|English: Sharjah, UAE (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
As eny fule no, the UAE is a tax free country. This is a good thing, IMHO. It is not 'fee free' however and tenants must pay a 'fee' of 2% of their annual rent to the government and have their tenancy contract attested, which validates it in the eye of the law.
I duly presented myself at the appointed place and was given a queue ticket by one of the harried-looking chaps at the information desk. Clutching ticket 271, I couldn't help but notice the number on the board was 22 - and the hall was full of men standing around with tenancy contracts in their hands. After ten minutes, 22 had become 23 and I was starting to worry about the likelihood I'd be renewing my visa again before my number came up. I waited some more, starting to get that nasty feeling you get when you don't understand a system and are actually in the wrong place. Maybe the 271 related to another area or procedure? Surely I wasn't in a queue of 250-odd that was moving at one every few minutes?
By the time we got to 24, I went back to the information desk to check this was, indeed, my queue. Oh yes, said the chap. You have to wait unless you take the fast service. The what? The fast service. It costs 150 Dirhams. Right, I'll have one of those, please.
Ten minutes later, I'm out of there, clutching my attested contract. And while I am duly grateful for the fast service, I am left with two thoughts.
For one, rather than charge for a fast service, why not fix the system that's so broken that you need a fast service?
And thought the second is why did I sit and watch a man at Deyaar type my details into a PC, print them out on a form and hand it to me, which I duly took to the government office and watched a lady scan to input into some type of document management system? Surely, he could have filled out an online form - in fact, the entire process could take place online in a fraction of the time it's currently taking.
It's at that point I cast my mind back to 'the old days', when attesting a tenancy contract was a ten-step process of jostling queues and men who unpicked the staples from each bundle of papers before shuffling them around in a different order and restapling them and grunting 'seven' at you. This meant 'go and stand in queue number seven now for twenty minutes and he'll unpick the staple and reshuffle the papers back into their original order before grunting 'twelve' at you' and so on in the time honoured tradition of 10 PRINT ABANDON ALL HOPE; 20 GOTO 10.
The Fast Service is progress of sorts. I'll take it, with thanks...