NEWS FROM THE U.A.E.
Excerpts from U.A.E. Dailies
Electronic passports to be issued soon
Abu Dhabi: April 13: The Indian Embassy will start issuing Machine Readable Passports within the next two weeks, a senior official told Gulf News on Tuesday.
Sujit Kumar, First Secretary and Head of Consular Affairs at the embassy, said a technical team from India was already here and working on the project.
"The experiment to generate computerised Machine Readable Passports (MRPs) is already on and within two weeks we will be able to issue electronic passports to applicants," Kumar said.
He added those submitting their current passport for any kind of service, such as a change in name and address, would be issued MRPs within the next two weeks.
After the next two weeks, he said, all passports which are due to be renewed will be replaced with the new MRPs.
Kumar also said with switching to MRPs, handwritten visas would be replaced with printed and computer generated ones from next week.
"This project has been initiated by Ambassador Chandra Mohan Bhandari. Since MRPs were being issued at the Consulate General in Dubai, the ambassador wanted to implement the project at the embassy at the earliest. He has been very keen to boost the services being offered at the two diplomatic missions."
He has also asked the technical team to complete the work on MRPs and computerised visas as soon as possible, Kumar added.
Housing fee 'is a big burden'
Dubai: April 13:Dubai residents offered mixed reactions to the move by Dubai Municipality seeking to enforce a five per cent housing fee for all residents and commercial establishments.
They felt that it would either not make a difference to the city, or that landlords should bear the cost, or that it was a wise decision that came at a necessary time.
The move, which seeks to implement the housing fee through all real estate agencies providing data about their tenants, will affect more than 250,000 tenants.
"The monthly electricity bill is already too high, more than Dh700. Now I'll only have more bills to pay off," said Ramesh B., an Indian accountant who has lived here for 10 years.
"I live with my family, and I don't think it's fair that they have to pay extra," said Jonalyn Yabut, a saleswoman from the Philippines, who thinks that the cost of living will always rise in one aspect or another.
John Smith, who has been living in Mirdif for the past few years, hopes that the government will use the funds wisely, and hopefully remove all the rubbish that is found around certain villa compounds. "I'm paying premium rent, and even though I get a housing allowance, it doesn't cover it, and I have to pay out of my pocket. If the municipality is going to charge me extra, I hope that they could get rid of the rubbish that is usually found on the floor after neighbours throw it out of their windows," said the Briton.
"I don't think that there should be any fee charged, everything is already expensive as it is," said Richard Harting, a tourist from the US.
"It's a very good move," said Dr Victor, who is from the Philippines and has been living in the UAE for five years.
"The roads need to be improved, and much of the city's infrastructure needs to be developed, and so this is the way for that to happen. But I am lucky that I don't have any children, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to afford the rising costs," he said.
"The housing fee should be recovered from the landlords," declared Remy D'Souza, a deputy manager from India who has lived here for 10 years.
"I agree that the tenants should not have to pay, but the landlords should," said Siraam Subbaraman, an accountant from India, who found the housing fee an unnecessary burden. "My wife and I don't own our home, it's rented. So I feel that the municipality should make the landlords pay the fee since they own the property," he said.
"I appreciate the jobs Dubai has given us, but they don't have a plan for low-cost housing," said Lindy B., a Filipina secretary, explaining that costs in every aspect of life have gone up, and that this new action only increases her burden.
"It's very unreasonable because it will give people more reason to change the location of where they live. Rent is always going up, and if the utility bill also goes up, we are all going to feel its effect in our daily lives. We cannot spend as much as we used to," said Syrian supervisor Dia'a Youness, who has been living in the city for a year and has noticed the high cost of living.
"There were no taxes in this country before, and now with this fee it will put a burden to us," said Indian retail manager Asif Siddiqi, from India.
"It will affect me a lot because my salary is only Dh1,500 and I don't think I will be able to afford it," said Filipina Christine Alterado.
New web link helps commuters plan journey
Dubai: April 13: Bus commuters in Dubai can now plan their journey virtually with the click of a mouse, thanks to a new portal launched by the Road Transport Authority (RTA).
The bilingual website, www.rta.ae, has a link called "journey planner" which gives information such as what bus to take from the BurJuman centre to Dubai Country Club, its frequency and the fare.
Nearly 230,000 commuters take the bus daily and presently there are more than 60 bus routes covering Dubai.
Later this year residents will be able to go online to pay traffic fines or obtain various Dubai Municipality services, said an RTA official.
"We want to do away with paper and the filling of many forms," said Ahmad Hashem Bahrozyan, assistant director at the Authority's IT department.
The portal presently gives information on the latest transport projects being undertaken, such as the Dubai Metro. It is part of efforts to reduce traffic congestion.
The website will provide "valuable information on public transport, roads and traffic conditions," Bahrozyan said.
RTA earlier launched Dalili, a car navigation system which provides real-time information to motorists on which roads to avoid because of traffic jams.
Metro Blue Line to facilitate check-in for city’s airports
DUBAI — April 13:Passengers flying out of Dubai will be able to check in at any of the metro stations along a part of the Blue Line, which would be dedicated to serve the Dubai International Airport and the upcoming international airport in Jebel Ali, a senior official at the Roads and Transport Authority told Khaleej Times yesterday.
“A part of the Blue Line will provide a direct link between the Dubai International Airport and the under construction airport at Jebel Ali.
“For this part of the line, there will be an express passenger and a freight train that will run parallel to the community train (the Red and Green Lines),” Abdul Majid Al Khaja, Director of RTA’s Metro Department, explained.
“Passengers will be able to complete the check-in procedure for air travel at any of the stations on this dedicated part of the Blue Line, and save a lot of time and effort. The freight train is meant to take in the baggage of passengers checking in at the stations,” Al Khaja said. He clarified that the freight train would only be transporting baggage and is not a goods carrier or a cargo service.
According to Al Khaja, the express service would work as a transit point for the two international airports and would be distinguished by its high speed.
He said that although the authority is yet to design the system, it was clear that both the trains (passenger and freight) cannot run on the same line due to the express nature of the service. The line would also have to be separate from the community trains plying on the Red and Green Lines, he said.
“Currently, we are preparing the terms of reference for this part of the Metro, and in the new future we will tender it and appoint a consultant to start the design phase,” Al Khaja said.
He added that the service would be functional by 2011. Although work on the Dubai Metro began with the groundbreaking ceremony of the project late last month, Al Khaja said that the piers and pylons of the via duct on which the metro would run in some parts of the city, would be visible early next year. Work on these aspects of the project, he revealed, is expected to start within the next couple of months.
“Except for the three underground metro stations in Al Rigga, Port Saeed, and Bur Juman, the public will feel no impact of the project’s execution on the traffic situation. The construction of the viaduct especially will not be felt on Dubai roads because the space for these structures is separate and away from the thoroughfare,” Al Khaja said. Even in case of the mentioned underground stations, he said that diversions will be set up after a careful study is conducted by the Roads and Traffic Department, so that the roads’ artery’s respective capacities are not affected.
Single eCard to carry record of all ailments
DUBAI — April 13: Patients will soon be able to carry a record of all their ailments in a single electronic card which will be linked to the Ministry of Health (MoH) and all Dubai Healthcare City (DHCC) clinics.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) — aimed at enhancing the cooperation between the DHCC health ministry — was signed here yesterday.
Speaking during the signing ceremony, Minister of Health Humaid Mohammad Obeid Al Quttami said both parties will work to develop an integrated electronic healthcare system in addition to developing a database of electronic health records through joint consultation services provided by DHCC and the Harvard Medical School Dubai Centre.
“Patient records, including X-ray, medication and diagnostic details, will be kept in a single electronic card which can be used in all DHCC clinics. We are also providing this eLink to the MoH,” said Saeed Muntafiq, CEO Tatweer.
The MoU has been signed in order to collaborate on the latest medical advances, develop and promote the healthcare workforce and provide improved healthcare services in the UAE.
According to the agreement, DHCC and MoH will also collaborate in further developing health education and continuing medical education; initiating fellowship programmes; and conducting training for physicians.
Both sides will coordinate in eight areas including those concerning establishment of advanced centre for medical research, re-evaluation of healthcare regulations in the country and facilitating of the use of modern technologies in current healthcare establishments.
Talking about re-evaluating regulations, the minister said that the health insurance policy would be a reality by 2007.
“By the second quarter of this year, some outcome can be witnessed; and by 2007 a law to govern the ePolicy will be in place,” said Al Quttami.
Both organisations will also cooperate in developing therapeutic treatments,
and in organising forums and medical exhibitions that will attract leading healthcare professionals.
Meanwhile, the need to implement a universal healthcare system in the country was among the several topics discussed in the first-ever meeting of the Health Consultative Council yesterday.
The meeting — without an agenda — was basically held to let its members air their grievances and share information among themselves.
Private committee to monitor drug prices
CHAIRING the meeting, Al Quttami said that the aim of the meeting was to develop new strategies by looking at the weaknesses and strengths so that the healthcare system in the country could be brought on a par with that of international countries.
“At present, our focus is to upgrade the primary health care system so that the load is lessened in hospitals,” he said while speaking to reporters after the meeting. He also said a private committee would also be set up to monitor and unify the prices of drugs. About the board, he said that it consisted of 12 members from the health and business sectors.
“Businessmen from both Dubai and Abu Dhabi will be our major partners," he said, adding that a ministerial decree had been passed to establish the committee.