x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Utility rates should be the same for all, says FNC

Council says Emiratis should all pay the same for gas and water, as some pay as little as Dh100 per month while others face bills of up to Dh5,000.

FNC members have voted to recommend that the Cabinet looks at ways to ensure all Emiratis pay the same for water and power.
FNC members have voted to recommend that the Cabinet looks at ways to ensure all Emiratis pay the same for water and power.

ABU DHABI // FNC members have called on the Government to look at ways of ensuring all Emiratis pay the same for water and electricity.

Some families pay as little as Dh100 a month but others face bills of up to Dh5,000, despite using the same amount of water.

Ahmed Al Shamsi (Ajman), who raised the issue with the Minister of Energy, Mohammed Al Hamli, said prices varied even within the same emirate.

"There are varied prices for electricity across the country," Mr Al Shamsi said. "It costs some Emiratis more than others. This goes against the constitution, which requires social equality."

The minister explained federal and local authorities charge different rates. The federal price for electricity was 7.5 fils a kilowatt, but authorities such as Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority charge 5.5 fils.

Water prices also vary greatly. In Abu Dhabi, every Emirati pays between Dh50 and Dh100, depending on how much they use.

In Dubai, the first 91,000 litres are free, and every litre after that costs 0.33 fils. In other parts of the country, Emiratis are charged at 0.44 fils a litre, with no free amount.

"In Sharjah, we can sometimes pay Dh3,000 to Dh5,000 for a whole family," said Mr Al Shamsi. "If it's someone living alone it can be around Dh300 to Dh500."

He said he was not asking for free water and electricity, "which could increase waste", but for parity between households.

Mr Al Hamli said: "As the member said, there are different rates in different places, 5.5 fils and 7.5 fils, according to my understanding. The ministry had decided it should be 7.5 fils. If local authorities want to charge less, it is up to them."

He said the federal prices were higher because the cost of gas had increased.

"In the old times, diesel and gas prices were close to each other," Mr Al Hamli said. "Now a gallon of diesel is Dh15, before it was around Dh2 to Dh3. So some emirates were able to get contracts for less."

Mr Al Shamsi said consumers were not concerned about the technicalities and simply wanted the inequalities to be ironed out.

He said it was the federal authority's responsibility to work with local authorities to devise a unified price system.

Most members agreed to put a recommendation to the Cabinet to investigate equal charges.

Equalisation would not be without risks. While it could mean all Emiratis pay the same as those who now pay least - Dh100 a month for water and electricity - there would be concerns that a uniform rate would be higher.

While not keen on any increases for themselves, Emiratis who spoke to The National agreed it was unfair for others to be paying more.

KD, who lives in an eight-room shaabi house in Al Ain, pays about Dh3,000 a month for electricity and water bills.

Her friend MH in Abu Dhabi pays Dh100 a month for a 10-bedroom villa.

"Maybe I use more electricity than them," said KD. "Probably not, but maybe there is a reason for the difference."

UAE residents consume on average 550 litres of water a day, among the highest rates in the world.