A long line of people waiting to pick up their Emirates ID cards wraps around the main post office in Abu Dhabi.
A long line of people waiting to pick up their Emirates ID cards wraps around the main post office in Abu Dhabi.

Emirates Authority apologises for ID card pickup delay



The Emirates Identity Authority (Eida) is apologising for the long delays faced by people trying to obtain their ID cards.

Residents in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah have had to endure waits of up to four hours at post offices in recent weeks.

Dr Ali Al Khouri, director general of Eida, said the waiting time should be a fraction of what it currently is.

"Customers should be able to receive their cards within five days and have a waiting time no longer than 10 minutes," Dr Al Khouri said.

But Emirates Post staff at various post offices are struggling to cope with the overwhelming number of customers seeking their ID cards.

Eida announced yesterday that it would extend the period for ID card pick-ups from the Emirates Post offices from 30 days to 90, from the day the client receives their notification.

Other immediate measures taken by Eida and Emirates Post include increasing the hours and number of employees at the high-demand offices, and keeping some post offices open on Friday.

Emirates ID registration deadlines have already passed in Abu Dhabi (April 1) and Sharjah (February 1). The deadline for Dubai is June 1.

These dates are a significant factor in the record numbers of cards being issued across the Emirates, said Dr Al Khouri.

"People tend to wait until the last minute to register, so we are printing the largest rate of IDs ever, around 30,000 to 35,000 a day," he said.

Dr Al Khouri said a streamline of the registration process has reduced waiting times to 10 minutes, compared with the three or four hours it used to take.

"From 2005 to 2009 we registered a total of one million, but since then we have processed more than 5.5 million applicants," he said.

Ibrahim bin Karam, chief executive of Emirates Post, agreed that the surge of customers and resultant delays were due to the great increase of identity cards required to be delivered. "We deliver on average 32,000 cards per day across the country," Mr bin Karam said.

Lines stretching out the door and around the building have become a daily sight at the capital's main post office.

Rajan Seaverir, an Indian security guard at a pipeline in Sweihan, had to take most of the day off work to obtain his card.

"No buses or drivers were provided and I am over one and a half hour's drive away," said the frustrated Mr Seaverir. "I had to leave at 10.30am, arrived at 12pm and have been waiting for almost five hours now. This is too much."

Azhar Mehmoud of Pakistan received a message saying his card had been distributed to a courier for delivery, before a second message told him to go to the Abu Dhabi post office.

"I've been waiting for four hours," Mr Mehmoud said. "I applied in Mussaffah, but had to take time from work to come here. Why is there only one office for this many ID cards?"

Mohammad Shoja of Bangladesh said he had to come to the city three times from Mafraq, where he lives.

"The first time I got the message they told me to come back in 10 days; the second time same thing," Mr Shoja said. "Today they are telling me to come back again in two days."

Eida also said it had not charged people for delivery for more than two years.

"If we continued to deliver then we would have had to pass on the costs to the customers which we wanted to avoid," said Dr Al Khouri.

Eida said it had asked Emirates Post to begin delivering IDs in packages to companies for distribution among their employees to lessen the burden.

It is also considering decentralising the printing process, to allow residents to get their cards at the same time and place that they apply for them.

Delivery of cards by courier or to individual post office boxes, and by electronic kiosks, are planned by the end of the year.

But for now, people still have to put up with long lines that extend out into the increasingly hotter climate.

"This has to change and fast," said Abu Al Hussain, a Bangladeshi tailor who had been waiting for more than four hours, mostly in the sun. "We are losing time and patience."

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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