RTA sets up a new agency to regulate driving licences
By a staff reporter 30 March 2008 KHALEEJ TIMES
DUBAI — Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, has ordered the setting up of the Licensing Agency within the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Ahmed Bahrouzyan will be the chief executive officer of the agency.
The Licensing Agency will be responsible for licensing driving institutes and centres as well as training instructors and inspectors of drivers and vehicles.
It will also be responsible for testing and licensing of drivers and vehicles along with endorsing the conditions and guidelines governing training of drivers.
The agency will regulate circulation of number plates and manage public auction of number plates.
Among the other tasks of the agency will be developing and updating database of drivers and vehicles, issuance of No Objection Certificates with respect to commercial and tourist activities related to transport, in addition to controlling the performance of driving institutes, vehicle testers and commercial activities of transport.
The CEO of Licensing Agency will oversee the administrative affairs of the agency, prepare a work plan of the agency together with its annual budget estimates for submission to the Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA.
The CEO will implement the approved annual plan of the agency, realise the targeted performance results, submit the periodical performance reports to the chairman and draft rules and regulations related to the business of the agency.
Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA, pointed out that the aim of establishing an agency dedicated to licensing is to enhance the level of services rendered so as to win customer satisfaction. It also aims at educating and heightening the awareness of all types of road users.
The decision to establish the agency is also dictated by the increasing numbers of licensed drivers in the emirate. The number of driving licences issued last year reached 89,475. The number of registered vehicles was 848,357, of which 802,376 are light vehicles and 45,981 are heavy trucks
15 double-deckers to ply between Dubai and Sharjah from September
By Joy Sengupta (Our staff reporter)30 March 2008 KHALEEJ TIMES
DUBAI — A new fleet of double-decker buses would be transporting passengers between Dubai and Sharjah from September this year, the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has announced.
Abdullah Yousuf Al Ali, Director of the Public Buses Department at the Public Transport Agency in the RTA, said, “We will be starting with 15 double-decker buses in September this year. The number will be raised to a total of 70 in the coming months. With the number of passengers travelling between the two emirates fast increasing, these buses will be very helpful.”
Al Ali added that the buses would be linked with the control centre through the GPS system and people with special needs will be able to board the buses with their wheelchairs and also be able to move around in the bus.
The new buses will be equipped with the eco-friendly Euro IV engines.
“The service will help in the development and expansion of the bus network between Dubai and the rest of the country. The new buses will also strengthen the position of Dubai as a commercial and regional economic centre and a point of attraction for investors and businessmen from all over the world,” added Al Ali.
Air fares set to rise again
By Zoe Sinclair (Our staff reporter)KHALEEJ TIMES 28 March 2008
DUBAI — Passengers’ pockets are likely to be hit again with airlines serving the UAE yesterday indicating fare increases due to escalating fuel prices.
The price of oil is circling around $110 per barrel while the UK airports — Heathrow and Gatwick — have raised taxes. The airlines are being forced to consider passing the cost on to their passengers.
Emirates Airline president Tim Clark announced on March 5 it would be increasing fares amid plans to cut costs by $100 million.
A statement this week revealed fares were increased by 5.5 per cent as of February 15.
“Emirates increased fares by 5.5 per cent across all three classes — First, Business and Economy — with effect from February 15,” a spokesperson said.
“Our fares incorporate our operating costs which include fuel, salaries, taxes, fees for use of facilities and other costs of operation. As with every airline, pricing is also subject to market forces and we will continue to evaluate our fare structure based on these.
“The staggering increase in fuel prices has had an inflationary effect on all our operational costs. However, Emirates will continue to work very hard to shield our customers from any price fluctuations,” the spokesperson said.
A British Airways spokesperson has indicated it would cover the passengers’ airport taxes for those who had already purchased tickets.
However, the airline would in future pass on some of the additional cost of airport taxes to its passengers.
The airline currently charges a fuel surcharge on its tickets and said it was continually reviewing the situation as to whether any increases had to be made. An Air Arabia spokesperson said the airline had included a fuel surcharge in its ticket fare but had not increased this charge for the past year.
“We usually do our best not to increase ticket prices as per the cost of fuel,” the spokesperson said.
“This (a fuel surcharge increase) is an option to consider if the fuel prices keep rising.”
Etihad Airways spokesperson Thomas Clarke said the airline was continually reviewing fuel prices but used tactics, including hedging, to avoid peak prices.
“Rising fuel costs are a challenge for all airlines and remain a significant proportion of Etihad’s total costs,” Clarke said.
“Our hedging policy helps us to achieve greater certainty and allows us to manage seasonal fluctuations.
“Fuel costs represent about one-third of Etihad’s total costs.”
Dubai: Two people were killed and five injured when a huge explosion ripped through a warehouse in Dubai’s Al Quoz industrial area on Wednesday.
Three people are also unaccounted for as a result of the fire which sent plumes of black smoke spiralling across Dubai on Wednesday morning.
Three firefighters suffered moderate burns trying to contain the inferno and two passersby were also hurt.
The fire, which started in a warehouse that stored fireworks illegally, soon spread to more than 70 warehouses that stocked a variety of goods, ranging from electrical equipment, clothes, plastic toys and food.
The losses have been estimated at around Dh600 million.
A 29-year-old Filipino died after being hit by a piece of flying shrapnel and another person — still to be identified — was in the warehouse when it exploded.
Dubai police said one person is missing.
A huge mushroom cloud of smoke formed over the city’s skyline after the explosion at about 7.15am. Thousands of residents were woken by the huge blast and the trail of smoke was visible to motorists making their way to work all over the city.
Debris from the fire spread across the area, reaching as far as Safa and Jumeirah.
Dubai Civil Defence said illegal fireworks had been stored in the warehouse, hindering the control operation. Firefighters also blamed the presence of flammable materials as a factor contributing to the ferocity of the fire.
The blaze was eventually brought under control by late evening.
Flames covered one square kilometre of the industrial estate.
The UAE armed forces, along with teams from Abu Dhabi Police and Civil Defence personnel from Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, and Al Ain, helped Dubai personnel in fighting the fire. The department of Environment, Health and Safety at Jebel Ali also joined the efforts.
Major General Khamis Mattar Al Mazeina, Director of Dubai Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), said the owner of the warehouse containing the firecrackers has been detained and is being interrogated.
Al Mazeina said investigations were ongoing to discover how the firecrackers were brought into the country. He said the authorities were waiting for firefighters to complete cooling operations before examining the scene.
The Roads and Transport Authority closed a number of roads around the blast site, leading to huge traffic jams on major arteries including Shaikh Zayed Road, Al Khail Road, Muscat Road and Umm Suqueim Road.
Hussain Al Banna, Director of the Right of Way Services Department and head of the emergency team, said: “The road closures were intended to provide easy access for fire engines as well as rescue and ambulance vehicles.”
History of disasters
– February 6, 2003: Powerful explosion and fire rip apart three warehouses in Al Qouz. Seven people were killed. Ten others were also injured in the blast said to caused by firecrackers.- March 13: Massive warehouse blaze in Al Quoz, but no one was injured. Some 2,660 barrels of petroleum compounds and 6,500 lumber planks, which were soaked in a highly inflammable liquid were gutted.
– August 9: A fire destroys workshop of a factory in Al Quoz Industrial Area. No injuries reported.
–January 24, 2004: Goods worth over Dh15 million go up in smoke when a massive fire destroyed at least three warehouses in the Al Quoz Industrial Area. No injuries or casualties reported in the incident
–May 2: Fire guts two warehouses in Al Quoz Industrial area, causing more than Dh10 million in damage.
–April 1, 2007: Fire guts a warehouse and three others partly burn down. No injuries were reported. The fire broke out in a warehouse which stocked paint and construction materials and spread to the surrounding warehouses.
–March 18: Huge blaze breaks out at a site for recycling paper in Al Quoz Industrial area number 3 behind Al Ghurair University. No injuries were reported in the fire.
Expat pension plan under study
Gulf News Report Published: March 27, 2008, 00:18
Abu Dhabi: Expatriates are likely to be brought under the national pension scheme, according to a government plan.
A proposed “Pension Savings” draft law is being studied by the General Authority for Pensions and Social Insurance (GAPSI), and aims to include all expatriates working in the public and private sectors, a senior official said yesterday.
At present, pensions in the private sector are provided through an end-of-service payment (gratuity) relative to the employee’s length of service calculated on the basis of basic salary.
“The law is still being studied, and we expect the studies to conclude by the end of April, and that will be followed by receiving the necessary initial approvals,” Abdul Rahman Al Baqer, GAPSI’s deputy director, told Gulf News.
Raft of proposals
“The proposal covers all expats in the country’s public or private sectors, and I want to make it clear that this endeavour was not commissioned or directed by the government … it comes as an initiative from the authority itself according to the outline set by the leadership, within the framework of our strategy to include all those working in the UAE in the pensions scheme,” Al Baqer said.
The study includes various pension proposals and mechanisms to implement it. “We are not consulting businessmen or companies over the proposed legislation,” Al Baqer said.
As per the proposed legislation, the pension amount will be collected by an entity other than the companies of the employees, through monthly subscriptions to be cut from their salaries in favour of their respective accounts with GAPSI.
Camel gala offers Dh35m in prizes
By Eman Mohammed, Abu Dhabi Deputy Editor GULF NEWS Published: March 26, 2008, 00:06
Abu Dhabi: A total of Dh35 million prize money is to be given away during the first Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival being organised in the Western Region next month, said an official.
Ganem Huraiz Al Mazroui, director of the competition, told a press conferenceon Tuesday the winners will get Dh35 million in cash prizes and 100 cars will also be given away.
He said around 2,000 competitors had registered for the competition so far and the number is expected to increase.
A ‘camel beauty contest’ among other activities will be held during the festival at Zayed City in the Western Region from April 2 to 10.
The festival is being organised by Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) and sponsored by General Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, as part of ADACH’s efforts to promote local folklore through cultural events.
The participating camels are required to be of pure-bred origin and free from any contagious diseases. The camels are to be divided into age groups and owners can participate with more than one camel as long as they can prove ownership.
Mohammad Khalaf Al Mazroui, Director-General of ADACH, and deputy-head of the festival’s committee sees the event as a symbol of the significance that camels enjoy in Arab culture.
“We hope that this event will become an annual one so we preserve that part of our heritage,” Al Mazroui said.
Praise: ‘Part of heritage’
Shaikh Mohammad Bin Butti Al Hamed, Head of the High Committee for the Festival, Representative of the Ruler at the Western Region, praised the status camels held in traditional Arab life.
“Although the camel has always been a companion to the Arab during his travel in the old days, today camels still play a part in our lives, as thousands of people continue to attend camel races and watch what is perceived as part of our heritage.”
World’s biggest shopping mall to open in Dubai
(DPA)/KHALEEJ TIMES 25 March 2008
Berlin -The biggest shopping centre in the world is being built in Dubai beside the Burj Dubai skyscraper and is due to open in early September.
“The Dubai Mall will have about 1 million square metres of space,” says Rene Hingst of Dubai Tourism at the recent ITB travel fair in Berlin.
There will be about 1,200 shops, an ice-rink and an aquarium, according to the real estate company behind the venture.
On completion, the Burj Dubai will be highest building in the world.
In addition to offices and private apartments, the building will also house the first hotel laid out by Italian fashion designer Georgio Armani which is due to open in 2009.
Tourists, who do not plan on staying in the hotel, will also be able to visit the building. There will be special tours with the highlight a trip to the tower’s viewing platform, which according to Hingst, will be the highest in the world.
At the moment, the tower has over 165 floors and will have a few more before it is finished.
The building’s final height has not yet been decided on, but the 600 metre mark has been passed. Total height will exceed 700 metres.
Rash drivers get hefty fines as tough law takes effect
By Bassam Za’za’, Senior Reporter GULF NEWS Published: March 24, 2008, 00:43
Dubai: A reckless motorist caught drink-driving in the early hours of March 1 has become the first person to be sentenced in Dubai under the updated traffic law, which came into force the day he was caught.
The Dubai Traffic Court of First Instance gave the 34-year-old Emirati motorist a hefty Dh20,000 fine for reckless and drunk driving and jumping a red light.
The same court fined a 30-year-old female flight attendant from former Yugoslavia Dh10,000 for driving her car under the influence of liquor.
A similar fine (Dh10,000) was given to a 50-year-old Pakistani driver who was also found guilty of jumping a red signal when he drove his car inattentively and under the influence of alcohol.
“These rulings are considered the first amongst others verdicts to be handed down by the Traffic Court in Dubai since the updated traffic law came into effect as of March 1. We will be appealing these rulings to the Dubai Court of Appeal and ask for the implementation of the toughest punishments applicable under the newly revised law,” Salah Bu Farousha, the Head of Dubai’s Traffic Public Prosecution told Gulf News on Sunday.
The newly-amended Federal Law No. 12 (2007) came into effect on March 1 at midnight and at 4am the 34-year-old driver crashed into another vehicle after he jumped a red light under the influence of alcohol.
The court seized his driving licence for three months. He was also fined Dh500 for tinting his car windows 50 per cent. He confessed to the charges and asked for leniency.
Want emergency leave? Don’t ask your employer
Ahmed Abdul Aziz (Our Staff Reporter) KHALEEJ TIMES 16 March 2008
ABU DHABI – An employee can take emergency leave without seeking permission from the workplace or the sponsor, provided he/she has completed two years with the current sponsor and has leave balance, said an informed source in the Ministry of Labour (MoL).
Goumaa Al Roumaithi, Legal Advisor to the Disputes Department in the MoL, told Khaleej Times on March 16 “According to the labour law, if a worker has completed two years with the current sponsor, he/she can apply for any number of days as emergency leave.
“In such cases, workers should have enough leave balance, otherwise the employer has the right to make deductions from the worker’s salary,” said Al Roumaithi.
He pointed out that about 90 per cent of the labour complaints are about their rights regarding the annual leave, overtime and air tickets.
The MoL’s Disputes Department has received many complaints from workers demanding their rights after employers deducted amounts from their salaries although they had leave balance.
M.S., a Syrian accountant, said that the company he works at deducted about Dh1,300 from his salary after he had applied for one week’s leave to travel to his country to attend to serious family matters.
The accountant was shocked when he received the salary slip to find the deduction from his salary. “I asked the administration and they told me that I’m not allowed to apply for further vacation other than the annual leave despite there being more than 20 days leave balance,” he said.
“In case a company deducted an amount for the number of days a worker went on leave, it would pay the deducted amount back to the employee because he/she has already completed two years with the company. Moreover, he has leave balance. Hence, there were no justification to deduct the days of the additional leave,” added the MoL’s legal advisor.
Workers who face such violations of their rights by employers can go to the Disputes Department of the MoL in Mussafah Industrial Area and lodge a complaint.
The legal advisor warned the companies not to victimise and terminate any employee arbitrarily because he/she has complained to the ministry.
“If a company does that the employee can demand three months’ compensation, the right to transfer his sponsorship without referring to the current sponsor, and inform the Inspection Department at the ministry to inspect the erring companies,” said Al Roumaithi.
I don’t know where to direct parents when they ask me for a private school suitable for their special needs child, says Noura Al Moutawa, Director of Special Education section at Administrative Services Unit.
Ministry to collect statistics on those with special needs
By Siham Al Najami, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: January 10, 2008, 23:32
Dubai: The Department of Special Needs Education in the Ministry of Education (MOE) is willing to integrate various cases and increase the capacity of special needs pupils only if they have the equipment, facilities and sufficient training programmes.
However the MOE still does not have reliable statistics on the number of pupils with special needs that are partially and fully integrated into schools.
Dr Aisha Al Jalahma, Director of the department said they are working on compiling this data to create a report on the list of materials, human resources and programmes needed to develop special education.
“Special certificates” for special needs pupils integrated into public schools will be issued upon their completion of an academic year and upon their graduation from their schools, she said. The department has also developed an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for these students, which is in line with the integration of pupils with Down’s Syndrome and with the recent initiative of including pupils with autism.
Special needs pupils included in mainstream schools will study with peers in their age group but will have a modified curriculum.
Noura Al Moutawa, dir-ector of the Special Education section at the Administrative Services Unit in Dubai said much is needed to improve special needs education in private schools.
“I don’t know where to direct parents when they ask me for a private school suitable for their special needs child. We hardly have any private schools catering for these children,” she said.
There are also negative consequences in taking in children with special needs without the approval of the MOE as many of the schools are inaccessible for children with special needs. At the same time, teachers and the administration are not trained to deal with these special cases.
Before enrolling a student with special needs, the Special Education Unit looks into the applicant’s forms and documents. The child is then interviewed by the speech therapist; special needs specialist and psychiatrist followed by a comprehensive report sent to the MOE for approval.