Working class hit by high cost of living

ABU DHABI — The spiralling costs of accommodation and a combination of factors arising from steadily rising costs of essential commodities, mainly food items, have sparked a wave of exodus of families in the low and middle-income groups, as breadwinners of the families are left behind to fend for themselves on bachelor status.

By N. Srinivasan

Published: Sat 13 Aug 2005, 10:23 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 7:13 PM

"It is a painful decision to take, but there seems no other option," said Murali Tuttital, who runs his own small contracting and maintenance company at Madinat Zayed, that is already host to a large number of taxi drivers, huddled together in fours and fives in apartments in five-storey buildings which seem to have outlived their utility.

The one-bed room apartments have gone up from Dh25,000 to Dh32,000 while the three-bedroom units have registered a sharp rise from Dh36,000 to Dh46,000, even in this unpretentious locality, not to speak of other coveted areas in the heart of the city.

It is sometimes inconceivable that the tenants leave the apartments in search of more affordable options, and the buildings lie vacant, the landlord unmindful of the dormant status of his property, until he finds a new taker.

The upswing in costs is a normal phenomenon worldwide, reasoned Rasheeda Sultan, a Pakistani housewife, who as a secretary in a private company brings home Dh1,250 a month, while her husband who is a salesman chips in Dh2,000.

"Our salaries have remained stagnant and with three school-going children, we cannot afford to maintain decent standards of living," she said, while preparing to dispose off the furniture and household appliances, in winding up operations, leaving behind only her husband to share the flat with other 'bachelors' in similar plight.

"There was optimism in the gulf capital markets, with local investors bracing up to plans as oil prices took a quantum leap from just over $10 a barrel seven years ago to the vicinity of 60 now, but in terms of salaries for the average working class, there seems to be no difference, taunted as they are with inflation inching up to double-digits," said her husband Fazl-ur-Rehman.

However, enquiries with principals of some schools revealed that there has been no perceptible fall in the student strength.

"Parents manage to squeeze themselves within a tight budget, as getting admission in schools back home involves expenses, mainly in the form of donations to be paid, ostensibly for the school building funds, and other problems such as finding custodians who can take care of the children," said a teacher at the Abu Dhabi Indian School.

While many of the affected parents pitch no claims for increase in salaries, as that is a matter solely dependent on the performance of the companies, they are of the firm opinion that landlords should be "kept on a leash" by some regulatory authority so that they do not resort to arbitrary hikes in rents, in total disregard of the interests of their tenants.

It is also not viable to move to residential apartments on the outskirts of the city, as such Mussafah, Shahama and Khalifa City, as to-and-fro transport charges will prove prohibitory, considering that there is no orderly public transport in place, noted a resident, who shares a room with three others on Hamdan Street, each one paying Dh850 per month, besides sharing equally the water and electricity bills.

A redeeming feature of the capital city, they conceded, is the affordable costs of travel by taxi, a most journeys within the main arterial roads do not exceed Dh5, while a sojourn to Mussafah is just about Dh10, to and fro in shared taxi rides.

The prospects of finding employment in other neighbouring states, once not long ago, a viable option, have also dried up now, considering the security concerns that these states now face, the public debts the countries have to handle and the flux in the phase of the various exercises to reinvigorate their reforms process.

There is a limit to which expenses can be curtailed. One can curtail weekend outings, dining out and indulgence of the like. "But how far can you cut corners when it comes to procuring a roof above your head, three meals on your dining table or sending your children to schools?" is the poser of some of the hard-hit surveyors of the scenario.

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