NEWS FROM THE UAE
Excerpts from UAE Dailies
Lack of awareness make them ‘illegals’
ABU DHABI – AUG 02: Nearly 75 per cent of the workers in the country become illegals because they are not aware of labour law provisions concerning their financial benefits, work hours, annual leave and other contractual details, Ahmed Al Besher, a legal advisor in the Labour Disputes Department and supervisor at the amnesty-seekers’ counter in the MoL, told Khaleej Times.
The MoL has implemented mechanisms to inform the labourers about their rights granted under the labour law.
Fareed, an Egyptian worker, said, “I paid about Dh8,000 to get work here in the UAE. The amount that I had paid included the visa, labour card and the air ticket. When I came to the country I heard that it is not legal that the worker pays all the costs that I mentioned.”
The worker admitted that when he came to the UAE he knew nothing about the labour law and labourers’ rights.
Another worker, Shahid, a Pakistani, said he had no clue about the regulations and the law. Even the company did not inform him of his rights such as annual leave. “I have been working more than three hours extra, but I have realised now that the law limits overtime to only two hours a day,” said the worker.
DUBAI — AUG 02: The Consulate-General of India, Dubai has extended the deadline for accepting applications for Emergency Certificates to August 13, a consulate statement said yesterday.
No application will be accepted after August 13.
Amnesty seekers are advised to submit applications for Emergency Certificates before it.
Delivery of all Emergency Certificates will be completed by August 20 concluding amnesty operations at the Indian High School, Dubai and Indian Association Sharjah.
Firm defies ministry and increases price of water
UAE - AUG 02: Bottled drinking water has gone up in price despite restrictions imposed by the Ministry of Economy.
Oasis bottling company has increased the cost of its fivegallon water bottle by more than 28 per cent.
The ministry had asked firms to wait until the matter is studied before considering raising the prices.
However, Oasis increased the price of its five-gallon water bottle from Dh7 to Dh9 yesterday and justified their action by citing inflation and the rise in the cost of living in the UAE.
A senior official of the company told Emirates Today yesterday that customers had been told about the price rise through leaflets and newsletters. “We have made our reasons for the increase clear. This was not a sudden decision but was based on careful study,” said the official.
The company said it was forced to raise the price of its five-gallon bottle due to inflation and an increase in cost of production.
This is the first time Oasis has increased the cost of water in 23 years.
According to company’s leaflet, the price has stayed at Dh7 since 1984.
Emirates Today spoke to several other firms who said they have decided to keep the planned rise on hold.
A spokesperson for Al Bayan and Al Shallal said the company continues to sell the five-gallon water bottle for Dh6.
Rashid Al Hajiri, the board chairman of Emirates Foodstuff and Mineral Water Company, yesterday denied his company had raised prices of its Al Ain brand. “We have no intention to increase the prices,” said Al Hajiri in a press statement.
He said the company supports the government’s decision to stabilise food prices.
He added his company will increase contact and co-operation with the Ministry of Economy with regard to its activities or any changes affecting the consumer.
The Ministry of Economy’s consumer protection unit had earlier rejected requests by water bottling companies to increase the price of water produced in the UAE.
Dr Hashim Al Nuaimi, the director of the ministry’s consumer protection unit, had also asked companies and factories to provide information about budgets and manufactures’ production costs.
The ministry would then evaluate the requests and the unit will forward the results of its studies to the Supreme Committee of Consumer Protection for a final decision about the price rise.
“This issue is important because it is related to income and everyday lives of consumers,” said Al Nuaimi.
Abu Dhabi Govt unveils Policy Agenda for 2007-08
ABU DHABI — AUG 02: The Abu Dhabi Government yesterday formally unveiled its comprehensive policy agenda for 2007-2008. The document, titled ‘Policy Agenda 2007-08’, outlines key goals and initiatives across all portfolios of the government in the emirate.
In a foreword to the Policy Agenda, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan said the Federation of the UAE has relied, and will continue to rely, on the rich and diverse contributions of its true wealth — its people — who, he added, continue to make generous contributions in the country’s development and progress through hard work, dedication to the principle of nationhood and true sense of belonging to the nation.
The 83-page agenda consists of 18 independent policy statements providing detailed analysis of the government’s plans in areas as diverse as planning and economy, energy, tourism, health, education, labour, civil services, culture and heritage, food control, urban planning, transport, environment, health and safety, municipal affairs, police and emergency services, e-government, women, and legislative reform.
Addressing the media, General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, said the Policy Agenda of Abu Dhabi was a step towards a new era of work that relies on planning and clear insight.
The work plan for all local departments is far from the personal effort approach, which dominates the majority of the Third World countries, because personal efforts, even when they come in good faith, achieve no progress, regardless of time and money invested, he said.
Gen. Shaikh Mohammad added that this policy is an integrated action plan for the next phase of the local government in Abu Dhabi.
He said, “For the people of Abu Dhabi, the publication of a comprehensive policy agenda will provide unprecedented understanding of the priorities and plans of the government. For the private sector, the initiatives outlined in this agenda represent huge opportunities to operate in new sectors that were previously the traditional realm of the government. For the citizens and residents, the policy agenda signals a new era in accountability, transparency and government performance.”
The press conference was attended by Mohammad Ahmad Al Bawardi, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, and Khaldon Khalifa Al Mubarak, head of the council’s executive affairs.
Al Bawardi pointed out that the Policy Agenda constitutes a blueprint for all the local departments in the emirate. These plans and goals should be implemented in letter and spirit so as to bring about a greater transparency and accountability, he added.
“More importantly, this policy will enhance the spirit of teamwork which will, in turn, boost government performance and improve the quality services delivered to the people,” he said.
Regarding the impact of the agenda on the economy of the emirate, Al Bawardi said the effect will be definitely positive as there will be plans, goals and a road map for it.
Khaldoun Al Mubarak pointed out that that agenda has come after the restructuring in the Abu Dhabi Government which resulted in the pruning of white-collar workforce from 65,000 to 18,000.
“This is a significant progress, considering that this target was met in just three years,” he said.
Al Mubarak also stated that regulation of the real estate sector will receive a great deal of priority in the future, through legislations that will protect the right of citizens and residents.
He added that there were plans to set up an establishment to handle architectural planning for the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Al Bawardi and Al Mubarak said that the agenda will be subject to a review and urged the media to participate in the evaluation process by highlighting the failures and achievements of the various sectors.
Action taken against right of way violators
DUBAI — AUG 02: An inspection campaign by the Right of Way Services Department in the Traffic and Roads Agency of Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has resulted in the discovery of 200 violators and 500 violations. The campaign has been on since November last year.
During the campaign notices were served on several contractors who repeated violations related to technical specifications that have the potential to undermine the general safety of individuals and properties.
Several notices were also served to companies which inflicted damage to the right of way — exposing road users to risks and causing damage to the operational condition of roads.
Officials said the RTA will view such violations seriously and will take legal actions against offenders who expose the lives of road users to risk.
The Right of Way Services Department was established with the motive of integrating efforts and sections incharge of issuing ‘no-objection certificates’ and traffic permit services in RTA. It is also responsible for increasing the performance and facilitating communication process between RTA and public.
The department deals with investments, consultancies and construction companies as well as with community needs like the extension-of-service lines etc. It also grants permissions for road diversions and permits for partial occupancy of the roads, in addition to other certificates related to the projects implemented by the investment companies (real estate development companies).
Waiting for her turn to go back
DUBAI — AUG 02: From Mumbai to Dubai, she came with the hope of providing a decent living for her family back home. But fate had something else in store for the 40-year-old mother of two Fathima Hussein.
Along with hundreds of amnesty-seekers Fathima is waiting for her turn to return home. “I have got the outpass from the consulate. But I don’t have the money to buy an air ticket. Some people told me that they would arrange a ticket for me. But a week has passed and I am still waiting for the ticket,” Fathima said.
“Back in Mumbai I was a housewife. My husband was sick and there was no working member in my family. So when I received an offer from a Mumbai family to come and work in Dubai as a housemaid, I accepted it,” Fathima said.
“I came here two years ago, but the family did not treat me nicely. They did not pay salary on time and they used to beat me up whenever I demanded salary,” she alleged.
“After three months I ran away from the sponsor. Since then I had been working with another family. Unfortunately, three months ago I fell sick and could not work any more. Since then I have been wanting to return home but my passport and documents were with the family that hired me,” she added.
“When the amnesty was announced I decided to use the opportunity. I want to return home now. But I do not know how can I get air ticket,” she said.
“Now my biggest problem is to find a way to survive. My children need to study and both me and my husband need medical assistance. I am just leaving everything to God,” she said.
Will the egg prices shoot up?
DUBAI — AUG 02: With the UAE government banning the import of Indian poultry products for the third time in nearly two years, speculation is rife that egg prices will soar. However, market sources are divided over the impact the ban will have on egg prices.
While some predict that egg prices will shoot up in the long run, others feel the ban will not have much of an impact as the deficit would be covered by the local poultry products which are quite popular among both locals and expatriates.
This is the third time following the detection of bird flu in the Indian sub-continent that a ban has been placed on Indian poultry products in the UAE. The ban was first put in place in February, 2006, which was lifted in January, 2007. The government again banned the import of Indian poultry products in March this year. The ban was lifted in June.
According to the figures of Business Line, the business daily of The Hindu Group of publications, UAE imports a daily shipment of around 10 lakh Indian eggs. Of these, 35 per cent comes in from Namakkal, a district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The retail share of Indian chicken is insignificant in the UAE.
“It is true that the price of Indian eggs is lower compared to those imported from other countries. Indian eggs are popular among Asian expatriates. But with the UAE banning Indian poultry products from time to time, people have shifted towards the local poultry too,” said an official of a prominent supermarket chain.
“The local poultry farms in Al Ain, Dubai etc. are going to meet the demand. We don’t say that there will not be an increase in prices. But it could be only a nominal one even if the ban stays in place for a long time,” he added.
No impact on egg prices: Supermarkets
ABU DHABI — AUG 02: Sources from the major supermarket chains in Abu Dhabi have said there will be no crisis of eggs in the capital following the ban on import of Indian poultry products. The demand of eggs from cafeterias and restaurants will be met by the local poultry farms in Abu Dhabi as well as in other emirates, supermarket sources said.
“Cooperative Society supermarkets in Abu Dhabi have stopped selling Indian poultry products following the official announcement of the ban on their import,” said N.S. Jayan, purchasing manager, Abu Dhabi Cooperative Society (ADCS).
“There are many local farms in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai which can meet the demand of retailers following the ban. I feel there is no need for any increase in egg prices,” said Bejoy Pulicken, manager at ADCS. “This is a temporary difficulty which the retailers have to cope with and customers not should suffer for this. This ban will have little impact on the supply of eggs in the emirate,” he noted.
Saeed Mashallah, a shopkeeper at Istiqlaal supermarket in the capital said: “I expect the prices to go up a little as we experienced in the past when Indian poultry products were banned by the UAE government. We are getting eggs from Al Ain poultry farms but right now, there is no increase in prices.”
A bulk of the Indian eggs are reportedly purchased by cafeterias and restaurants, which might have to pay more for the local eggs as they are a little more expensive compared to the Indian eggs.
Emirates Post launches a range of online services
DUBAI — AUG 02: Emirates Post has announced that its website (www. emiratespost.ae) has been enhanced to offer a wide range of postal and non-postal services, backed by a secure online payment system.
According to Emirates Post, users can after registering online pay Dewa and Sewa bills, Sharjah Traffic Police and Sharjah Municipality fines, track parcels and registered items and calculate postal tariffs.
In addition, they can reserve, renew and pay for P.O. Boxes and view list of approved applicants for Shaikh Zayed Housing Programme, among other services.
The website also allows people to form their own utility bill management system online by registering with an electronic P.O. Box which enables people to select the bills they want to pay online and get updates on latest transactions, due date, bill information and notification of incoming registered mail, Emirates Post added.
“As the whole country moves towards e-Government, Emirates Post wants to be at the forefront of the e-Transformation that is taking place nationwide,” said Abdulla Al Daboos, Director- General of Emirates Post.
Indian wins $1m jackpot
DUBAI — AUG 02: The perseverance of Umakant Bhatt, an Indian national based in Al Ain, finally paid off when Dubai Duty Free told him that he won the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire promotion making him $1million richer.
Bhatt, holder of ticket no. 2014 in Series no. 73 bought his winning ticket on May 21 while travelling to India. Bhatt, resident engineer with Shank Land Cox based in Al Ain was in total disbelief when he first heard the news saying: “I could not believe that I’ve won a million dollars! This is truly a great surprise.”
Dubai's Single-Deck Water Bus unveiled
DUBAI - AUG 02: This is the future of water transport in Dubai – and you will be able to step on board later this month.
As this first picture shows, the design of the new waterbuses looks rather traditional. But in fact they are among the most advanced vessels of their type in the world.
These vessels have twin aluminium hulls, are fitted with air-conditioning and LCD screens and can also be used by people with special needs.
The low-wash catamaran design produces a very small wake so abras and other craft on Dubai Creek will not be severely affected.
Emirates Today obtained a sneak preview when we gained entry to one of the Dh7 million state-of-the-art vessels after it arrived at Al Seef Station.
Workmen were cleaning the interior of the boat and the air-conditioning was functioning fully. Each waterbus has a capacity of 35 and there is a lifejacket under every seat.
Officials from Penguin Marine Boats Services, the company that will operate the buses for the Roads and Transport Authority, were inspecting the docking facility and other arrangements at the station yesterday.
A spokesman said the 12metre-long craft would soon be ready to enter service.
“They will be out on the water this month,” said Captain Sairi Ismail, General Manager of Penguin Marine Boats Services. “All preparations are being made for an early launch.” A testing programme and quality assurance checks have been carried out on the vessels by the builder.
Ismali Al Hosini, Director of Sharjah-based Demat Group that built the waterbuses, said the tests had been successfully completed.
“The waterbuses will be ready for operation this month – very soon you will see 10 such boats operating on the Creek.” The waterbuses will now complete a series of trial runs along their route during which crew members will receive training. Once operational, they will call at five stations – Al Sabkha, Old Deira Souk, Old Dubai Souk, Bur Dubai and Al Seef.
The entire trip – including stoppages and boarding and alighting time – will take 30 minutes to complete.
The waterbuses will operate seven days a week from 6am until midnight and the fare will be Dh4.
The service by the Roads and Transport Authority is part of a Dh1 billion project aimed at developing Dubai’s water transport system.
Mynahs target tress-passers
ABU DHABI - AUG 02: Beware, women with long hair! You could be the next target of a pair of mynahs that has developed a strange dislike for free-flowing tresses.
Scores of women who pass by Autostar Trading, a Skoda showroom, on Airport Road in Abu Dhabi, have fallen victim to attack by the feathered fiends who are wild but always found near the building.
Women, like Teresa Gomes, an auto finance officer from Bangladesh, said they have stopped passing by the showroom because of the birds.
Gomes was attacked three times a few days ago when she went to the showroom.
“I was shocked when a bird flew down on me, giving out a shrieking cry when I went there for business,” she said.
“It actually came and sat on my head twice, and I really got scared when it followed me and tried to peck me a third time.” She said she felt as though the bird was angry with her.
Other long-haired victims, Rehana Azad, Mary Pathrose and Rajasree Kiran, all private sector employees, narrated similar experiences to Emirates Today and said the attacks took them by surprise.
Our reporter, who went to check the credibility of the story, had a similar experience yesterday afternoon.
As soon as she stepped out of her car, one of the mynahs swooped down from the building and pecked her head. However, when she stood outside the building a second time with her head covered by a scarf, the birds paid no attention.
Daily witnesses to the incidents, Mohammed Ashraf and Mohammed Obai Yousef, sales executives at the showroom, said they are perplexed by the birds’ behaviour.
“It has been happening for the past month,” said Yousef.
“The birds are attacking any women who pass by without covering their head.” Ashraf said so far the birds have attacked only one man – and he had long hair.
“The mynahs ensconce themselves on the lamppost in front of the building or on the building’s railings, watching the passers-by,” explained Ashraf. “The minute they spot a woman without a headscarf, they lunge forward.” Ashraf said his co-workers routinely try to comfort the victims by offering water and letting them take a few minutes’ rest in the showroom.
“Most women get scared and start screaming and shouting before they figure out what happened,” he said.
Dubai - Teacher caught on camera abusing pupil
DUBAI - AUG 02: A retired schoolteacher working as a private tutor was caught on camera sexually molesting two young girls during a lesson, a court heard yesterday.
The two UAE national sisters, aged seven and eight, were being taught at their home and their uncle became suspicious of the elderly tutor. So next time, just before the girls were due to have their lesson, he set up a video camera in the room where it was to take place to video what happened.
“I put a video camera in the sitting room and when the teacher came I went to the window and I saw one of the girl’s hitting him with a book and then I saw him touching her,” the uncle said. He then went to the police station, and although the picture was not clear enough to make anything out, officers heard the tutor asking one of the girl’s to lie down so he could massage her stomach.
One of the girls said: “He used to put his hands on my body and take down my underwear. I didn’t tell… because I was afraid of him.” The defendant denies all charges. The trial has been adjourned until later this month.
Abu Dhabi - Hospitals may close
ABU DHABI - AUG 02: Healthcare facilities in the UAE's northern emirates could face closure under sweeping new plans to overhaul the country's health services.
Dr Miriam Mohd Matar, assistant undersecretary for public health and primary healthcare at the Ministry of Health, reportedly revealed from next year, government resources will be reallocated in a bid to streamline services.
Twin labour strike in Dubai
DUBAI - AUG 02: IN A labour strike in Sonapur, riot police had to use force to disperse agitating workers of Al Shirawi Electrical and Mechanical Engineering Company.
Workers were demanding increase in their wages and marched on the road to press for their demands.
Officials from the ministry of labour said that they have a list of workers who created trouble and would be deported soon.
Meanwhile, company representatives said that 95 per cent workers have agreed to return to work tomorrow. "There are 65 workers who are adamant about their demands. We would soon furnish their names to the labour department and clear their dues if they want to go back," said a company representative.
In yet another labour strike Hundreds of labourers of a Dubai based construction company continued their protest for the second consecutive day demanding an immediate shift of their labour camp from Jebel Ali to Sharjah.
Labourers said that there is no facility to cook food inside the new labour camp and have to walk more than two kilometres to reach their labour camp which is located in the middle of a desert.
"We want the company to shift our labour accommodation either to Sharjah or to Sonapur. We cannot stay in the new labour camp as it is too far from the main city. Though the company bus drops and picks us from the labour camp but in emergency situations we have to walk for long distance to reach the main road to catch a taxi or a bus," said a worker who did not wish to be named.
He added, "We are being supplied with hotel food since three days. The quality of food is bad and many of us are not able to digest. We request the company to provide us suitable accommodation so that we can cook and work well."
Officials from the ministry of labour and permanent committee for labour affairs already held discussions with the management.