NEWS FROM THE UAE
SOURCE : THE NATIONAL
Motorists struck by phantom fines
UAE - JAN 11: Some UAE motorists checking their traffic fines on police websites and inquiry lines are finding penalties owed from before they bought their cars, and sometimes from before they moved to the Emirates.
An Abu Dhabi legal consultant recently learned that he owed Dubai a Dh100 speeding fine from 1996 – 11 years before he registered his car.
The consultant, Ziad, who did not want his last name used, said: “I’m not so much surprised as amused. I love that they actually have the exact time it was taken as well.”
And last year, before renewing his registration, Ziad checked the Abu Dhabi Police website and found a fine from 2006 in Sharjah. He registered his car, which he had never driven in Sharjah, in 2007.
The problem was resolved when a colleague went to Abu Dhabi Police and presented Ziad’s vehicle registration.
Dubai Police admitted that occasionally, old fines have been attached to someone’s traffic file for offences they could not have committed. Brig Nader Fekri, the deputy director of the general department of e-services for Dubai Police, said police would investigate problems case by case, and suggested that motorists contact the traffic and patrols department over fines they did not believe they owed.
Staff at The National ran their licence numbers, and traffic identification and vehicle plate numbers into both services to test the system, with some finding fines from before they owned a vehicle. Others who knew they had outstanding fines could not find them listed.
One reporter entered the plate number for her car, registered in Abu Dhabi, into the Dubai Police fines inquiry and payment service and found three speeding fines of Dh200 each from 2004 and 2005. She registered her car last April.
Entering the same details in the Dubai Police automated toll-free inquiry number brought up the same fines, but without listing the dates or type of offences.
The website and the phone service provide the option for people to pay their fines. Another reporter was surprised last year when renewing her vehicle registration to find the amount of fines she owed was much greater than what was listed on the Dubai police website.
A staff member found fines listed under her vehicle number plate in Abu Dhabi from 2004, before she registered her car. She said she had never been asked to pay the fines when renewing registration.
Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) recently announced that photographs of cars passing through Salik road toll gates would be posted on its website to avoid confusion when motorists logged on to check their toll fines. Drivers passing through Salik without enough funds in their accounts face a fine of Dh50 with each crossing.
The authority had been inundated with appeals from drivers who claimed they had not been behind the wheel at the time.
Road repairs affect retailers
ABU DHABI - JAN 11: Traffic jams from road works on Salam Street are deterring shoppers from visiting Abu Dhabi Mall, causing its stores to suffer significant drops in sales.
Clerks and managers said sales have fallen by more than 25 per cent since construction began on the street, as traffic being rerouted in front of the mall caused delays and jams.
Customers were few and far between and the underground car park was more than half empty yesterday. Saturdays are usually busy shopping days.
Rachid Labyad, the supervisor at the furniture store 2XL, said: “It was not like this before. Sales have decreased 20 to 30 per cent.”
Mr Labyad said January was normally a season of discounts and sales, but his store’s price cuts were more than twice what they would normally be.
“Before the discounts would be 10 per cent, but now they’re 20 per cent because we have to increase sales,” he said. “We are worried.”
Mr Labyad said a few customers were still milling about the mall on weekends but weekdays were dead. “And on the weekend, nobody is buying.”
He said if the slow sales were to continue, staff cuts would be considered.
At the Sunglass Hut, Seloua Nouiti, a sales clerk, said her commission payments have fallen by about 25 per cent.
“We’re worried about it. It’s not like before. It’s still good but there is a difference.”
Ahmed Fauzy, the assistant manager at Kenneth Cole, said his store was reducing its prices by 25 to 75 per cent.
“The traffic is the number one problem,” Mr Fauzy said. “Also because of the banks and the US, but it’s the traffic mainly.”
Louisa Snyders, a resident from South Africa, said she would hesitate before shopping at the mall again after the problems she has had travelling there.
“I took the bus and it took me half an hour to go around the block. I could have walked off and got around the construction,” Mrs Snyders said.
Before the construction began it took her 10 minutes to travel to the mall. Yesterday it took more than 40 minutes. “The bus also had to park on the other side of the road because so many cars were parked illegally,” Mrs Snyders said.
“This is the second time I’ve tried coming here and I’ll think twice before doing it again. I’ll go to Al Wahda or Marina Mall instead.”
Traffic on the street has been chaotic since work started last month. Two-way streets suddenly became one-way and roundabouts were sectioned off for a new expressway.
The work is part of a Dh5 billion (US$1.36bn) project to double the street’s capacity, to 6,000 cars an hour. It is expected to continue until the end of next year.
When completed, Salam Street will have up to five lanes and no traffic lights between the Meena area and Sheikh Zayed Bridge. It will also have a tunnel, below-level intersections and flyovers.
Salam is one of the busiest streets in the capital, and the work was deemed necessary to accommodate the developments on nearby Reem Island.
Yesterday Abu Dhabi Municipality issued a statement saying the project was on schedule. It said steps were being taken to reduce the problems the road closings were causing. Dates for further closings along Salam Street are expected to be released to the public soon.
Dubai to increase spending by 42%
ABU DHABI - JAN 11: The Dubai Government plans to increase spending by 42 per cent and run its first-ever deficit in a move to boost the economy as the global economic downturn bites.
The emirate’s Department of Finance announced yesterday that public-sector spending would amount to Dh37.7 billion (US$10.26bn), while revenue was expected to climb to Dh33.5bn, leaving a deficit of Dh4.2bn.
The spending boost would provide “an essential economic stimulus that will enable businesses to weather the short-term challenges to performance and capitalise on the opportunities that will open up once the global economic recovery begins”, said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee.
Saudi Arabia and Oman, hit by falling oil prices, have also announced their intention to run deficits this year to keep their economies growing.
The announcement comes as the Emirates, and particularly Dubai, have entered a difficult economic period.
The global credit crisis has spilled into the regional economies in recent months, with the property sector the hardest hit. Sales of homes have slowed to a trickle, with prices declining in some areas.
The result has been several rounds of lay-offs at development companies.
Some of the larger projects in Dubai, including the Trump International Hotel and Tower on Palm Jumeirah plus parts of Dubai Waterfront and Palm Jebel Ali, have been scaled back.
Abu Dhabi’s property sector is also showing some signs of stress, with the announcement last week that more than 200 employees at Aldar Laing O’Rourke, a joint venture between the emirate’s largest developer and a British construction company, were to be laid off because of the economic environment.