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UAE econ min urges retailers to keep lid on prices

Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri praised the co-operation and efforts of retailers to reduce prices.

March 27, 2011 4:42 by

The United Arab Emirates economy minister urged leading retailers to show social responsibility by continuing to reduce prices of essential goods in the OPEC member country, the ministry said on Sunday.

The UAE, which has escaped public unrest unlike nearby Bahrain, Oman and Yemen, had agreed in March with retailers to cut prices of basic commodities by up to 40 percent for that month only.

Economy Minister Sultan bin Saeed al-Mansouri praised the co-operation and efforts of retailers to reduce prices.

“At the meeting, the minister discussed the key challenges faced by the retail sector, and urged the key players to uphold their social responsibility by launching practical initiatives to reduce prices and support market stability,” the ministry said in a statement.

The UAE authorities last made similar efforts in the oil boom year of 2008, when inflation reached a record high of 12.3 percent. However, current price pressures are anaemic with inflation at a three-month low of 1.5 percent in February. The UAE, the world’s third largest oil exporter, ordered a 70 percent pension increase for military personnel last week as part of measures to stave off dissent in the Gulf Arab state as protests sweep the region.

Earlier this month, the U.S. ally said it would hold its second-ever election to the advisory Federal National Council (FNC) in September, a step towards political reform in a federation run almost exclusively by its ruling families.
The country has also launched a $1.6 billion infrastructure investment plan for its less developed northern emirates, which cut a sharp contrast to oil-rich Abu Dhabi and trade and tourism hub Dubai.

Other measures unveiled recently include the introduction of state subsidies for rice and bread to combat rising prices, despite the UAE’s per capita income of over $47,000 being among the world’s highest.
Sources told Reuters last week the UAE could also roll back plans to hike gasoline prices.

Gulf rulers have offered a range of social handouts to their populations after uprisings brought down leaders in Tunisia and Egypt and protests erupted elsewhere in the Arabian Peninsula and north Africa.
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 so far in the UAE, where foreigners make up over 80 percent of the population of around 5 million. Neighbouring Oman has offered pay rises and a promise of legislative powers for its own partially-elected council. (Reporting by Martin Dokoupil; Editing by David Holmes)

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