In reference to Peter Hellyer's opinion article Tourists need a place in the village to stop and spend (February 1), this is so true. As he rightly says, these villages will just die out otherwise. We were in Bastakiya (which is beautiful) in Dubai last Friday, and there are a couple of museums there but they are only open in the mornings on weekdays. Why don't they at least open from 4pm until 9pm to give people who go there later an opportunity to walk around and see some of the UAE's heritage? Lizzie English, Dubai
In reference to the article Small firms help UAE defy world downturn (January 24), I downloaded the GEM 2009 Global Entrepreneurship Report and was pleased to see the UAE classified as an innovative economy. The UAE seems to have done well on many metrics, such as the availability of informal capital and government policy and promotion. The fact is that government support has a big impact on a nation's development, regardless of free market theories. The UAE should strive to open more funds for various categories of entrepreneur, build more regional and global ties and keep investing in education and technology transfer. Athar Mian, UK
Just because the UAE saw the biggest rise in new start-ups, does not indicate that it is an attractive place for new businesses. A tax free environment is appealing, but current laws prevent foreign ownership of local business, so from an investor's perspective, this constitutes a massive risk and not an attractive environment at all, though sometimes the potential for return on investment is worth the risk, particularly when global credit has dried up elsewhere.
Start up costs and red tape makes it very difficult to set up business without a substantial capital investment and the appropriate wasta (influence). If you can manage to secure both, then, agreed, this is a great place to start a new business. Depending on the industry, the current climate in business may not encourage investment. For medium- to large-sized businesses, with proper support locally, the UAE has enormous potential to generate substantial returns. For the small "would be" business owner, the creative entrepreneur, wanting to bring local solutions to fill a gap in the market, the chances of start up are slim and the chances for long term growth and sustainability are even slimmer. SM, Abu Dhabi
The headline of the article Genuine competition needed in telecoms (February 2) is a true statement. Unfortunately it will be a long time before it will prove to be beneficial to the UAE economy. The writer of the article misses several essential criteria for genuine competition: the players must be true competitors and the regulator must be independent. With Etisalat and du both effectively being state controlled, the two operators are not really in competition as they serve the same paymaster. And with the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency being directly related to Etisalat management, the regulator can hardly be called independent. There is more: in the UAE there is only one international gateway - owned and operated by Etisalat - so du has no choice but to utilise the gateway (and its prices).
It is hard to see any third party entering this environment, as it will not enjoy a level playing field. Several international operators have set up base in UAE recently, among others South Africa's MTN, with a view to investigate applying for a third licence. I truly hope that the UAE government goes on liberalising the telecoms market so that privately-owned companies can make the difference. Only true competition, with an independently operating regulator having an eye for the consumer's interest, will get price levels down and service levels up. And only that is in the interest of businesses and private consumers alike. While it's nice for Etisalat and du to be able to substantiate their profit levels under the current protective regime, it is holding back the economic development of the country and diversification. Maarten Elffers, Abu Dhabi
In reference to the article Abu Dhabi police ticket 783 tailgaters (January 31), the fact that the police issued so many tailgating fines and only checked two streets would seem to imply that they only scratched the surface of the problem. Tailgating is a very dangerous practice and the police should issue fines to those who do it on any street at any time whenever they see it happen. Catching so many in such a short space of time only serves to highlight the problem and does nothing to bring it under control. To do that the police would need to issue fines consistently to all perpetrators all the time.
James Dean, Abu Dhabi