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Thu 8 Dec 2011 09:26 AM

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Sharjah gives AED120m boost to retired workers

Emirate’s ruler unveils fund for ex-public sector workers in latest slew of measures

Sharjah gives AED120m boost to retired workers
Abu Dhabi has pledged to spend $1.6bn to aid the UAEs poorer emirates, such as Ajman

The ruler of Sharjah has ordered a AED120m ($32.6m)
injection to the emirate’s fund for retired government workers after a slew of
federal measures outlining aid
to the northern emirates.

HH Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi
said during a radio address on Wednesday that retired citizens and
underprivileged Emiratis were most in need of additional funds.

“In addition to the Union’s expenditure on poor citizens,
Sharjah [will] investsAED120m on its own merit and will be giving an increased
allowance to this group,” the city’s media office said in an emailed statement.

In what appeared to be a statement in response to the wave
of Arab Spring unrest that has toppled rulers in Egypt, Libya and Tunisian,
Sheikh Sultan urged young Emiratis to “face any negative forces that aim to
‘create a hole in the ship’ with resilience”.

The UAE has so far avoided the upheaval that has affected
the Arab world but has moved to address the wealth gap between Abu Dhabi, Dubai
and the poorer northern emirates.

President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan last week
announced a AED10bn ($2.7bn) fund to help pay low-income citizens' debts and
said it would raise the wages of some state workers.

Senior officials in the UAE would receive a 35 percent pay
increase, while a 45 percent pay rise would be given to mid-level federal
government employees, the government said.

The UAE had already announced plans to invest $1.6bn over
three years to improve living conditions in the north and a 70 percent rise in
military pensions among other measures.

Oil-rich Abu Dhabi is likely to ramp up state spending
further
to avoid fuelling political tensions in poorer emirates, said Rachel
Ziemba, senior economist, Roubini Global Economics. 

“Spending on the
northern emirates is probably one of the few places where government spending
is likely to increase over the next 12 months,” she said. “The few political
strains we’ve seen within the UAE have come from the northern emirates where
economic opportunities are lower
and you have started to see the sense of
disparity of opportunity within the UAE.”

Residents
in the lower-income emirates are becoming increasing aware of the wealth disparity
across the UAE, said Theodore Karasik, director of research and development at
the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis.

“They
want to be treated on the same level as other emirates and not economic
backwaters.  But given the global economic crisis and new pursuits in the
north, the northern emirates are beginning to step forward,” he said.

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