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Thu 24 Mar 2011 11:43 AM

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UAE boosts military pensions, unveils bonus scheme

Latest in UAE state handouts, follows $1.6bn spending plan for poorer northern emirates

UAE boosts military pensions, unveils bonus scheme
The UAE has ordered a 70 percent pension increase for military personnel

The UAE has ordered a 70 percent pension increase for
military personnel in a move that could stave off dissent in the Gulf Arab
state as protests sweep the region.

The order by President Khalifa
bin Zayed al-Nahayan, released by state news agency WAM, includes bonuses for
ministry of defence and armed forces staff and is effective in March.

It appeared to be the latest in a string of moves by the world's
No. 3 oil exporter to pre-empt unrest that has hit wealthy Gulf Arab states
that considered themselves in the past immune to political strife.

Last week, the US ally said it would hold its second-ever
election to the advisory Federal National Council (FNC) in September, in a
cautious step towards political reform in a federation run almost exclusively
by its ruling families.

The FNC election in 2006 had 6,600 voters, including 1,160
women, and accounted for less than one percent of the population.

Earlier this month, the Gulf state launched a $1.6bn infrastructure
investment plan for the less developed northern emirates, which cut a sharp
contrast to wealthy trade and tourism hubs like Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Other measures unveiled recently include an agreement by
supermarkets to cut prices for food and other essential goods by up to 40
percent in March, and the introduction of state subsidies for rice and bread
from April to year-end to combat rising prices.

This is despite a per capita income of over $47,000, among
the world's highest.

Gulf rulers have offered a range of social handouts to their
populations in an effort to mollify them after uprisings that brought down
heads of state in Tunisia and Egypt in January and February and sparked similar
protests in Bahrain and Oman.

Earlier this month, a group
of UAE intellectuals petitioned their rulers for free elections, in a sign some
Emiratis share growing Arab demands for a greater say in government.

There has been no sign of street protests in the UAE, where
foreigners make up over 80 percent of the population of around five million.
Neighbouring Oman has offered pay rises and a promise of legislative powers for
its own partially-elected council.