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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Dh11 billion fund could transform the lives of hard-up Emiratis

Swift decision after a radio phone-in will ensure no one slips through the net

Umm Al Quwain, which has less than 80,000 people and contributes less than 2 per cent of national GDP, is being redeveloped in a modernisation push. Victor Besa / The National
Umm Al Quwain, which has less than 80,000 people and contributes less than 2 per cent of national GDP, is being redeveloped in a modernisation push. Victor Besa / The National

When Ali Al Mazrouei, a struggling father-of-nine from Ras Al Khaimah, called Ajman Radio last month because he felt “life was starting to close its doors in our faces”, as he later told The National, he was expecting empathy. After diabetes and high blood pressure forced him out of his job as a driver, Mr Al Mazrouei struggled to support his family on benefits of Dh13,000 a month. Instead of hearing his woes, radio host Yaqoub Al Awadhi responded by questioning his financial management skills. DJs are hired for their ability to entertain but they should understand that words can be weapons. Mr Al Awadhi, who was suspended after the incident, learnt that lesson the hard way.

The incident fed a larger discussion and debunked preconceptions about the living conditions of some Emiratis, particularly those in parts of the Northern Emirates. Although the UAE ranks 14th globally for GDP per capita, not all Emiratis are affluent. For those who have to work hard to eke out a living, changing circumstances can bring undue hardship. In 2016, the charity Dar Al Ber Society, which handed out more than Dh73 million in aid, helped 15,000 people, among them Emiratis, with basics like food and school supplies.

Effective leadership, embodied in the legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father Sheikh Zayed and celebrated in 2017’s Year of Giving, is marked by those who act swiftly and decisively to alleviate suffering. At its heart is an awareness that government exists to serve its citizens, particularly those most in need. It was in that spirit that Mr Al Mazrouei was invited to an audience with the Crown Prince and Ruler of Ajman and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, ordered that he be helped immediately. Just days later, the UAE Cabinet has announced the launch a Dh11 billion fund to assist low-income Emiratis and hired Mr Al Mazrouei as a social researcher. The fund could transform the lives of other less fortunate citizens, who might otherwise have slipped through the net. For that, they can thank the UAE’s responsive leadership and a brave father, who suppressed his pride and shared his pain on live radio.