May 11, 2010

Mandatory ID card for traffic services on hold

Abu Dhabi: Thousands of Abu Dhabi and Sharjah residents who could not access traffic department services since May 2 because they did not have an ID card, have received a reprieve from the authorities.

Authorities have put on hold an earlier decision making ID cards mandatory for accessing traffic department services in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, a senior official of Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) told on Monday.

Dr Ali Al Khoury, Vice-Chairman, Higher Management Committee of Eida, cited the uncontrollable crowds at Eida registration centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

"Meanwhile our hassle free-appointment only registration has begun in Dubai which will be extended all over the country soon," he said.

The crowd in Sharjah [at Eida centres] was manageable but it was decided to extend the reprieve there also, he said.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in Dubai did not implement the earlier decision.

Eida will take all necessary steps to avoid crowding in Dubai centres when RTA implements the Ministry of Interior decision, Al Khoury said. [RTA did not implement the decision following the ministry announcement].

"We will talk to RTA before they implement the decision for taking necessary steps to avoid the crowding [at EIDA centres] which happened in Abu Dhabi. We will be careful while implementing such decisions," he said.

People who were denied traffic services welcomed the new decision.

"They took the right decision. I will go and register my new car tomorrow [Tuesday]," said Peter Lloyd, 52, a British Production Manager who came to Abu Dhabi six months ago.

"I was told I needed an ID card when I went to register my new car on May 2," said Lloyd who secured an appointment for ID card registration on May 16.

Temporary suspension

The ministry of Interior had issued a statement on April 30 making ID cards mandatory, from May 2. After implementing the decision it became clear there were difficulties.

Although senior ministry officials, when contacted, declined to comment about the temporary suspension, traffic department officials confirmed that they are now accepting applications without asking for the ID.

Officials are yet to make any public announcement on this.

“We received a communication from the Interior ministry to stop asking for the ID cards, for the next two weeks. So from Sunday [May 9] , we have not been asking for it”, an Abu Dhabi traffic department official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

May 10, 2010

Joggers furious as Sharjah shuts parks in the morning

Sharjah: Joggers and walkers who like to exercise in the park each morning must now switch to evenings or walk on the streets in the scorching heat.

Sharjah Municipality has just passed a law that keeps all parks closed to the public until 4pm.

They will stay open until 10pm.

The law includes free-entrance neighbourhood parks and those which have an entrance fee.

A Sharjah Municipality official told the new rule aimed to prevent gardeners from staring at female visitors.

"The municipality cannot accept the responsibility of having its employees staring at women and making them feel uncomfortable," said Sharjah Municipality Agricultural Department head Yaseen Mohammad.

Mohammad said the gardeners tended to the greenery only in the morning.

Thus visitors would be permitted to enter when the gardeners were not at work.

"To combat this threat, the director-general of the municipality has instructed all parks to be closed during the morning, and all parks have to follow the new system," Mohammad said.

However, residents who use the parks in the morning said they were very upset about the new law and its timings.

As the summer heat approaches, residents who like to exercise in the morning would be forced to walk next to cars on the roads.

"I am a resident staying near Mahatta Park and [with the park being] closed during morning hours, this makes it difficult for about 40 people who go for a morning walk," F. Moosa said.

Congested

"All the people are forced to take rounds outside the park on the pavement, making it very congested.

"Despite sending a letter to the authorities concerned by all of us, no action has been taken. It is getting increasingly hot and more difficult for all of us."

Another resident who stays near Al Nahda Park said the park used to be vey popular at 6am.

People would not only jog there, but they also liked to feed the rabbits that inhabit the park.

Another resident, Vanita, said: "We called up the municipality, and they were also surprised that it was closed. "A call made by them to the park office yielded no response, so they told us to contact the office in the park," she said.

"When the lady at the office was contacted, she said she is only following instructions from the municipality.

"She pointed out that in the meantime, joggers and walkers must cram onto the footpath outside the park for their daily exercises.

"It is really funny to know that a watchman sleeps in the park every night but can not [open the gates in the morning]."

Business | Telecoms Etisalat slashes international call rates to 50 fils per minute

Dubai: In a move to offer the best international calling rates to landline customers, Etisalat has slashed the International Direct Dialing (IDD) rates to 50 fils per minute from May 10 till August 9, 2010.

All UAE landline users can call anywhere in the world, anytime, at just 50 fils per minute during this period, Etisalat said in a statement.

The offer is applicable for all landline users in the UAE, benefiting both, e-Life as well as non-Etisalat landline users. Users, who do not have an Etisalat landline connection, can also benefit from the reduced rates through the Etisalat Select Service that is offered free of charge; the user only pays for usage.

Available in two customised packages, the promotion offers additional flexibility to the customers to choose the most appropriate package as per their requirements.

First offer: Customers can benefit from the best international calling rates of 50 fils per minute (all day), for one selected country of their choice for a flat fee of AED 20 per month. Customers can call 125 to select their preferred country and enjoy the discounted rates. Rates of all other local and international calls will remain unchanged.

Second offer: Besides reduced call rates of 50 fils per minute for a selected country, subscribers to this offer have an option to pay a connection charge of Dh1 per international call to the selected country, rather than the flat fee of Dh20 per month. Hence, customers in this plan can choose to 'pay-as-used', rather than paying a monthly fee of Dh20. Rates of all other local and international calls will remain unchanged.

Customers also have an option to switch from one offer to another, based on their utility. Customers can subscribe to this promotion by dialing 125, or by visiting any Etisalat business center or outlet in shopping malls throughout the country. Etisalat mobile customers can subscribe to Etisalat Select service by sending an SMS "ES" to "1010". For all other mobile users, they can call 800-101 and request the service.

Subscribers of special IDD tariff plans such as "Super off Peak", "Favorite Country", and "Friends & Family" can also benefit from this promotion by subscribing to the above mentioned offers. The IDD tariff plans will be put on hold during the promotion period, and customers would automatically be reverted to their original plans after the promotion.

Increased demand expected to soak up realty over-supply

Dubai: Residential and commercial rents in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are likely to continue to slide in the short term, industry experts said.

"Residential rents in Dubai will continue to soften further, if not dramatically, over the next couple of years," said Cluttons Middle East partner Ronald Hinchey.

The reason may be because about 40,000 units were due to become available this year, Colliers International said.

And while rental values in sought-after established residential areas such as Arabian Ranches have held up since the sharp drop, anecdotal evidence appears to suggest prices dipped in April.

Rents fell by Dh5,000 to Dh10,000 for a number of townhouses and villas. Leasing agents said that if prices were higher the properties stayed empty for months.

"People's budgets are getting squeezed due to reduced salaries and tenants are now prepared to take on the time and cost involved to move to get a rent reduction," Hinchey said.

Last year rents took a decisive dip in spring and stabilised in June. Landlords unwilling to move on price pulled their properties off the market, counting on the traditional post-summer rebound — which didn't materialise.

Pundits are now wondering what landlords will do this summer.

"It will be interesting to see what happens end of June, whether and how many people will leave Dubai, no one knows," Hinchey said.

Recently released government population figures showed an increase in Dubai, thought to be partly due to residents moving to the city from Abu Dhabi.

"People will continue to live in Dubai and work in Abu Dhabi as long as the rents there remain 25 per cent plus to those in Dubai.

"The more the difference falls below 25 per cent the less incentive there will be to live in Dubai and people will choose to live in Abu Dhabi," Colliers International research and advisory manager Narmin Abugalala told the Dubai Property Society members.

Commercial

Rents were equally expected to fall on the office side as buildings come on-line, creating a potential oversupply, he said.

For example Colliers calculated that around 500 companies now in villas would need office space this year.

This demand may just absorb the over-supply coming online this year, Abugalala said.

"Corporations are still setting up representative offices with management in Abu Dhabi, but the main staff in Dubai where the rents are much cheaper," he said.

Colliers research showed office rents in Abu Dhabi averaged Dh117 per square foot, and Dh85 in Dubai.

Colliers International research and advisory director J.P. Grobbelaar said developers desperate to increase occupancy in the so-called "New Dubai" were offering offices for as low as Dh65 a square foot.

However Tecom appeared to buck the trend with rents remaining stubbornly high at Dh130 to Dh150 a square foot, according to the propertyfinder.ae website.

House prices

Dubai's house prices fared better this first quarter than last, if marginally.

The Colliers International house price index was up from 117 index points to 119 or two per cent.

This compared with a starting index of 100 basis points in 2007, which more than doubled to 216 points at the peak in the third quarter of 2008.

The slight gain could well be reversed taking into account the 41,000 residential units expected to become available by the end of this year.

Higher loan to value (LTV) ratios coming in at 75 to 90 per cent and slightly more favourable interest rates hovering between 6.5 to 8.5 per cent and more affordable prices may well have encouraged residents in Dubai to swap renting for owning, the figures indicate.

As such townhouses sold for five per cent more on average in the first quarter this year compared to last year.

Villas only increased by two per cent but apartments, even though there were more of them, increased by around six per cent.

The figures again point to buyers looking for affordability.

The blended average rate for residential property stood at Dh1,002 per square foot in the first quarter of 2010 up by four per cent from the last quarter in 2009 — a good start.

May 2, 2010

ID card mandatory to avail all traffic services across the country from May 2

Abu Dhabi: From Sunday, ID cards issued by the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) will be mandatory to use any traffic and licensing services across the country, officials have announced.

In a statement issued on Friday and carried by WAM, the Emirates News Agency, the Interior Ministry said that applications submitted to the various traffic departments in the country will be rejected if the applicant has no ID card.

Since November last year, residents of Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah, Ajman and Umm Al Quwain — both nationals and expatriates — have been required to produce the ID card to access services such as such as vehicle registration, and renewal. From May 2, officials are extending this decision to cover the remaining three emirates — Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah.

Brigadier Gaith Hassan Al Za'abi, Director of the Traffic Department at the Interior Ministry called on all members of the public to register and complete procedures to obtain the ID cards at the earliest to avoid inconvenience.

Apart from being unable to use certain government transactions, no further fines will be issued, at least for the time being.

Officials said they hope the denial of these essential services will urge the residents who still haven't obtained the card to come forward.

Obligatory

The Law of Population Register and Identity Card makes it obligatory for all citizens and residents of the UAE above the age of 15 to obtain the ID card for identification in various transactions.

But when contacted, Ahmad Hashim Al Behroozian, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Licensing Agency of the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), said that they had not so far received any instruction from the Ministry of Interior to only consider Emirates ID as proof of personal identity to complete any transaction.

"We will continue to work as normal and presenting [an] Emirates Identity Card will not be mandatory for applicants to complete their traffic, licensing and vehicle registration related transactions," said Al Behroozian.

ID cards can be used at e-gates

Abu Dhabi: About 1.2 million ID card holders can soon use their national ID cards as e-gate cards to avail fast-track immigration clearance at airports across the country.

"ID card holders who also have an e-gate card can just visit any of the 37 enrolment centres with their cards and they will be able to integrate the e-gate facility within a minute", a senior official said

"The enrolment centres have been set up at all international airports in the country and immigration departments," said General Ahmad Nasser Al Raisi, general director of General Directorate, Central Operations, Abu Dhabi Police.

"ID card holders who do not have an e-gate card can also integrate the facility by paying a Dh150 fee.

Emirati ID card holders do not need to carry their passport to travel to GCC countries as ID card acts as an e-passport," Al Raisi explained.

This becomes possible following a strategic agreement signed on Sunday between General Headquarters of Abu Dhabi Police and Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) in the presence of Shaikh Saif Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Interior.

Al Raisi in his capacity as the head of the Electronic Gate Project, and Darwish Ahmad Al Zarouni, director general of the EIDA, signed the agreement to integrate the e-gate facility with the ID cards.

"About 137 electronic gates have been installed at [the] country's borders and 37 centres are issuing the e-gate cards," Al Raisi said.

"About 500,000 e-gate cards have been issued so far", he added.

This is the major value-added service with ID cards apart from personal identification, said Thamer Rashid Al Qasimi, planning director and project management director at the EIDA.

"e-gate system is totally controlled by Ministry of Interior and they will soon announce the procedures to integrate the facility [e-gate] with ID cards. An online system in future may make the integration easier for people; which will be announced by |Ministry of Interior later, he explained.

The e-Gate card provides a fast-track immigration clearance using smart technology and a fingerprint scan.

This not only takes one through immigration faster but also saves space on a passenger's passport, as it eliminates the need for a manual stamp every time they travel.

Al Zarouni earlier told that ID card holders would in future not be needed to swipe or insert cards in card-reading machines to be able to use services like e-Gate thanks to a contactless technology,

"Card holders have to just show the cards to card readers as EIDA will soon adopt RF-ID technology [a contactless smart card technology] for new cards, he said.

UAE nationals not registered for ID card will be fined soon, says official

Abu Dhabi: Emirates Identity Authority (EIA) said it would announce within days fines against Emiratis who have not so far registered for identity card and population register, Darwish Al Zarouni, director general of EIA, said.

He called on all citizens to speed up registration and obtain identity cards before the fines are enforced, stressing that they would be irrevocable.

The registration centres across the UAE witnessed great turnout on Tuesday with over 7,500 UAE nationals queuing up.

ID card registration to be on appointment basis from May

Abu Dhabi: The Ministry of Interior's decision last week to deny its services to residents who do not have ID cards has driven home the importance of the card.

Residents who do not yet have the card will soon be able to register without waiting in a queue as the Emirates Identity Authority (EIDA) will soon switch over to an appointment-only registration system.

"Applicants will not need to wait as they will be reaching the registration centres by appointment only; there will not be any walk-in registration which creates queues," a senior official told Gulf News on Monday.

All registration will be done by appointments given by the typing centres which will carry out the pre-registration process (PRP), Dr Ali Al Khoury, Vice-Chairman, Higher Management Committee of EIDA, said.

Strategy

"The new system will begin in Abu Dhabi by May 2010 and will be extended all over the country gradually," Al Khoury said.

The move is part of the recently announced new strategy for 2010-2013, he said.

As Gulf News previously reported, the new strategy envisages transferring the pre-application process to typing centres, and opening registration centres in medical centres which conduct visa medical tests. The ID card registration will also be linked to visa and labour cards with a unified application form.

The major advantage of the new system is that the applicant does not need to visit the typing centre in person to do the pre-registration process (PRP), the official said.

The applicant's representative, a company PRO, a family member or friend can do it on their behalf by submitting the required documents, he said. When the application is submitted, the typing centre will give an appointment for registration at the EIDA centre. "The applicant will be visiting the EIDA centre at a given time only, so there will no queue or rush," he said.

Children under 15 years will be able to complete the registration process at typing centres, if they can submit their photos in the prescribed format as they do not need fingerprinting, Al Khoury said.

The typing centres will paste a sticker with a bar code on the passports of the applicants on completion of the PRP.

Why services are denied

An EIDA top official made it clear that until the new system is implemented, applicants have to follow the present system of completing the PRP personally on a computer to get the printout with the bar codes or through Empost or any typing centre.

Gulf News asked why many services are being denied to residents not having ID cards before the deadline (end of 2010). Al Khoury explained that the denial of services is to drive home the importance of the ID card project.

"Otherwise nobody will come forward to register," he said.

He said since registration for expatriates had started, not many people had used the opportunity to register. Many a time the registration centres were empty; even now only about 3,500 people turn up a day all over the country, whereas EIDA has the capacity for 7,000 registrations a day, he said.

"Whoever needs the government services have to complete the registrations at the earliest," Al Khoury emphasised.

Advantages of new system

1. No need to visit in person for the PRP at a typing centre; a representative or company PRO can do it by submitting valid documents.

2. Completing the PRP means you automatically get an appointment (by a typing centre) to visit an EIDA centre to complete the registration for fingerprinting, photos etc.

3. All registrations at EIDA centres will be by appointment only, so there will be no queues.