Dec 25, 2010

Deadline for ID card registration extended


Abu Dhabi: The Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) has extended the deadline for the ID registration for Emiratis and expatriates.

Emiratis who have not yet registered will have until June 30, 2011 to register, Eida said in a press release on Saturday.

Eida's board of directors decided not to insist on the December 31 deadline for expatriates to register for ID cards.

"Eida will soon link ID card registration of expatriates with the issuance and renewal of their residence visas to enrol all expatriates in the country," said Dr. Ali Al Khoury, Director General of Eida.

The announcement came after it was reported that chaos ensued at certified typing centres across the country as thousands of expatriates rushed to complete the pre-registration process before the December 31 deadline.

Many of them risked identity theft by leaving their passports with the typing centres and top immigration and Eida officials warned against such practice.

ID card registration had been linked with visa issuance and renewal in Umm Al Quwain as part of Eida's 2010-2013 strategy to enrol all expatriates in the country by the end of 2013.

"Although that system will be extended to all emirates, people cannot wait for that because those who have not an ID card will be denied many services from both government and private sector," Al Khoury said.

He cited the example of traffic department services such as driving license and vehicle registration which need an ID card in Abu Dhabi and four northern emirates.

Although Dubai and Sharjah have not made ID card mandatory for traffic department services, such a decision may be announced anytime soon, the official said.

Many government and semi government entities have already decided to make ID card mandatory to access their services.

Eda will work with private sector also to make ID card mandatory for accessing their services, Al Khoury said.

Although the deadline has been extended, whoever wants to access the government services should not be complacent about ID card registration and should come forward to register, he explained.

Dec 22, 2010

Last-minute rush for ID cards


Dubai: Several typing centres across the country have stopped accepting documents for Emirates ID card pre-registration procedures after being overwhelmed by the rush of applicants.

In a bid to complete the pre-registration process for Emirates ID cards at typing centres before the December 31 deadline, thousands of residents have deposited their passports at typing centres, putting them at risk of being lost or misused in ways that could lead to identity theft.

This Gulf News reporter posing as an applicant was told by staff at a typing centre in Deira that her passport should be left with them until February 20, if the pre-registration process was to be completed.

Senior officials have warned the public against leaving their passports with strangers.

The chaos began after the Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) reminded the residents that a federal law stipulating December 31 as the deadline for expatriates to register for ID cards is still valid. Officials reiterated that residents need not panic and that in order to fulfill their legal obligation all they need to do is just complete the pre-registration process at one of the 700 authorised typing centres in the country.

The pre-registration process at the typing centres involves scanning of the original passports and uploading details into Eida's server.

According to typing centres, each registration process takes 30 minutes to complete and even longer with the server being slow due to the volume of registrations taking place at the same time.

Some who spoke to Gulf News said they deposited their passports with the centres out of desperation after waiting in queues leading to the typing centres as early as 4.30am did not help them complete the process.

Rumours about penalty

A few residents even tried reaching typing centres late at night to be first in the queue. Some handed over their passports to friends so that one of them could complete the process.

The rush was further fuelled by rumours circulating about a Dh1,000 fine for not completing the registration before the deadline. Meanwhile, the registrations at certified typing centres have hit a record high of 11,000 daily over the past week, officials said.

"I was shocked to be told that my passport will be held back at the typing centre until January 25 for them to complete my registration process," Dan Qayyum, an advertising professional, said.

"It is outrageous for them to make such requests…what if I want to travel on an emergency?" asked another resident, who criticised the officials for not foreseeing such a disaster.

One of the centres in Dubai that has completed training with the Eida to become an authorised centre but is yet to get the authorisation, disclosed that they have at least 1,000 passports in their custody.

Asked about its safe handling the owner replied: "I am carrying the 1,000 passports in my car to my home because I am afraid to leave them at our premises. Once we get the approval from Eida to be their centre, we will start processing them."

Residents also complained about the contact numbers of typing centres listed on the Eida website.

Short of infrastructure

"Only a handful of the numbers are being answered.

"The rest are not working or being attended, making it difficult for us".

Certified typing centres in all the emirates said that they were falling short of infrastructure and resources to handle the unprecedented rush.

"We are not accepting any more applications because we simply would not be able to complete the backlog of applications we have before December 31," an employee at one centre said.

Official take: Public warned

When contacted, Major General Nasser Al Awadi Al Menhali, Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior for Naturalisation, Residency and Ports Affairs, said: "This is very uncivilised behaviour [by the typing centres]. A passport is an official document and people should know that typing centres are businesses, not government institutions. There is no reason for them to leave their passports there," he said.

No penalty plans

The Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) told Gulf News that the applicants have the right to decline demands to leave their passports with typing centres for the pre-registration process.

"So that applicants can always exercise their choice in this regard," Dr. Ali Al Khoury, Director General of Eida, said.

Asked about the pressure on expatriate applicants, the official reiterated that applicants need not panic as no punitive action had been decided.

Fast-track ID registration aims to avoid long queues


Abu Dhabi: Residents are invited to fast-track their ID card applications by making an appointment to register for the compulsory cards, a senior member of the government said.

The government is trialling an appointment-only registration system involving the city's typing centres in a bid to minimise the time it takes to register for the cards.

Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) higher management committee vice-chairman Dr Ali Al Khoury said: "We have transferred the pre-registration process to some typing centres in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Dubai which in turn has reduced the time taken for the registration from 30 minutes to less than 10 minutes [per applicant]."

Inspired by the positive results so far, the authority was extending the trial by certifying more typing centres to handle pre-registration process, he said.

"We have certified 20 typing centres in Abu Dhabi emirate and we are in the process of certifying more; so that you can expect more typing centres to handle [the pre-registration process] by day," Al Khoury said.

Typing centres in Dubai which were taking part in the pre-registration trial were those in the Emirates Identity Authority's Al Barsha centre and the Hyatt Regency.

At the Al Barsha centre, four out of 10 counters were working on the trial system, Al Khoury said. When all the counters were taking part, the registration capacity [at Al Barsha] would go up from 480 to 900 per day, he said.

Once the new system is implemented all over the country, the centres' registration capacity would rise from 7000 to 20,000 a day, Al Khoury said.

Under the trial ID card system, applicants would be served by appointment only.

When the application is submitted, the typing centre makes appointments for registration at the Eida centre. An applicant's family member or friend can register on their behalf.

Numbers

  • 20 typing centres doing PRP in Abu Dhabi
  • 30 minutes taken for registration in old method (per applicant).
  • 10 minutes in new system
  • 7,000 registrations a day -current capacity all over UAE
  • 20,000 registrations a day-expected capacity with new system

40,000 people a day register for ID cards at typing centres


Abu Dhabi/Dubai: Certified typing centres across the country processed 40,000 ID card pre-registration applications per day during the past one week.

The Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) had transferred the pre registration process including filling out the application forms, scanning the identification documents and payment of fees to the typing centre three months ago as part of new strategy to ease the registration process.

An applicant heads to Eida registration centre only after completing the pre registration process at the typing centres.

"Emirates Identity Authority registration centres across the country recorded 11,000 registrations daily during the past one week," said Dr. Ali Al Khoury, Director General of Eida.

Thousands of applicants thronged the 700 typing centers across the country since Eida announced that a federal law stipulating December 31 as the deadline for expatriates to register for ID cards, as Gulf News reported on December 14.

Al Khoury said the Eida centres used to register on an average 8,000 applicants since the implementation of the new strategy which eased the process around three months ago.

On busy days it had crossed 9,000 mark but 11,000 is a record, he said.

Meanwhile, typing centres in all the emirates said that they were falling short of infrastructure and resources to handle the unprecedented rush.

"We are not accepting anymore applications because we simply would not be able to complete the backlog of applications we have before December 31," an employee at a typing centre in Dubai said, requesting anonymity.

"Customers are not happy when we are turning them away but we don’t want to be held responsible if they end up getting fines," he added.

The owner of another typing centre said that they are putting in extra hours and working on weekends as well.

Residents who spoke to Gulf News complained about the long number of hours they had to spend in queue before finally being able to reach the counters.

Each application takes half an hour to complete since it requires scanning and uploading of the passport to Eida’s server. "Due to increased use, the server often is busy and too slow," said one resident.

Eida earlier revealed that around 6 million expatriates had not registered by the end of July.

Although statistics since August are not available, the non-registered expatriates may still be estimated in "a few millions". Eida also revealed that most Emiratis had already registered.

Clothes encounters

Dubai: An advisory from the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) for registrants to come in their national dress has left applicants bewildered.

As the December 31 deadline triggers a rush for the National ID, only a few of the eleventh-hour registrants were mindful of an EIDA note asking people to come in their official national garb for picture-and fingerprint-taking.

In a print media announcement on Sunday, EIDA said that applicants "must come in the official dress of their respective countries" when they show up at any of its registration centres.

An EIDA official in Abu Dhabi explained: "We want people to look really good, decent and professional in their national ID pictures." The official, who declined to be named, added: "If you're a European citizen, come in a suit or smart dress to the service centre. If you're an Omani, come in your national dress."

Outside Eida's Karama Service Centre, Dubai-based Nigerian trader Paul said he does not mind wearing agbada and isiagu, the national dress worn by Nigerian men, if he only knew when the sluggish pace of registration would pick up.

"I didn't know about the dress code. That's the least of my problems. I've done the pre-registration two weeks ago and waited for my appointment via by SMS. The message never came. Two weeks later, an EIDA call centre staff told me to go to their registration centre in Karama. The issue is this [long queue] … I've been here for five hours with no clue about what's going on," said Paul.

Wild speculation on fines for late registrants also abound.

"I read online that from January 31, you can't even order pizza by phone if you have no national ID card," said Gul, a Pakistani who works in Jebel Ali. He said he and his colleagues started falling in line at a typing centre from 2am on December 21 (Tuesday). Ten hours later, he was still waiting for his passport to be scanned and returned.

Chinese Lu Feng said: "I don't have a Mao dress. I didn't know about it [national dress]… but it's a good idea," he said.

James, a Filipino in a red shirt and Adidas jogging pants, said he knew nothing about having to come in a barong tagalog. Not far behind is Hassan, a Jordanian who was wearing jeans and a green collar-less shirt.

XPRESS found only one in 10 men wearing their national dress and only one sari-clad Indian lady and another wearing an abaya in a queue with 50 women outside Eida's Karama Centre.

No immediate comment was available from EIDA on fines or penalties for people who register after December 31, 2010.

Thousands risk identity theft to obtain ID cards



Dubai: Thousands of residents are risking identity theft to beat the emirates ID card deadline, Gulf News has learnt.

To complete the pre-registration process before the December 31 deadline, thousands have deposited their passports at typing centres, putting them at risk of being lost or being misused.

The Emirates Identity Authority's (Eida) announcement on December 13 caused an unprecedented rush at 700 typing centres authorised to carry out the pre-registration process.

Serpentine queues and long hours of waiting at the typing centres have resulted in many residents choosing to leave their passports at the centres. However, senior officials have warned the public against doing so.

Caution advised

Major General Nasser Al Awadi Al Menhali, Assistant Undersecretary at the Ministry of Interior for Naturalisation, Residency and Ports Affairs, said: "This is very uncivilised behaviour [by the typing centres]. A passport is an official document and people should know that typing centres are businesses, not government institutions. There is no reason for them to leave their passports there."

The chaos began after Eida reminded residents that a federal law stipulating December 31 as the deadline for expatriates to register is still valid.

Officials reiterated that residents need not panic and that in order to fulfil their legal obligation all they need do is complete the pre-registration process at one of the authorised typing centres in the country.

The pre-registration process at the typing centres involves scanning of the original passports and uploading them into Eida's server.

According to typing centres, the registration process takes 30 minutes and even longer with the server being slow due to the volume of registrations taking place simultaneously.

"I was shocked to be told that my passport will be held back at the typing centre until January 25 for them to complete my registration process," Dan Qayyum, an advertising professional, said.

Have you been asked to submit your passport to the typing centre? Have you faced any
other issues while applying for you Emirates ID card?

Dec 8, 2010

New labour rule will not end current card validity


Private sector employees holding a valid three-year labour card will not be compelled to rectify or adjust their status when the recent ministry decision becomes effective, a senior official at the Ministry of Labour

Humaid bin Deemas, acting Director-General of MoL, said the recent ministry decision on cutting the labour card validity from three to two years would not affect the actual holders of valid labour cards.

“Starting January 2011, only workers with expired cards will be obliged to renew by applying for the two-year labour card. New applicants will also fall under the new decision upon issuance of their labour cards. Actual holders of valid cards will keep them until their expiry. Moreover, from now till January, things will go on as usual as far as applying for the three-year labour card is concerned.”

Benefits

The move to reduce the validity of the labour card to two years has come following a thorough study and analysis based on successful labour practices in other countries. “If you look elsewhere, like for example the Gulf countries, you will see that labour cards are usually issued with a validity of a year or two years maximum. The contractual relationship resulting from such a relatively short period has proved to pay off for both parties’ interests,” Humaid said.

The Labour Ministry’s senior official said it is a good and

acceptable idea which enhances and regulates the movement and flexibility within the labour market. “In a recent survey we did, we found that about 70 per cent of employers have to cancel labour cards and cut short the employment of workers, who were originally hired for three years. The cancellation would come before a solid two-year period has passed. According to our statistics, employers would save more than Dh600 million annually.”

This would be rewarding to workers too as the new decision will help them feel more free and flexible to change their work if they are not satisfied. They won’t have to wait for three years before moving on to a new job.

E-applications

Humaid shrugged off the possibility that the new decision would result in a rush of applicants at the service counters of the ministry.

“We have adequate procedures and a mechanism put into place to help implement new policies and decisions taken by the ministry. Discarding the paper work has been one advantage for a smooth processing of transactions. The e-system allows the employer to check on his establishment’s status and other data pertaining to his employees online and fill in applications likewise. Many other services are available online, including the follow-up on fines resulting from violation of the labour law.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Abu Dhabi-based EMKE Group welcomed the decision saying it will streamline the manpower market as well as reduce the financial burden on local companies at a time when the global economies are facing tough times.

The spokesman said: “We also agree with the fact that some employees do not complete the full term of their employment, which is three years. So we have to make new recruitments and apply for new labour cards, visas, health insurances and other relevant paperwork. With this change in the law, the market is ought to streamline further.”

Hassan Mirza, owner of a transport company in Abu Dhabi, also welcomed the new decision to reduce the life of the labour card for all employees in the private sector as, he added, it will result in cost cutting for local companies.

He said: “We pay for our workers’ health insurance, labour card and residence permit. We have been paying fees for a period of three years for each worker. There were cases when our employees did not complete even one year with us, and the money for the two years goes in waste. It was a huge financial lose for us. The new law reduces the financial burden on companies that have more than 50 employees.”

Utility bills in Dubai to go up


Utility bills in Dubai will see a rise from January as the emirate’s Supreme Council of Energy has approved a limited revision of electricity and water consumption tariff.

The Council has also approved additional fuel surcharge or a reduction in the value of monthly consumption bills to correspond with future increase or decrease in the cost of imported fuel. Additional fuel surcharge will be shown separately in electricity and water consumption bills.

As per the new revision, the electricity tariff for residential and commercial use has been moved from 20 fils/KWh to 23 fils/ KWh for the consumption up to 2000 KWh, and from 24 fils/ KWh to 28 fils/ KWh for above 2000 KWh and up to 4000 KWh, and from 28 fils/ KWh to 32 fils/ KWh for above 4000 KWh and up to 6000 KWh, and from 33 fils/ KWh to 38 fils/ KWh for above 6000 KWh per month, whereas the tariff of the industrial and governmental consumption and their like is from 20 fils/ KWh to 23 fils/KWh up to 10,000 KWh and from 33 fils/ KWh to 38 fils/KWh for above 10,000 KWh per month.

The current slab tariff of water consumption for residential sector for non-nationals will be moved from 3 fils to 3.5 fils/Gallon up to the consumption of 6000 Gallon, and from 3.5 fils to 4 fils/Gallon for above 6000 Gallon and up to 12000 Gallon, and from 4 fils to 4.6 fils/Gallon for usage above this level every month.

As for the commercial, industrial and governmental consumption and the like, the tariff per Gallon has been moved from 3 fils/Gallon to 3.5 fils/Gallon up to the consumption of 10,000 Gallon, and from 3.5 fils/Gallon to 4 fils/Gallon for the consumption between 10,000 Gallon and up to 20,000 Gallon, and from 4 fils/Gallon to 4.6 fils/Gallon for more than 20,000 Gallon per month.

Nejib Zaafrani , the Secretary-General and the Chief Executive Officer of the Supreme Council of Energy in Dubai, in a media release, stated that consumption tariff has not been reviewed since the approval of slab system for consumption in March 2008.

He said the Council has now approved a limited revision of electricity and water consumption tariff to recognize the ongoing increase in fuel prices in world markets during the past few years, especially the price of gas, which is regarded as the main fuel source for power generation and water desalination units.

The revision of electricity and water tariffs and the fuel surcharge is limited, he said, citing that existing tariff rate in the Emirate of Dubai is one of the most competitive when compared with international tariffs. He said that this new tariff and Fuel Surcharge will take effect from 1st January 2011.

Visitors to UAE must stay out for one month to apply for new visa


Dubai: Visitors to the UAE must stay one month outside the country before they can apply for another visit visa, said senior official from Ministry of Interior.

Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director General of the Dubai Residency and Foreigners Affairs Department, told Gulf News that there are no changes in the rules for visit visas.

"People who entered the country on a visit visa and wanted a fresh visa must leave the country for one month before they can apply for another visit visa," said Major General Al Merri.

Rumours

Major General Al Merri denied rumours that people who entered the country on visit visas must stay outside the country for three months before they can apply for another visit visa. Major General Al Merri said that there are two categories of visit visa — three-month duration and one-month duration. People have to leave the country for one month before applying for new visit visas.

Major General Al Merri said that people can also apply for a tourist visa which is valid for one month and can be extended for another month without leaving the country.

UAE residency visa, labour card validity cut to two years


Dubai: A new decision has been approved to reduce the life of the labour card for all workers and employees in the private sector, to two years from the current three, officials confirmed on Tuesday.

A senior official at the Labour Ministry told Gulf News the rule will be implemented in January 2011. "As the labour card will be for only two years, naturally the residency visa will also be for two years," the official explained.

According to a statement by Humaid Bin Deemas, Acting Director-General of the Ministry of Labour, carried by WAM, "The UAE Cabinet has reduced the validity of labour cards of all categories of people who work in private sector from three years to two years in a bid to regulate the labour market."

The Cabinet decision aims to unify the labour card validity for all work categories to be similar to that of drivers, domestic helpers and other similar categories who are given only two-year labour cards and residence visas by the Department of Residency and Foreigners Affairs, while other professions currently get three-year labour cards and three-year residence visa.

Major General Nasser Al Awadi Al Minhali, Assistant Undersecretary at the ministry's Naturalisation and Residency Affairs department told Gulf News the change in the validity of the labour card will impact the expiry date of the residence visa issued to expatriates.

"When we get an application for a residence visa we look at the validity of the labour card issued by the Ministry of Labour; if it is for two years then we will issue a two-year residence visa," he explained.

Significant amendments

He also revealed that the ministry is currently studying significant amendments to the current law which deals with residency and foreigners' affairs.

Bin Deemas said the decision will help private sector employers to "save Dh678 million annually", as ministry statistics show that 70 per cent of labour cards are cancelled before two years have passed.

He said total licence and work permit fees for 2009 were Dh2.25 billion, and that it cost 70 per cent of employers who paid the three-year irretrievable fees, a sum of Dh1.757 billion.

However, they could have saved Dh678 million if the cards were valid for two years.

"The decision would also achieve certain flexibility in the relationship between employers and employees; it would give both parties the ability to end the relationship without big losses for the employers and in a way that will not violate the labour laws," he said, adding that for the employees, the decision will help enhance competitiveness and movement in the job market.

Dec 2, 2010

UAE residents in ecstatic mood ahead of celebrations




Abu Dhabi/Dubai: The number 39 on the UAE's colours — white, red, green and black — can be seen everywhere as the country celebrates its national day.

"The [Abu Dhabi] corniche is dressed up in lights. Everyone's happy," said a resident, who said she is looking forward to the massive fireworks at the Emirates Palace Hotel tonight.

Colourful banners proclaiming, "Kullunna Khalifa" are displayed prominently on the major roads of the emirates. The rough translation in English means "We Are All Khalifa", all of us are united as one. The national colours, white for peace, red for courage, green for hope and joy and black for determination, are all over the place.

Traditional food

"I hope everybody enjoys the events organised to celebrate National Day and feel proud in what we have achieved in 39 years," said His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on his Twitter feed.

Immediately after Shaikh Mohammad's tweet early yesterday afternoon, thousands of his "followers" offered their congratulations.

Many government and private sector companies and schools held celebrations across the country. "We are delighted with the collective happiness across the country," said a senior official with Emirates National Oil Company.

Schools and universities set up stalls offering traditional Emirati food, children painted their faces in the flag's colours. "Many of the [expatriate] male teachers wore the Emirati dress. Some women wore the shaila [veil]," said a school teacher in Al Barsha.

Activities galore

Etisalat on Wednesday organised various activities at its branches across the country as part of the UAE's 39th National Day. All etisalat buildings and offices were decorated with colourful lights to celebrate the occasion.

Nasser Bin Aboud Al Falasi, acting Chief Executive of etisalat, seized the occasion to congratulate President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and rulers of the emirates and members of the Supreme Council on the occasion.

Value for money: No frills mall



Ajman : It's new, does not boast well-known brands or fancy interiors.

Why, it does not even have a food court or a cinema. But still the China Mall in Ajman is always choc-a-bloc with shoppers.

The reason? Bargain prices.

Forget food court or cinema - the mall does not even have benches to sit on. But still, this bare and basic mall is pulling in the crowds from Ajman, Sharjah and even Dubai. Customers say they shop here for one reason only - rock-bottom prices.

Prices of T-shirts here start at Dh5, while mobile phones cost around Dh150. Microwave meals can be had for as low as Dh4, while lingerie goes for just around Dh15.

As if that's not enough, shoppers haggle for even further discounts on anything and everything ranging from furniture, toys and electronics, to clothes and hardware - there are no fixed prices.

Traditional market

Visitors also find it easy to hunt for deals as the shops are arranged back-to-back in rows at the single-storey mall. The layout keeps competition tight between retailers which benefits customers.

"It's more like a traditional market, but disguised as a modern mall," a Jordanian woman said.

"Sales people jump out at you from stores with goods in hand. It's very informal and you can negotiate prices - I'm good at that, so that's why I come here."

She said that her husband recently bought her a hair curler from the mall for Dh25 - compared to a Dh200 model she had purchased from a Dubai mall earlier. She also picked up a "beautiful" Dh180 cellphone for her maid from the mall.

A six-piece bedcover set originally quoted at Dh95 to one customer, was promptly re-offered to another shopper for Dh80 after a moment's silence — and a frown from the original customer. Another shopper, an Indian grandfather from Sharjah, said he had been waiting for the official mall opening (October 22) ever since he saw a "giant billboard" proclaiming its opening on the Sharjah-Dubai highway some months ago.

"China means cheap - and that's what shoppers today are looking for," he said. "You have to be practical; I don't buy stuff just for the image, just because something is branded internationally."

Made in china

Almost all products there are made in China and shopkeepers also hail from the Land of the Dragon. Even if they are in no mood to haggle, they will still quote two prices — the initial bid and "last price".

The shopping plaza takes window shopping to a new level, with identical storefronts made entirely of glass. The rows too are near copies of each other and there are no landmarks to remember your way around. "You just keep hopping from shop to shop until you complete the ‘maze'," the Jordanian woman said.

Meanwhile, new road signs for China Mall - located in Ajman Free

Zone - have sprung up across the emirate in recent weeks announcing the opening of this mini version of Dubai's Dragon Mart, a much older and larger Chinese market.

Khalifa Pledges more reforms


Abu Dhabi: As the nation dressed in red, green, white and black and wore a festive mood to celebrate the UAE's 39th National Day, the country's leaders paid rich tributes to its unity and resilience and pledged further reforms and econ-omic development.

In an address to the nation on the eve of National Day, President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan expressed renewed confidence in the strength, vitality and resilience of the UAE economy, "which fully recovered from the aftermath of the global financial crisis," WAM reported.

He said the government "will press ahead with the process of updating legislation, regulating the labour market, supporting Emiratisation and empowering the private sector, encouraging it to shoulder social responsibilities, to invest in national human resources, to adopt environment protection mechanism and to meet the needs of the society."

In an address to the nation, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said the country was on the right direction towards achieving the Vision 2021 national plan and identified three sectors in which the country has made great strides in the past 38 years.

Global level

"In human development, the UAE has earned the first position on the Arab level and the 32nd on the global level in the latest international specialised indicators," he said.

Secondly, he added, "is the important advancement of the position of the UAE in the index of finance development, as our country assumed the first position at the Arab level and the 21st at the global level".

And thirdly, "I will mention the important progress achieved in the integration of the performance between the federal and local authorities, which manifested brilliantly in the joint meetings between the Cabinet and the local departments in most of the emirates," Shaikh Mohammad said.

"The United Arab Emirate is a monolithic entity, and all federal and local institutions work to serve the UAE and its people," he noted.

Nov 27, 2010

Cruise control

It’s been 60 years since the Land Cruiser hit the UAE’s shores, so Toyota thought it would do something special by offering the 60th Anniversary edition

In the UAE the Land Cruiser has taken on a symbolic, almost mythical role. Unlike the Ford Model T in America or the Fiat 500 in Italy, this mobiliser of the people had to be something sturdy and was able to navigate the dunes of the UAE. The Land Cruiser was it. There were of course other four-wheel-drive vehicles before the Land Cruiser, but in keeping with the Model T and 500, the Cruiser was more cost effective than its rivals and was extremely easy to mend.

The Land Cruiser phenomenon took off wherever there was a harsh climate or terrain to battle against and where there were a significant amount of people who needed to get around quickly. Whilst these elements are not unique to the UAE, it was here that the car gained a substantial foothold and why Toyota felt it necessary to celebrate this auspicious anniversary.

The 60th Anniversary edition Land Cruiser comes in VXR-i and GXR-i grades with the unique specifications for enhanced passenger comfort and safety. These include a special 60th Anniversary emblem throughout the interior and exterior and LED daytime running lights, among others. The GXR-i version also benefits from a rear view camera displayed on the driver’s interior rear mirror. In addition, the VXR-i models also feature a rear dual DVD entertainment system and a powerful new 5.7-litre engine, delivering 362 horsepower, alongside the well proven 4.7-litre engine.

Driving the Land Cruiser is like buying into this country’s history. It is now more an opulent family car than anything else, but still possesses that rugged appeal, which means it is just as comfortable bouncing through the desert as it is on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Motoring along the highway is like piloting a palace on wheels. Every whim and fancy is taken care of by some gadget to enhance the pleasure of driving this ‘king of the road.’ Sat behind the wheel, the driving position is magnificent. Placed above anything else on the road, safety aspects rarely enter your mind, being encased in the car’s rock solid body.

The gutsy engine makes every journey a dream. Hearing the roar as you fire the Land Cruiser up or go to overtake someone makes popping out for that bottle of milk you forgot worth it.

Inside, space is the overwhelming feature of the car. If you’ve got a large family, or just want loads of space for your small one, this is the car for you. The comfortable seats coax you into the car and the entertainment features, that can be mastered with only a couple of minutes familiarisation, will want to keep you there.

Overall, there’s nothing that can be said about the Land Cruiser that hasn’t been said a million times, but the 60th Anniversary edition manages to go above and beyond the norm.

Al-Futtaim Motors’ commemorative 60th Anniversary GXR-i range is available from Dhs205,000 while the VXR-i range starts at Dhs273,000.

ETISALAT Chairman Named World CEO 2010

Abu Dhabi - Mohammed Omran has been named the World CEO of the year 2010 at the World Communication Award Ceremony in the UK.

Omran leads ETISALAT, to be one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world with a market value of approximately $25 billion, AED 30.8 billion in revenues and 100 million active subscribers around the globe.

Omran has worked for ETISALAT over three decades and served in many different positions until he became the Chairman of ETISALAT in 2005. From his current position he has overseen many of the company’s major achievements and, today is considered one of the key decision makers in the telecommunications sector in the region. Omran has led ETISALAT into new markets through a set of expansions and global investments in Asia and Africa.

The World Communication Awards recognise the companies and individuals responsible for the innovations, achievements and great new services that are helping to build tomorrows industry. It is widely recognised as the most trusted and global industry event of its kind in the communications industry. Over 500 influencers and decision-makers, CEOs and senior executives attended the event.

Under his leadership ETISALAT, has positioned itself among the best international service operator in the world and achieved a solid financial and operational presence in more than 18 countries.

A global player and a leader in the latest technology and innovation, ETISALAT has leapfrogged the legacy and shaped the way people use the telecommunications service. Deploying the best technology, state of art infrastructure and international best practice, ETISALAT customers base have reached unprecedented growth to reach 2,500 per cent in less than five years.

Commenting on the award, Omran stated, ‘we are honoured by this award to commemorate our successes throughout these years. We are lucky to be part of the new digital era and the new platform that enable us to deliver state of art services to our customers, stakeholders and employees. Leadership and risk-taking are at a premium but the right choices and world class execution can generate lucrative returns.’

He stated, people are always the key and ‘at ETISALAT we are lucky to have a wealth of outstanding executive talent. There has never been a better time for innovative executives to work at ETISALAT and to build the telecommunications businesses of the future. ETISALAT believes, however, that many of our challenges are common to all of us but if we work hard and make good decisions, we can be global leaders of the next media generation.’

A several awards winner, Omran received numerous personal recognitions including national, regional and international awards most recently being named Best Chairman at the International Business Awards in 2010 and regarded as the ‘most powerful’ man in the Middle East telecoms sector according to Comms MEA magazine. Omran received an Engineering Degree in Electronics and Communications from Cairo University, Egypt, in June 1977.

UAE, UK renew friendship treaty

Queen Elizabeth on Thursday attended the UAE-UK Partnership Ceremony hosted by the British Embassy in the UAE at the Emirates Palace.

UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and the British Foreign Secretary William Hague signed the ‘Abu Dhabi Declaration 2010’ during the ceremony, reaffirming the UAE-UK Friendship treaty signed in 1971 that asserted that the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom will, in times of need, consult each other on matters of mutual interest, will promote educational, scientific and cultural cooperation and will recognise close and outstanding trade relations. The President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, meanwhile, met Queen Elizabeth at Al Mushrif Palace. Shaikh Khalifa welcomed Queen Elizabeth and said that the royal visit to the UAE would further enhance historic relations between the UAE and the UK.

Shaikh Khalifa expressed appreciation of the role played by Queen Elizabeth in strengthening bonds of friendship between the two countries. He added that the UAE was looking forward to further cooperation with the UK in all fields.

He also said that the UAE was honoured with Queen Elizabeth’s visit, and wished her good health and further progress and prosperity to the UK. Shaikh Khalifa hosted a luncheon in honour of Queen Elizabeth and her accompanying delegation.

Queen Elizabeth said she was honoured to visit the UAE and praised the achievements made by the country, thanks to the vision of its leadership. She expressed the hope that the UAE will make further progress under the leadership of Shaikh Khalifa.

The Queen, who later left for Britain, was seen off by Shaikh Khalifa and General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. At the Partnership Ceremony, Shaikh Abdullah endorsed the comments of the British foreign secretary about the strength and vitality of the partnership between the UAE and the UK. “I am delighted to see gathered here today so many British people who live and work in the UAE and who make such an extraordinary contribution to our society,” he said.

Addressing the Queen, Shaikh Abdullah continued: “Your Majesty, many aspects of the UAE have no doubt changed greatly since you were last here, in 1979”.

“Nevertheless, I feel certain that you will encounter the same warm welcome, the same spirit of enterprise and innovation, and the same openness to visitors from all over the world. And I am equally sure that you will witness the same unique relationship that the UAE has always had with the British government and people”, he added.

“My late father Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and former President of the UAE, signed the Treaty of Friendship with Britain in December 1971,” Shaikh Abdullah recalled.

Since that time, British people have been working closely with the UAE and its citizens to harness the potential of our natural resources and to contribute to the development of our country, laying the foundations for its economic success, he stressed.

And this is by no means a one-way relationship. The UAE has been making a growing contribution to economic and social life in Britain, Shaikh Abdullah added.

Shaikh Abdullah said: “Your Majesty, we continue to build on these strong foundations and I am confident that the partnership between our countries will scale even greater heights. Whether in trade or energy, in defence or security, in culture, education or sport, in humanitarian work or promoting peace between nations, the potential is enormous”.

“And it is because of this potential and the special bond between our people that I too am proud to sign in your presence the 2010 Abu Dhabi Declaration, reaffirming the 1971 Treaty of Friendship and further cementing the partnership between the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom,” Shaikh Abdullah stressed.

In his address, the British Foreign Secretary noted that the signing of the ‘Abu Dhabi Declaration 2010’ comes almost 40 years after the signature of the original Treaty earlier in 1971 thus reaffirming that “we stand together to recommit ourselves to the relationship between our two countries”.

Noting that he has signed the declaration with Shaikh Abdullah in the presence of the Queen, William Hague said: “Britain and the United Arab Emirates share a friendship that is rooted history and reinforced by common interests, mutual respect, and daily contact between our peoples. A million British citizens visit the UAE ever year, and over 100,000 enjoy the benefits of living and working in your country.”

Tens of thousands of Emiratis have completed their studies in the UK or are doing so at this very moment, and many others are regular and valued visitors to our shores, he noted.

“Our militaries fight side by side in Afghanistan and our law enforcement officials work closely together, contributing to our mutual security. And we enjoy flourishing economic and commercial ties which we greatly value in the United Kingdom and which contribute to the prosperity of both our countries,” Hague said.

“I commend to Your Majesty and to Your Royal Highnesses all that has already been achieved between our two great nations and to realise the vision of the UAE’s founding fathers”, he added.

“Today’s Declaration celebrates the enormous untapped potential in our future relations”, he stressed.

Hague congratulated the DP World on its investment in the London Gateway project and welcomed Thursday’s unveiling of the design for the Shaikh Zayed National Museum, an exciting collaboration between the Abu Dhabi government, Foster + Partners Architects and the British Museum.

“The British government is committed to a relationship with the UAE that is based on friendship, trust and equal partnership. I am confident that this Declaration will usher in a future in our relations that is yet more glowing and successful, to the benefit of our all citizens,” Hague stressed.

Queen Elizabeth, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum,



Queen Elizabeth, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Prince Philip arrive for the inauguration of Zayed National Museum construction at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on Thursday

Driver collects Dh82,000 fines in UAE


Dubai: A 22-year-old Emirati driver who has accumulated speeding fines of Dh75,000 in Dubai and Dh7,000 in other emirates vowed to mend his ways and regrets his failure to control his urge for speed.

The driver identified only as M.A. accumulated the fines between 2008 and 2009, according to police sources.

He was also involved in a serious accident eight months ago that left him with a fracture in his spine and injuries to the leg. His injuries were so severe that he cannot drive anymore.

Grave injuries

M.A.'s car was also facing a 510-day impoundment, but the penalty was reduced to 255, according to police sources.

"I sympathised with his situation and decided to reduce the duration of impoundment by half, especially that he sustained grave injuries from his accident. But that doesn't mean that his reckless driving wasn't wrong," said Major General Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of the General Traffic Department at Dubai Police.

The driver owned a Nissan Patrol car which was worth Dh188,000, but he had its engine modified to increase its speed costing him an additional Dh200,000.

"I took a loan worth of Dh300,000 in order to install parts which will allow my car to drive at a very high speed. I regret the decision now after what happened to me, I could have invested the money in better things," said M.A, who is a government employee.

The driver also admitted that he started driving at 15, even before reaching the legal driving age.

"I used to race around with my friends in areas such as Al Warqa, I lost half of my friends due to car and motorcycle accidents. I almost lost my own life with my last accident. I wasn't wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident."

Abu Dhabi Police begins online service to issue good conduct certificate

Abu Dhabi: The ID card holders no longer need to visit the offices of Abu Dhabi police to apply for good conduct certificate, but it can be done online, the police said in a statement on Saturday.

The ID card holders in all three regions in the emirate - Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Western Region - can log on to www.adpolice.gov.ae and apply for good conduct certificate with immediate effect.

Captain Sultan Al Tunaiji, the head of fingerprints section at Abu Dhabi Police said that the initiative is part of Abu Dhabi Police's strategy to make the transactions easier for the public. The applicants can complete the process online by giving all the required information, he said.

The police will process the application the next day and send an SMS to the applicants, Tunaiji said. The applicants can collect the certificate from the nearest police station as mentioned in the SMS, the officer said.

The applicants have to give either ID card number or passport number and mobile phone number, and upload the copy of the passport or ID card and photo with the online application, he said.

The fingerprints of the applicants will be verified with the finger prints stored on the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) system to check the clean record of the applicant, Al Tunaiji said.

About 2,600,0000 fingerprints have been registered with the EIDA system, which will be accessible to Abu Dhabi Police, he said.

About half of them have been uploaded to Abu Dhabi police system and the rest of them will be uploaded within a few days, Al Tunaiji said.

The certificate can be used for all official purposes, the said.

The certificate can be obtained on the same day, if the applicant pays an extra amount.

It will be issued in either English or Arabic as per the choice of the applicant.

An extra amount has to be paid for the translated version of the certificate .

Those who have left the country can take the printout of the application from the website, fill it out and send to Abu Dhabi police by post with required documents. (Adress: P.B. 253, Abu Dhabi Police, Abu Dhabi, UAE).

Apart from the required fee, the applicant has to pay Dh20 extra for postal charges for the certificate to be sent by post.

The Police have set up 11 centres across the emirate – seven in Abu Dhabi, three in the western region and one in Al Ain - to deal with the applications.

Abu Dhabi to host food safety conference


Abu Dhabi: The capital will be hosting from December 14-16 the first dedicated food security conference in the region that will address issues, concerns and challenges being faced in the wake of increasing demand for limited food resources.

"After the great success of SIAL Middle East we will be hosting a food safety conference that is the first of its kind in that it will bring together participants from both the region and the world under the umbrella of Infosun," Mohammad Jalal Al Reyaysa, chairman, SIAL Organising Committee and official spokesperson, Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (Adfca), told Gulf News exclusively on the sidelines of the Fourth International Date Palm Festival.

"The main aim of the event is to address the availability, access and food safety concerns being faced around the world. The conference will not only continue to help raise Abu Dhabi's profile but will also bring Adfca full circle," he added.

Fostering partnerships

Additionally, the UAE University is in the process of creating the first global database network dedicated to bringing together experts from around the region and the world to share ideas, research techniques and to foster partnerships that will highlight the importance of the date palm.

"We're in the initial stages of creating the Date Palm Global Network, which is a database that will allow members from not only the UAE and region but even around the world to access the latest findings about topics such as the best methods to combat the Red Palm Weevil as well as to promote exchanges among participating countries of tissue cultures to fully identify the different varieties of date palm trees," Engineer Hussain Al Hadrami, Marketing and Greenhouse Coordinator, Date Palm Development Research Unit Department, Plant Tissue Cultural Laboratory, UAE University, said.


The festival is being held at Adnec (Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre) under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority, and is organised by Turret Media in collaboration with UAE University, Khalifa International Date Palm Award and the Date Palm Friends Society.

"An interesting aspect about this festival is that it not only highlights the culture of the UAE but also provides a platform for other GCC countries and the region to showcase and discuss our products, programmes and techniques among each other. However, organisers should encourage participants to create innovative products and techniques that could be revealed each year to help foster creativity and awareness of just how much potential there is in this industry," Engineer Mohammad Khairallah, Department of Irrigation, Ministry of Agriculture and Water, Saudi Arabia, said.

Tom Cruise charms Dubai






His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum receives a commemorative clapper board from star Tom Cruise, director Brad Bird and producer Bryan Burk while Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum looks on.

Sharjah Book Fair witnesses brisk sales and strong footfall

Sharjah: The 29th edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair received over 500,000 visitors and made sales of Dh133 million, organisers revealed.

"We organised 233 cultural events for adults and children, in addition to arranging over 60 book signings for authors who launched their new book titles," said Ahmad Bin Rakad Al Amri, Director of Sharjah International Book Fair.

The 12-day exhibition, which began on October 26 and concluded last Saturday, drew visitors in good numbers right through, "but we sometimes had to extend the closing time [of 10pm] to 11pm because there were too many visitors inside", Al Amri said.

Timings extended

"We also had to extend the timings of the live cooking stations and lectures given by guest speakers and poets to let all visitors get a chance to participate in the events," he said.

"The number of visitors to the exhibition reached up to 500,000 visitors, while the total sales volume reached Dh133 million. Next year we intend to make the book fair an even bigger success than this year's, and we will maintain our high standard in offering a platform for authors to display their books, audio books and e-books," he added.

Oct 17, 2010

Five new stations open on Red Line of Dubai Metro



Dubai: Commuters are delighted with the opening of five more stations on the Red Line of Dubai Metro.

"We are very happy as we will now be able to use the metro regularly," said Jacob, who took the train at the newly opened Business Bay Station. He along with his two children and wife got into the train to go to Al Rigga Street in Deira.

Five stations which opened their doors to passengers on Friday include: Business Bay, First Gulf Bank, Sharaf DG, Nakheel (near American University of Dubai) and Jumeirah Lakes Towers.

All the new stations are located on Shaikh Zayed Road. Total number of operational stations on the Red Line has now increased to 26 out of a total of 29.

"We plan to open rest of the three stations in the first quarter of next year," Ramadan Abdullah, Director of the Rail Operations at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), told Gulf News during his inspection of the newly-opened stations. The three stations — Energy, Jebel Ali Industrial and Jebel Ali Free Zone — still not opened are last ones on the Red Line towards Abu Dhabi.

"We expect the number of passengers to increase by from the 130,000 per day to at least 145,000 daily — an increase of some 15,000 with the opening of new stations," said Abdullah.

He said that train stopping time at the stations has been reduced from 30 seconds to 20 seconds and the total journey time on one side of the Red Line has increased by only two minutes. One way journey time will now be 62 minutes.

The headway or frequency of trains has also been readjusted as trains will arrive at the station after every eight minutes from 6am to 4pm and every six minutes after 4pm until late night which is peak time.

Some 17 trains will serve passengers during off-peak hours while 20 trains will be on track during peak hours.

"We have so far achieved 99 per cent ration in punctuality and train availability and it is a great achievement for us," said Abdullah. .

The RTA has also increased the train operational hours by adding one more hour on Thursdays and Fridays. Trains will be available from 6am to 12 midnight on Thursdays and from 1pm to 12 midnight on Fridays. The operating time will remain the same from 6am to 11pm from Saturday to Wednesday.

When asked when the RTA will open the remaining three stations, Abdullah said that the RTA is currently conducting a survey by approaching the big companies in Jebel Ali Free Zones (JAFZ) to gauge the demand for the service.

The Dh28 billion Dubai Metro project is 76 kilometres long and consists of 52.1 kilometres of Red Line and 23.9 kilometres of Green Line. The Green Line is expected to be open in August next year.

Abdullah said that at least 28 feeder buses have been deployed to link the new stations with the communities around them and the service is set to run at 13 to 20 minutes frequency.

Fast facts: Emiratis using Metro on the increase

Around 9,000 Emiratis use the Dubai Metro every day and their number is increasing gradually, said Ramadan Abdullah, Director of Rail Operations at the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

"The number of UAE nationals using the Metro is more than our expectations and we are very please with the figures," he told Gulf News on Friday.

He said that a survey conducted by the RTA has revealed that some seven percent or around 9,000 out of an average of 130,000 daily Metro users are UAE nationals.

The study shows that about 48 per cent of the Metro users are Asians, 10 per cent European, 25 per cent Arab expatriates and three per cent are tourists.

"The encouraging factor is that some 30 per cent of the Metro users have cars and they leave their cars at home or parking lots to use the Metro," Abdullah added.