When the financial crisis struck in 2008, the number of cars abandoned became a kind of barometer of the effect on the UAE. Many expatriates who lost their jobs, some after being here just a few short months, decided to jump ship and head home, leaving behind massive debts and, in many cases, almost-new cars.
At the time, figures for abandoned cars varied according to who was asked, from the optimistic few hundred to the more realistic thousands. Four years on, as The National reports today, cars are still being ditched despite an improvement in the economic situation. And the numbers are still considerable.
According to Dubai Municipality, 3,040 cars were abandoned across the emirate during the first three months of 2012, a rise on the 2,738 in the same period of last year.
The municipal inspectors have their work cut out identifying the abandoned cars. Many have been left to rot in residential parking spaces and underground lots, making them difficult to discover. In such cases, it is vital that building-management companies and landlords cooperate with authorities in identifying cars that have been abandoned on their properties.
Even after a car is confirmed as abandoned, the process is complicated. Once recovered by the municipality, the cars can eventually be resold. But the journey from car park to auction lot is a time-consuming one, requiring plenty of paperwork and mechanical evaluations.
Here, a bit of entrepreneurship might offer a solution. Abandoned cars will naturally suffer from wear and tear, but there will always be a demand for used luxury cars, especially at what could be drastically discounted prices. To be sure, any business that can carry out the entire process - from identifying abandoned vehicles to the eventual sale - would deserve to make a profit, irrespective of the benefit that would accrue to the municipality.
A drop in the number of abandoned cars would be welcomed as another sign of the economic recovery. Given the value of the vehicles, there should be a win-win solution to clear out these parking spaces.