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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Sheikh Mohammed announces Dh11bn fund to help low income Emiratis

The move comes after an Emirati man who was mocked on a radio show for telling of his financial struggles attended the UAE Cabinet meeting

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid pictured with Ali Al Mazrouei at the Cabinet meeting on Sunday. Courtesy: WAM
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid pictured with Ali Al Mazrouei at the Cabinet meeting on Sunday. Courtesy: WAM

The Cabinet established a Dh11 billion fund on Sunday to help low income Emiratis, after the case of a UAE national who could not afford to care for his children made headlines and generated a debate about standards of living.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid made the announcement on Twitter after ministers heard from Ali Al Mazrouei about the struggle to support his family.

The Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai invited father-of-nine Mr Al Mazrouei, 56, to the meeting after hearing of his plight when he called into Ajman Radio's live programme Al Rabia Wal Nas and was mocked by the show's host.

Sheikh Mohammed called for the meeting on Saturday to review the Minister of Community Development's action plan to support low income citizens.

On Sunday, he said they heard Hessa Essa Buhumaid's plan and adopted the fund accordingly. Sheikh Mohammed said the Cabinet also appointed Mr Al Mazrouei, who is from Ras Al Khaimah, as a social researcher at the ministry.

"A nation moves when a citizen is hurt," Sheikh Mohammed tweeted on Sunday. "That is what [Founding Father Sheikh] Zayed wanted".

Of the Dh11bn, Dh3.88 bn will go to social assistance for the elderly, Dh1.55 bn for those with a financial and health problems, Dh 1.7 bn for disabled people and Dh183.9 million for families of prisoners, as part of the federal government's social assistance plan.

Dr Saeed Al Mutawa, Federal National Council member for Sharjah, said that the main message is that the UAE government and leadership responds to the needs of its citizens.

“These proposals had already been in the pipeline and have been discussed several times,” Dr Al Muttawa said.

“Ali Al Mazrouei might have helped speed up the process, but they were already in progress.

“In no country in the world does the leadership respond so fast to the needs of their citizens."

He added: “Mr Al Mazrouei was offered a job based on the belief that he is the best suited to know the needs of this segment of society.”

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Read more:

Dubai Ruler invites Emirati mocked on radio show to attend UAE Cabinet meeting

Sacked Ajman Radio anchor says he was protecting the UAE's reputation

Struggling Emirati caller finds his voice heard after mocking on live radio

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Salem Al Shehhi, FNC member for Ras Al Khaimah, said the tale of Mr Al Mazrouei, who left his job as a government worker after becoming ill, “broke our hearts and we felt his pain and anguish as if it were our own".

On Sunday, Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said he was "proud and happy" to see Mr Al Mazrouei attend the Cabinet meeting.

"Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid listened to his suffering and healed it," Dr Gargash tweeted.

“Thank you Abu Rashid for your assurance that citizens are the focus of government work,” he said.

Last week, Mr Al Mazrouei told The National that he called the radio show because he felt “life was starting to close its doors in our faces.”

“Instead of just worrying in vain every day I decided to take a proactive step," he said.

Mr Al Mazrouei worked as a driver in RAK but had to retire on health grounds. He has diabetes and high blood pressure. On the show, he spoke of the rising cost of living and how hard it is to live on Dh13,000 in health benefits from the Government.

He said many Emiratis are not as wealthy as stereotypes might suggest, and they themselves struggle with the rising cost of living.

When he phoned Ajman Radio's morning talk show on March 29, he tried to highlight what rising living costs meant for families like his.

When he spoke of inflation and the cost of basic goods, the show’s co-host Yaqoub Al Awadhi interrupted him to say there "there are retired people whose salaries are Dh10,000 and even used to be Dh7,000" before the government raised payments.

The anchor went on to suggest that someone who could not live on that amount must have poor skills in managing finances and does not appreciate what he has.

The ill-tempered exchange continued for some time.

When news of the argument reached Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman, he ordered the suspension of Mr Al Awadhi from the radio show.

The Emirati anchor told The National said he was merely protecting the country’s reputation and did not mean any harm to the caller or anybody else.

“I did not want his words to downsize the efforts of the country and its leaders in providing for the people,” said Mr Al Awadhi.

“I felt upset, and I was upset when he said half of the Emirati people, as in 500,000 locals, are living poorly … this is an insult.”

He has since apologised publicly to Mr Al Mazrouei live on another show, Al Bath Al Mubasher, on Ajman radio.

*This article has been amended to reflect the correct amount of money allocated for the fund.