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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 October 2018

Golden years visas will enrich the whole community

Offering retirees the chance to stay in the UAE will have countless benefits for the nation

Robert and Cindy Nicholas left the UAE in 2009 after 24 years to retire to Cyprus. Under the new rules, foreign residents will be allowed to stay after retiring. Delores Johnson / The National
Robert and Cindy Nicholas left the UAE in 2009 after 24 years to retire to Cyprus. Under the new rules, foreign residents will be allowed to stay after retiring. Delores Johnson / The National

The decision to offer foreign residents the opportunity to remain in the UAE after they retire will be welcomed by those who have spent many happy working years here and regret having to leave the country they have come to think of as home.

It also promises to transform the social, economic and cultural fabric of the nation in countless positive ways.

Coming at the same time as details emerged of the multiple government initiatives designed to shape Abu Dhabi’s post-oil economy, under the Tomorrow 2021 banner, the UAE Cabinet announcement made it clear that those who wish to can continue to feel the warm sands of the Gulf between their toes in retirement.

There are, of course, certain conditions, but they are not necessarily onerous.

To gain a retirement visa, retirees must either own a property worth at least Dh2 million, have savings of at least Dh1 million or a monthly income of Dh20,000. Other details need to be ironed out.

Elderly populations require more healthcare, so adequate insurance provision will be essential. Some will inevitably grow infirm as they age.

Most will lack family support and retirement and care homes are likely to become a burgeoning part of the local economy.

But the UAE has much to gain from the anticipated shift in demographics. At the moment, more than 60 per cent of the population is aged between 25 and 54.

Thanks to the current retirement policy, only about 3 per cent is between 55 and 64, with those over 65 accounting for a mere 1 per cent.

The offer of retirement visas – a first for GCC countries – is not simply a sentimental gesture but a significant contributing factor to a sustainable economy.

Last year foreign residents sent home Dh164.3 billion, much of which could have been invested in property, savings and pensions. Now this substantial cashflow could be directed instead into the local economy.

Economic benefit, however, is only part of the story. People coming to the end of their careers are equipped with a wealth of wisdom and experience that can often be put to good use in the community.

Many UAE residents develop an appreciation of local history and traditions that, in retirement, could be directed into social and cultural enterprises, enhancing the overall quality of life.

Some might even start small businesses. Most importantly, knowing that they can stay here when their careers end will alter the attitude of generations of current and future residents, who will no longer feel they are just passing through.

The UAE can only benefit from this new breed of resident, fully engaged with and loyally committed to their adoptive country.