78. Commuting

Sometimes you have to look really deep at something to see the reasons behind it and nothing gets the bar stool classes jabbering quite like a new law.  Unless you have been living at the bottom of the sea for the past week you may have noticed that there has been a lot of brouhaha about Abu Dhabi government employees having to move to their city of work.

To begin with let’s go back through the reported facts so we can all broach this subject in a clear, level-headed manner.  First of all, Abu Dhabi government employees must now live within the borders of the emirate.  Secondly, you have a year to do it.

Right, that’s the facts done with, now let’s move onto the thoughts.  My first query is to ask for clarification of what a government employee actually is.  Is it just the folks working in the Ministries?  Does it include expatriates?  What about those who work for companies that are funded by the government?  What if you have a branch in a different city and you have to deliver some headed paper?  Is that illegal?  It seems that everyone works for a government entity somewhere along the line.  So really, is it all of us?

One of the main factors for this seemingly bizarre movement is that the government wants to cut down on traffic between other emirates.  That basically means the Abu Dhabi-Dubai road only.  This raises many problems.  What if you live in Dubai and commute to Abu Dhabi each morning because Dubai is your home?  What if your wife works in Dubai, she will then need to commute from Abu Dhabi to Dubai as opposed to you doing it the other way around.  What if Dubai brings in the same law?   All you’re doing is, well, nothing to curb the traffic and lining up a few divorce cases in the courts instead.  And that will require more driving.

Rents in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are much cheaper than they used to be a few years ago, and lets be honest, commuting isn’t very expensive.  Fuel here is so cheap that it will hardly dent your debit card.  If you work in Abu Dhabi but live in Dubai then the odds are you have chosen it to be that way because it is more economical for you.  Yes they say that commuting is one of the most stressful things in the world, and that was true in the days of brown flared trousers, beards and un-air conditioned Austin Allegro’s.  But these days even the cheapest Kia is a comfortable place to be.  Stick on a bit of Kenny and Accalia’s Breakfast Show and – try – to enjoy The Eagles.

This road safety rhetoric that is being championed as the primary reason is highly flawed and, in all honesty, a poor excuse.  The new law means that you could still live in Al Ain and commute to Abu Dhabi and that makes no sense at all since it is a longer drive than that from Dubai.   During the rush hour the E22 is just as busy as the E11.

This inevitably leads us to the conspiracy theory.  Have you seen how many brand new developments there are in Abu Dhabi?  No, well there are many.  Have you ever driven through any of them?  They are like ghost towns in some cases, totally void of life because I can only assume they are too far out of the city or too expensive to buy or rent.  For as long as they all sit there merely taking up space they are not making any money so it stands to reason that the investors of such places are going to want action.  The bottom line is that they need filling, and there’s no time to waste.

See honey, I told you it was worth it. Ok I know that we’re 458 kilometres from the nearest Lulu Hypermarket but at least we won’t go to jail

I mean the places on Saadiyat Island and Yas Island actually look great, but they are very far out of the city.  Yes ok in 10 years the city may have reached out to them but you won’t be here then.  The villas opposite Ferrari World, despite looking like the town in Edward Scissorhands, are too far from the hustle and bustle of civilisation.  Taxis only come by on a Tuesday morning so if you want to pop out for a beer you’re looking at AED 240 there and back in taxi fares.

Of course you can’t really argue with a law and if you work for the government and are told that you must move to Abu Dhabi then that’s what you have to do.  But that means Johnny Landlord will smell you coming and spend hours of his free time adding extra 0’s to all the rent figures before he flees to Lebanon.  He can afford to do that because he knows you have no choice.  Sadly it means that all you will be able to afford is a wheelie bin, without a lid.

This is a lot to take in and if you’re a high flying Gordon Gekko type person then I’m sure spending AED 14 trillion on a new penthouse in the capital isn’t going to be a problem, but what about regular Joe’s who don’t earn as much?  If the government is willing to fund homes in the capital for its lesser paid employees then hurrah, victory dance, but how long can that dynamic last?  He’s paid to build them, now he’s paying for you to live there.  Does the money even exist?

Ultimately you should be weighing up the cost of a 90 minute commute against living in a wheelie bin without a lid.  If it’s cheaper for you to live in Dubai and drive to and from Abu Dhabi then that makes sense.  Otherwise quit your job and get a new one closer to home.

Alternatively, just don’t tell your boss your address, because addresses don’t exist anyway.

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