Thursday, November 20, 2008

There's always a but.

If you read my earlier posts you'll know that I had a relatively easy run getting my ID card.

Frustration with the website, but I eventually got the necessary pages printed. It was easy, almost pleasant, at the EIDA Al Barsha registration office. The card has been delivered as promised.


My family name isn't on the card. Instead it has my first name and my father's name.

Both are correct, it has my photo and I assume it has my fingerprints linked to it. But I'm sure it's going to raise problems when I give organisations my surname, which differs from what they're going to see on the ID card.

So I'm off to Al Barsha again next week to talk to someone.

And while I'm on the subject, the ID card debacle continues for most people.

Once again a fiasco is caused by the two things I complain about endlessly. Bad planning and bad communication.

The syndrome blights so many things, whether it's creating a development like Dubai Marina, introducing the Salik toll system, creating the road network, introducing the national ID system.

The way it works is that the big announcement is made and a deadline/delivery date is given.

The work begins but it was badly planned and the faults start to appear. For real estate and roads that means digging it up and rebuilding to a new plan.

With initiatives like Salik and ID cards various officials start by denying there are any problems, then begin to give contradictory statements to the media. The media plays it's part by simply repeating the confusing statements. This goes on for days or weeks, with ever-changing 'information' appearing each time.

The media doesn't even seem to ask for clarification. You know, stuff like: "Official A yesterday said the opposite, would you please clarify the position. I'll hold the story until you can come back with the definitive answer. Thank you."

The ID card fiasco follows the pattern.

I'm absolutely certain the originally announcement was that the December 31 2008 deadline was for Emiratis. Expats had longer and I'm almost sure that I remember it as being 2010.

It was in the back of my mind and I was waiting for the announcement that we expats should start to register.

Then an official suddenly announced a few weeks ago that the deadline for 'expat professionals' is also December 31. There were dire threats of not being able to access government services and the freezing of bank accounts. (Denying people access to their legally obtained money is an interesting idea).

Officials maintained we all knew months ago about the deadline. In fact it transpires that some ads had run in some Arabic media - which supports my memory of the deadline applying only to Emiratis.

I loved this quote on the subject: EIDA was under no obligation to make announcements in other languages and that it was the responsibility of every resident to be aware of the country’s laws.

That's hardly in harmony with the country's official policy of welcoming expatriate guest workers, whether they can read Arabic or not, is it. Workers who make up at least 80% of the population. If laws are changed how do the expats living here know unless they're told.

In any case, no-one had done the maths because the EIDA offices simply don't have the capacity to process the number of registrations in the time-frame, (Dubai has only six offices) and because the website didn't have enough bandwidth to handle the traffic.

As a result people have been queueing for half a day or more to simply get a ticket which gets them in a queue to make an appointment to be able to register.

People report having gone as directed to get application forms only to be told there aren't any. (It was exactly the same with Salik, remember?)

The website didn't work properly, (again, shades of Salik) arbitrarily changing information which was keyed in, as happened to me and others I know, and refusing to print the barcodes.

The mayhem starts and the frantic catch-up game is played, in place of planning correctly in the first place.

Extra bandwidth for the website, corrections for its faults, the release of CDs containing the forms.

And in the background, continuing confusing messages on an almost daily basis.

Bank accounts will be frozen. No they won't.

Everyone missing the deadline will be fined. No they won't, only Emiratis will be.

Government services will be denied. No they won't.

The deadline is December 31. No it's not, it will simply take longer if professionals register after that date.

Communication you see. And it continues with the difficulty of translation, understanding the meaning of words.

The word 'deadline' is, I'm sure, a key part of the problem.

They don't mean 'deadline' they mean 'should do by'.

Or at least that's what the latest information is saying.

They're trying to spread the load by registering professional workers first, before they begin registering the massive numbers of blue collar workers from early next year. Professionals can still register after December 31 but will be in a long, long queue. So it's not a deadline, but a suggested date to make it more convenient for everyone concerned.

Using the word 'deadline', especially as it was used in conjuction with the threats, predictably caused panic.

The chaos and confusion happens time and time again yet it's so easily avoidable.

Plan it professionally and competently, communicate it clearly.

Have a look at the beginning of the chaos, here.

I've just come across Alexander's excellent posting on the subject, over at Fake Plastic Souks and it's well worth a read.


The Ego said...

Do let us know how it works out with regard to the lack of the surname on the card...

This "deadline" thing is really weird though...

i*maginate said...

seabee, like you, I read about a year ago that the cut-off timeline was 2010 for expats...

What I just don't comprehend is that if traffic is costing the economy ca. 4bn, it surely costs a lot for all these people queuing up, taking time off work (or businesses) and, according to reports, being turned away to come back another day.

Added to that, what is the point of the nat. ID card, really? Thirdly, is the cost of running this operation in the fashion that it's been run justifiable, and what is the cost to the government so far in the apparently miscommunicated scheme?

Is there any point in asking these questions? Is anybody listening? Does anybody apply logic to new plans? Does anybody care?

Seabee said...

i*, the cost to the economy of all the stuff like this must be enormous. The obvious way, as the ID card is linked to Residence Visas, would have been to do the two things together. ID centres in or next to Immigration centres, get your Res Visa, go straight to ID and do that.
Two things done in one hit, the 5 million or so ID registrations spread over three years.

Is anyone listening? They simply say there were minor problems which are now all sorted out, registering is now very simple.

i*maginate said...

seabee, still no logic to the idea of nat. ID cards. Don't agree with your solution. E-govt is the master of all solutions, and delivery is hopefully imminent, in our day.

i*maginate said...

seabee, GN reports registering for the card has been troublesome for most. One can't always believe what one reads. Therein lies the problem.

Seabee said...

i*, feel free to not agree with what I say, plenty of people don't agree with lots of things I say!

Believe what the papers say? I've long been sceptical about what's said and what's reported. Not just here either, it's a world-wide problem.

i*maginate said...

Not that I disagree, but it's just hard to believe (though I literally believe you) lol -

The comment about e-govt was sarcastic. How can things go e when theres so much fraud here with ATMs etc.

I was recently asked to post some docs ... does the postal system actually work? For that matter, does the Internet work like it should? Didn't network coverage fail to work about 2 weeks ago in the morning? And didn't the whole power system in Dubai fail about a year ago? How about the Al Quoz blasts that looked like a volcano eruption.. or the motorway disaster in the fog.

In keeping with the post title, there's always a but.