NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
New RTA rule hits car rental firms
DUBAI — March 23:The local car rental industry is bearing the brunt of a policy recently implemented by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), which requires all tourists to have international driving licences before they can rent cars in Dubai.
Industry sources have also expressed concern that this issue may eventually affect the emirate's tourism sector.
As per a circular dated January 11 this year, the RTA has asked rent-a-car companies in Dubai not to rent out any vehicles to people on visit or transit visas to the UAE "unless they are holding valid international driving licences".
Tourists who do not have the required international licences may apply for temporary UAE driving licences, issued by the RTA which are valid for six months.
Earlier, visit visa holders of some European countries, the US, Canada, South Africa and Asia-Pacific countries like Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand who had valid driving licences issued by their respective countries could easily rent a car in the emirate.
Speaking to Khaleej Times on condition of anonymity, a manager of a Dubai-based car rental company, said they had experienced a 30 per cent drop in earnings as they had to reject requests from hotels and tourist agencies.
"If requests were processed through hotel and tourist agents, we wouldn't have a way of verifying if the person who would use the vehicle had an international driving licence. So we had to altogether stop accepting orders from these agents," he said.
He further explained that their decision followed an incident when an insurance company failed to pay for the damages in an accident involving one of their cars. "In that incident alone, we lost Dh5,000 because the tourist who drove the car had no international or temporary UAE driving licence."
To avoid similar situations, the company decided to cater only to clients who have UAE-issued driving licences.
A car rental agent, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said they had received complaints from customers, mostly tourists, as well regarding the policy. "When tourists walk in to rent a car and we ask them to go to the RTA and apply for temporary driving licences if they don't have international licences, they obviously get upset. Tourists who are here for just a couple of days or a week will not bother going through the entire process just to rent cars. They would rather take taxis. But what can we do? We just have to follow the rules," he said.
More than 100 car rental companies are operating in the emirate and most belong to an association called the Dubai Car Rental Group (DCRG). However, the group at the moment does not have a collective initiative in addressing the issue, according to Divakaran, Operations Manager of United Car Rental.
"It is an issue that will eventually affect Dubai's tourism industry. There's no collective effort because each company is just concerned with its own business," he said.
He said they were not officially informed of the new policy. "We did not receive any circular. We had to send a representative to the RTA to get a copy of the circular, which was in Arabic and had to be translated to English, after complaints from customers," he said.
Indian eggs seized
AJMAN — March 23:Ajman Municipality yesterday confiscated a large quantity of Indian eggs being sold in the emirate despite the ban on its sale in the UAE.
The ban, which was imposed by the Ministry of Water and Environment recently, came as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of bird flu in the country, sources said.
A municipality official said that following a tip off, municipality inspectors raided various outlets in the emirate and confiscated a large quantity of Indian eggs from them. The maximum quantity of eggs was recovered from shops in Al Zahra area.
Following the confiscation, the municipality has issued a warning against selling of Indian eggs until the ban is lifted.
The egg packets, which carried the seal "Fresh from India", had drawn the attention of a large number of people who alerted the media, which in turn informed the municipality. Saif Salim Al Shamsi, Deputy Director of Ajman municipality said, "the municipality will not tolerate those who are endangering public health."
Expats see perfect time to explore opportunities
DUBAI — March 23: Indian expatriates living in the UAE feel that the first state visit of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to India will have a positive impact on their lives.
Khaleej Times spoke to a cross-section of Indians living in the country who are confident that apart from boosting bilateral ties in such fields as economy, the visit will go a long way in solving the problems of expatriates, specially those belonging to low income groups.
Dr Ram Buxani, a prominent Indian businessman, said, "This is a great opportunity for both the countries to strengthen their relations. Both the countries have a lot to offer each other and grow together. So this is a perfect time to explore the opportunities."
He stressed that India should give more importance to the UAE as a strategic partner. "I think the Indian government should explore this chance to further enhance bilateral relations."
Rajendra K. Aneja, a Dubai resident, said this is an opportunity for Indian leaders to learn from Shaikh Mohammed. "In a few decades, he has transformed a desert into an international city. He is a visionary leader who has managed to build a multi-cultural or a multi-ethnic society. The breathtaking developments in Dubai in the form of residential towers, parks, hotels or art galleries are all a tribute to his vision as a leader. Truly, he is one of the most influential leaders of this century." "The UAE and Shaikh Mohammed have provided home and livelihood to millions of Indians," he added.
Robert Antony, a salesman in a textile shop in Karama, said, "I hope Indian leaders will discuss the issues faced by Indian expatriates with Shaikh Mohammed."
Binu Kumar, who runs the Parakkat Jewellery Chain in Dubai, said, "The visit will boost the bilateral ties between the countries. I hope Indian leaders will use this opportunity to help the common man in the expatriate community here."
Kajal Anand, a homemaker, said, "The visit will definitely result in bringing a positive change in the everyday life of Indian families."
Several expatriates expressed hope that the visit would benefit Indian labourers working in the UAE.
Arun G. Aravind, a sales executive in a bank, said, "I think the Indian labour force in the UAE will benefit more from the visit. They are facing various problems and it is a golden opportunity for the Indian government to raise the issue." Mohan Kumar, an Indian labourer in Al Quoz, said, "It will be great for us if the Indian government discusses our problems with Shaikh Mohammed. He already made some positive moves to sort out the issues we face and the Indian government can also make a big difference to our lives."
Dubai - March 23: Six men survived for 24 hours by clinging to debris 65 miles off the coast of Dubai after their fishing boat was destroyed in a collision with a cargo ship. The men, all Indian, were finally picked up by another fishing vessel the next day, but one of their colleagues, a man named Chandrakant, died while another, 21-year-old UAE national Waleed Ali, is still missing.
The men had set out to fish in the Arabian Sea and as they slept were hit by the huge ship.
The collision destroyed their fishing boat, but the transporter failed to stop and help the eight men, instead continuing on its journey. It was then they noticed Ali was missing and that Chandrakant had been killed in the impact.Fearing for their lives, the six other sailors desperately clung to the debris of their destroyed vessel to stay afloat in the water.
The men were finally rescued when a fishing boat spotted them adrift and took them to safety earlier this week. “It was hard for the men as they were facing death,” said a spokesman for the coastguard.
He said the remains of the men’s boat had now been dragged to Sair Bin Na’aer Island, 18 miles off the coast of Sharjah and added that the hunt for Ali was ongoing. “The search is continuing for the UAE man,” he said.
A spokesperson from the Indian Consulate said yesterday: “We are aware that Indian national Chandrakant died in the accident and his body was recovered on March 19. We are in communication with the police regarding the matter.” Chandrakant’s body is presently at the Dubai police mortuary while his family are being informed.
Dubai - Counterfeit cash scam
Dubai = March 23: dealing in Rs1,795,000 (dhs143,460) of fake currency, and trying to change it with dirhams at an exchange office in Dubai. HA, a 58-year-old Egyptian, and AA, a 47-year-old Saudi, went to an exchange in Muraqabat, but were told that they were not able to change such a large amount of money.
HA is then alleged to have convinced the teller by telling him the money was given to him by an Indian businessman to buy properties in Dubai and that he would bring them more business in the future. However, when the money was sent to an international exchange company it was found to be counterfeit. The case has been adjourned to hear from further witnesses.