Middle East

UAE Finance Sector Moves to Stop Brain Drain


NEWS FROM THE UAE
SOURCE : THE NATIONAL


Finance sector moves to stop brain drain

DUBAI - JAN 21:  Financial sector employees who lose their jobs in the credit crunch should be given help to find another post or a place on a retraining programme to help the UAE avoid a brain drain, business leaders said yesterday.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the financial free zone in Dubai, said it would work with those who lost their jobs to secure a new role with another financial company, or place them in educational institutions on new resident visas until they can find a new full-time job.

“If you see what happened with the Lehman Brothers – by placing employees in other companies and supporting them you will see that talent and skill are an important factor in turning the situation around,” said Nasser al Saidi, the centre’s chief economist, on the sidelines of The World in 2009 executive forum in Dubai yesterday.

“We will work with the Government at retaining financial staff.”

The centre paid the rents, school fees and extended the visas of all of Lehman Brothers staff last year when the company was placed under administration.

“Human capital in the financial sector is the main investment,” said Mr al Saidi. “If people lose their jobs we will place them with other firms or throw them into an educational institution such as the London Business School.”

This was a commitment both DIFC and the Government of Dubai had to preserve their pool of talent, he said. “We look at this as an opportunity to build a human capital market that would put us in a better position when the turnaround happens,” Mr al Saidi said. “Government and policymakers have already intervened and invested money.”

Under UAE law, residents who lose their job can only stay in the UAE for one month. Analysts warn, however, that it would take Dubai longer to recover from the credit crunch if it had to reassemble its pool of multicultural staff.

“The UAE and other GCC states need to look at a new model for immigration visas,” said Simon Williams, the Middle East’s chief economist for HSBC. “The current one isn’t helping the situation.

“In light of what is going on it would be far better to implement a visa system like the ones in Singapore and Hong Kong, where people can remain in the country between jobs and if they are renting.”

A long-term visa system would be more suitable for an emerging economy like the UAE. It would also cut costs for business, as those made redundant due to the crisis could remain until jobs were available again, Mr Williams said.

“It is better for sustainability and growth if people made redundant can remain in the country for a while and look for a job, as the local population is too small to cope and skilled expatriates are needed to turn the economy.”

In a long-term strategy, emerging markets must keep the talent pool as that would help it steer away from the economic downturn, said Wolfgang Lehmacher, the president and chief executive of GeoPost Intercontinental, a global post and parcel delivery services for business.

“It’s a challenge to overcome the current climate. We need to streamline head office structures and keep open-minded people with skills in the country as it takes time to build again,” Mr Lehmacher said.

Robin Bew, the editorial director and chief economist of the Economist Intelligence Unit, said a recovery would not happen until deep into next year.

“It will become increasingly clear that countries with stringent visa regulations need to look at new systems and make life for foreign workers comfortable,” Mr Bew said.

No concrete figures are available yet on the number of expatriates who have already left the UAE due to the downturn. To counter the economic crisis, GCC governments have injected liquidity and pushed ahead with infrastructure projects that could see it recover more quickly than developed countries.

“There is enough for three to four years of surplus cash and investment in infrastructure should see the UAE and other Gulf States recover much quicker,” said Mr al Saidi


Mother on trial for stabbing children


DUBAI - JAN 21: An Indian mother who stabbed her two children, killing one, before turning the knife on herself, cannot be held responsible for her actions because she is mentally ill, her lawyer said yesterday.

The woman’s condition was marked by persistent depression and ill-founded fears, he told the Dubai Court of First Instance.

The defendant, HA, 24, believed she was acting out of love when she stabbed her children, he argued, because her husband had threatened to leave her and take the children with him.

“In her mind, she took their lives to spare them the same miserable life she had, unloved and misunderstood by those closest to her. She wanted to take her own life to be with them.”

The stabbings took place at the couple’s Deira home last March. The defendant’s eldest child, aged three, died in hospital from her injuries. Her two-year-old sister survived.

“My client was institutionalised when she was 12. She has no friends in the UAE or in India, she is a loner who suffers from a deep depression,” her lawyer said.

He said his client burst into tears during questioning and told prosecutors she wanted to leave to check on her children, seemingly unaware of what she had done.

The defence told the court his client was under extraordinary pressure for her fragile mental state and she was worried for her children’s future. “Her own husband testified that his wife was very close to the girls, so much so that she would not go to sleep without having them close to her.”

The defence asked the court to find his client not guilty of premeditated murder and instead refer her to a mental health committee to assess her competence.

The mother is believed to have sat her eldest child on her lap and stabbed her repeatedly in the back, chest and stomach. She then stabbed her two-year-old in the stomach before stabbing herself in the stomach twice.

She then rang her husband to tell him what she had done before running into the street screaming for help.

HA was in hospital for three months before being told her elder daughter had died.
Her husband had told prosecutors that in seven years of marriage his wife had never shown any sign that she suffered from psychological problems. A ruling will be issued by the court next month.


Some hotels in capital fall short of standards


ABU DHABI - JAN 21: Lacklustre hotels have been singled out and asked to improve their facilities by June to comply with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s new classification regime.

All the capital’s hotels have been inspected and some of them had to make such improvements as providing valet parking, replacing linen and furniture, and adding rooms and services for handicapped guests.

Other hotels are using the new system as an opportunity to improve their standings with a higher rating.

“Preliminary inspection of all properties is complete, with owners and operators receiving the results,” said Nasser al Reyami, the director of tourism standards at the authority. “A significant number have opted to implement upgrades to boost their classification rating before the final deadline.”

As part of the new classification system, announced in May, hoteliers were given a thick guidebook detailing what was expected for each rating.

In the past eight months, inspectors have judged each of Abu Dhabi’s 49 hotels and 47 hotel apartment blocks according to a 900-point scale that included hundreds of standards.

The size, temperature and comfort of the rooms were included, as well as the standard of service at the front desk and the quality of the food. Hotels with an environmental policy or internationally recognised environmental certificate could earn added points.

In June, a plaque featuring one to five stars will be put on the front of all of the capital’s hotels.

Each emirate is responsible for ranking its own hotels. A classification system was announced in Sharjah last year, and a similar system introduced in Dubai put more than 30 hotels in danger of losing stars.

Managers in the capital have welcomed the new system.

“There’s always room for improvement in areas,” said Adel Eid, the general manager of the Novotel on Hamdan Street. “It will definitely improve standards, especially among unchained hotels. The major brands like the Hilton and Sheraton have their own standards, so it’s not difficult for them to comply.”

Most hotels in the city are more than 20 years old, and standards were beginning to lag behind the hotels in Europe, Mr Eid said. “Everyone has been asked to upgrade in one area or another.”

The Novotel has been asked to add new equipment in the kitchens, hair dryers in the bathrooms and rooms for handicapped guests.

“We are an old hotel and we didn’t have a handicapped room so it makes sense that we should have to do it,” Mr Eid said.

The hotel had also added flat-screen televisions at a cost of Dh500,000 (US$136,130) to accommodate for business travellers.

The tourism authority spent two years working with hotels in the capital to establish the standards. Jean Trabut, the general manager of Le Méridien, said his was one of the hotels that had helped devise the new ratings system.

“The new alignment in standards means that we will be able to measure precisely our achievement,” Mr Trabut said. “Through the workshop, they have created standards across all grades of hotels from five-star to four-star to three-star.”

The system will also rate hotel apartments as either standard, superior or deluxe.

“This collaborative approach has served us all well,” Mr al Reyami said in a statement. “The inspections and resulting classifications have gone very smoothly, with everyone having bought into the process and understanding the rationale of delivering enhanced destination integrity.”

Hotel managers have said the new system is one of the most stringent in the world. It is coupled with an inspection regime that will continue to grade hotels.

“The system is a key tourism management tool acting as guidance information, allowing guests to make informed choices about which properties to stay in and managing their expectations,” said Mr al Reyami.

Abu Dhabi still has a shortage of hotel rooms and during the busy winter conference season, when delegates and business people flood into the capital, even three-star hotels have been known to charge exorbitant rates.


 
Police plan auction of thousands of vehicles


DUBAI - JAN 21: More than 2,000 impounded cars are ready to be sold at public auction, a police official said yesterday.

Col Saif Muhair al Mazrouei, deputy director of the Dubai Police traffic department, said police car pounds are overcrowded and the department is now ready to use a law approved by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice-President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, at the end of last year.

The law gives police the right to sell vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles and machinery that have been unclaimed by their owners for six months.

“We currently have 6,800 cars reserved for sale and out of these, the first batch of 2,042 will be sold in the coming days,” Col al Mazrouei said.

He said police pounds have held some cars since 1999. “With the new decree, we are obliged to sell any car that has not been claimed after six months,” he said.

Police are struggling to cope with the numbers of vehicles at the three pounds in Al Qusais and Al Barsha areas and, despite their having a total capacity of 10,000, some vehicles have had to be parked elsewhere.

“There are around 3,000 cars that are being held in the police headquarters and the Dubai Police Academy,” Col al Mazrouei said. “We had to take them there because there is no space left in the impounds.

“The problem that we have at the impounds is that there are many trucks and buses that are held as well. A large vehicle can take up room of eight cars and that’s why the capacity is reduced.

“The problem worsened in 2008 after our clampdown on traffic violators resulted in the impounding of 180,000 cars compared to 54,000 in 2007.

“Although most of the cars are claimed back and returned, there still remains a large number of abandoned cars that are left with us.”

Col al Mazrouei said some cars can go unclaimed because their owners have died or returned to their home countries.

“Some parents who may have lost a child in a crash may not want to claim the car which reminds them of the tragedy,” he said. “We have been told by some people that they didn’t want their car because it’s too old or because it costs too much to repair.

“We have contacted the owners and some do come to receive their cars. However, there are others who come in to forfeit their cars because they do not want them and some do not show up at all.”

Police will give owners a last chance to claim their cars by placing reminders in Arabic and English newspapers, as required by the new law.

“The advert will give people one month to claim their vehicles and after that period is over the cars will be sold,” Col al Mazrouei said.

Auctions will take place at the car pounds once every six months and cars will also be sold by wholesale to used car dealers.

“Cars will not be individually sold but will be sold in bulk to dealers who would come in, inspect the cars and purchase a batch of like 20 cars or so,” he said.

“Some of the cars are in perfect condition and do not have any problems, but may require small modifications like new tyres. We have a large number of motorbikes held and 1,000 of those are ready to be sold.”

A percentage of sales will go towards paying any pending fines and other fees and the rest will be kept in a special account at the Ministry of Finance.

“Owners will have five years to claim the money. If they don’t, the money will then become property of the Government of Dubai and they will lose all rights to claim,” Col al Mazrouei said.


Road deaths and injuries fall in capital

 

ABU DHABI - JAN 21: Traffic police released statistics on Monday that showed an overall decrease in deaths and serious injuries on the capital’s roads and attributed the result to their intensified safety campaign.

Col Hamad Adil al Shamsi, the head of Abu Dhabi Police’s Traffic and Patrols Department, said the 18 per cent drop in deaths and serious injuries from the same period in 2007 was good, but police aimed to do better.

“These are all good indicators which have resulted in a decrease,” Col al Shamsi said.

“I hope there will be a further decrease resulting from increased patrols and as a result of co-operation between the police and different groups in the community with the aim of increasing traffic safety.”

However, Col al Shamsi said the emirate had yet to reach global standards of road safety.

A further decrease in the number of accidents was expected this year with the traffic and patrols department’s public awareness campaign about the dangers of speeding, running red lights, not wearing a seat belt and other offences.

Police had issued a report this month comparing the first 11 months of last year with the same period in 2007. It indicated a 12 per cent decrease in the number of people killed or seriously injured on the emirate’s roads.

Yesterday’s report compared the period from March to December last year, when stricter penalties and a black points system were introduced, to the same period in 2007.

Col al Shamsi said that despite the new figures, it was too early to assess the effectiveness of the federal law calling for stricter penalties for errant drivers that was introduced in March last year.

Dr Yousef al Hosani, the vice president and chief executive of the Emirates Institute of Health and Safety and a physician at Zayed Military Hospital, said the results so far had been positive.

“In the short period of time since the introduction of the increased penalty and black point systems, there has been a noticeable difference,” Dr al Hosani said.

“The efforts by the police to inform the public, especially young drivers and those in the outlying areas that think they are far away from the eyes of the law, has had a positive effect in achieving the results we see today.”

According to the traffic and patrols department’s report, there were 692 injuries and deaths on Abu Dhabi roads since March last year, compared with 846 in the same period in 2007.

The number of drivers whose licenses were revoked for exceeding the 24 black-point maximum was 982 over the past 10 months, with 3,136 vehicles impounded. Of the licence confiscations, 295 were from Emiratis, 480 from Asians and 195 from Arabs.

Police said the road death rate per 100,000 people was 23.5 last year on overall average, compared to 26 per 100,000 in 2007.

The road death rate for Emiratis was the highest, representing 33 deaths per 100,000 people.

The number of pedestrians seriously injured was down 36 per cent between March and December last year compared with the same period in 2007.

The number of drivers seriously injured was down 31 per cent and the number of passengers seriously injured was reduced by 22 per cent.


Thieves strike at remote tourist spot


ABU DHABI - JAN 21: Thieves are breaking into cars and stealing tourists’ cash and belongings at the popular Hatta Pools. Police have warned visitors to be vigilant as they are easy targets for the thieves, who are difficult to catch because they strike in such isolated spots.

On Friday, three 4x4s were broken into and robbed of Dh5,000 (US$1,360) in cash and two digital cameras worth a total of Dh4,500.

The owners of one of the vehicles, Maggie and Roger Jepson, from Britain, said they were extremely upset and wanted their experience to serve as a warning to others.

“Apart from losing the cameras and money I have now lost my trust,” Mrs Jepson said.

“I’ve been living in the UAE for years and back in the 1970s I didn’t even lock my car. Obviously I am more careful now but something like this could happen to anyone.”

Mr and Mrs Jepson drove to the Hatta Pools after a day of wadi bashing in the nearby Hajar mountains with their friends, Margaret and David Fell, also from Britain. They parked at the end of the track and hid their valuables, then locked the cars.

When they returned 30 minutes later, the cars were still locked and bags zipped up where they left them, but they soon found the camera cases were empty and their wallets had been picked.

“It was awful to think everything had been rifled through,” said Mrs Jepson. “We’d had such a lovely day and for it to end like that was horrible and very upsetting.”

When they reported the theft at the Hatta police station, which is just over the UAE border in Oman, they were told they were the third victims that day.

Mahmoud al Siyathi, the inspector from the station who dealt with the case, said: “This type of burglary is common. It has happened before this weekend as well.

“For us it is difficult to catch criminals like these as they work in isolated areas in the wadi, which is 40km away. For the victims, they are an easy target because they are tourists.”

Mrs Fell said she believed many more people may have been burgled but did not realise it right away, or even at all. “The way they stole from us was clever. Nothing was disturbed.

“If Roger hadn’t stopped to check the camera we wouldn’t have noticed until we were back in Abu Dhabi, and then we wouldn’t have been sure of exactly where the cash had gone missing.”

Police found a thin metal object had been used to break the electrical circuit of the central locking so the thieves could get in without damaging the car’s exterior. When they closed the door, the electrics were reconnected, locking the cars.

Mrs Fell believed they had been watched. “When we arrived at the pools I saw two men in local dress sat behind a rock. I thought nothing of it and said hello to them.

“When we were at the pools I thought I saw them up at the cars and I was suspicious but I dismissed it immediately. Looking back I am fairly sure they were the ones who stole from us.

“The country is changing. There are a lot of different people living here these days and people need to be more careful. Even if there was a sign telling people not to leave their valuables in the car this would help.”

Mrs Jepson said the whole -experience had changed her perspective.

“Where I used to smile and wave at people from the car I now find myself suspicious. It is not a nice feeling. Apart from the crime the whole place is covered in litter now and I’ve decided I’m never coming back.”

Insp Nasser Saif Shiyadi of the Hatta police station said patrols were being increased in the area.

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Title : UAE Finance Sector Moves to Stop Brain Drain


 
 
 
 

 
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