ABU DHABI // Low-income car owners expressed delight yesterday at an 11th-hour government policy shift that postponed a ban on re-registering old cars. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, on Sunday overturned an Interior Ministry ruling that would have stopped cars aged 20 years or more being re-registered from yesterday. The announcement was made hours before the new regulations were due to take effect.
An Interior Ministry statement released on Sunday said Sheikh Khalifa had put the brakes on the scheme in order to allow low-income car owners more time to make alternative travel arrangements. It also allowed "concerned authorities" to carry out a more detailed study of how to implement the restrictions, the statement added. The National Transport Authority said the law would have taken more than 140,000 vehicles off the roads by Dec 2009 as part of a plan aimed at cutting pollution which would also have reduced road congestion.
Yusuf Khalifa Abdullah al Salmi, 30, who owns two Toyota 4x4s bought new in 1991 and 1992, expressed his joy at the last-minute reprieve. "Sheikh Khalifa's heart has always been with the people and he understands that people will be hurt by this." Mr Salmi can still register the vans for at least another two years. He had been frustrated that his family would have been forced to give them up. "Both cars still run well. The bodywork is in good shape and they are clean. I know I can rely on them to run for at least another five or maybe even 10 years," he said.
"The Government should not be deciding whether a car should be scrapped or not. So long as the car meets emissions standards and passes annual inspections, it should be allowed to remain on the road. Why scrap perfectly good cars that people of limited income depend on?" He said only people in the automobile export business would profit from the introduction of the law. "What will happen is that someone will profit from exporting these cars out of the country to places like Yemen, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Since the cars cannot be re-registered the only thing to be done with them is scrap them or export them."
Musalam Saleh al Rashdi, 29, from Saudi Arabia, laughed with delight and threw his hands up in the air when he heard the news. He planned to register his 1989 Nissan Bluebird as soon as possible to guarantee it could be used for another year. "I bought it for Dh2,000 (US$545) last year and use it to travel between Dubai, Baniyas and Musaffah," he said. "I don't have any money for another car, and I don't have a job that will allow me to finance a new or used one. The car still runs and I have every intention of using it until it dies. It doesn't cost very much to keep it running."
Mohammed Yusuf Nawaz, 37, from Pakistan, bought his 1987 Mazda 323 last year for Dh2,000. He planned to keep it until it became too expensive to maintain on his Dh1,000-a-month salary. He said he had no idea what he would have done if the ban was in place when his car was due to be re-registered in February but was "very happy" the implementation of the law had been postponed. "Several of my co-workers depend on me for transportation and losing this car would have been devastating for all of us," he said, adding that he hoped the legislation would be scrapped altogether.
Other new regulations due to be introduced from Jan 2009 will ban the transfer of ownership of cars older than 10 years. At least 420,000 cars fall into this bracket. It was not clear whether there would be any change to this deadline or if the extension of the ban on re-registering cars aged 15 years or more, slated for introduction from Jan 2010, would continue as planned. The UAE has one of the highest levels of car ownership in the world with around 1.8 million vehicles on the roads.