in therapy. A psychologist has not trained in medicine. The National has reported how haphazard services have allowed some psychologists to illegally prescribe drugs for their patients.