Abu Dhabi residents are squeezed on disposable income

Abu Dhabi residents are finding themselves with a lot less free spending money.

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Rana Suri has lived in Abu Dhabi since 2011, and works as a nurse at a government-run hospital.

“During the first few years I was in the UAE, I spent a lot of my wages on electronics and gifts for family and friends,” says the 35 year-old Indian. “But now I have much less spare at the end of each month for such things.”

Ms Suri says she has noticed a 5 per cent increase in living costs this year compared to 2016. “Salaries have stagnated in the last two years,” she says. “In my department, we’ve seen no increments, and I feel like this will continue into the future.” Ms Suri says her 30-minute daily commute is also more expensive. “Before deregulation of petrol prices [in August 2015] it used to cost me Dh100 for a full tank. Now it’s gone up to Dh120 a tank.”

Ms Suri’s car insurance for her 2013 model, mid-size sedan was Dh1,350 in 2016 and hiked to Dh1,870 for 2017.

Although rents have been nosediving across the UAE, the benefits are not being passed to existing renters who, like Ms Suri and her husband, choose to stay put – in their case, in a two- bedroom flat on Electra Street. “When we renewed our rental contract, our landlord refused to drop the rent,” she says. “But when we looked at other apartments in our area, we saw the rent was 10 to 15 per cent below our Dh95,000 rate.”

Salik charges have risen in Dubai because the Al Safa and Al Barsha toll gates are now delinked, so it now costs Dh8 instead of Dh4 in charges for Ms Suri to drive to Dubai at weekends to visit her friends.

Two years ago, she took out a Dh320,000 five-year loan, which she invested back home in India. “I bought a home, and invested the remainder. I will use that for my future plans to mig­rate to another country – hopefully Australia or New Zealand, once my loan is repaid.”

But despite watching her dirhams these days, Ms Suri says she is still thankful. “Despite saving less money last year, overall since I have been in the UAE, I have made a lot more money than I would have done if I’d just stayed in India.”

‘I don’t visit the salon much these days’

Sara Guindi, a Canadian housewife, has lived in Abu Dhabi since 2013 with her Egyptian-Canadian husband and two daughters, ages one and three.

“Things started out really well and we were happy to be here,” says Ms Guindi, who is 38. “I worked as a technical specialist for a government entity from November 2013 to January 2016, but then I was let go due to budget cutbacks and company restructuring. So that was a major loss of income.”

Ms Guindi’s husband works for a private company in a fin­ancial sales role. “He doesn’t get a good salary, and salary payments are frequently late,” she complains. “Last year, payments were five months late at one point. Only small cash allowances were given to cover phone and car expenses.”

In the past 12 months, Ms Guindi has noticed rising gas prices, and says her family’s electricity and water prices have nearly doubled. The flat municipality fees of 3 per cent has also added to their monthly bills.

When Ms Guindi lost her job, she also lost her Dh1,500 monthly utilities allowance and company-sponsored education allowance. “Luckily our kids are still too young for school, otherwise it would have been a major cost increase,” she says.

Last November, the family decided to downsize from a two-bedroom apartment in the city (which was Dh95,000) to a one-bedroom apartment in Khalifa City A (Dh48,000) to save money. “We’ve also had to cut down on entertainment expenses like eating out, and I don’t visit the salon much these days,” she says. “We’ve opted to keep paying our nanny, because we don’t want to lose her in case I go back to work. So we’re currently not saving anything.”

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