DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The United Arab Emirates is boosting state salaries and offering citizens other perks to mark the Gulf nation’s 40th anniversary, following similar moves by other Arab countries to try to soften challenges by their increasingly restive populations.
The federation’s president, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, announced Wednesday that public sector workers will get raises of 35 percent or more starting in January. Some employees will see their base salaries doubled, according to details carried by state news agency WAM.
The UAE has not experienced the widespread popular uprisings of the Arab Spring, and the huge raises appeared to be at least in part an attempt by the government to keep it that way.
Many of the UAE’s citizens rely on government jobs, which include generous pay packages and other benefits. The salary hikes were among a number of measures decreed by the federation’s president to coincide with the country’s National Day on Friday.
The president also ordered the establishment of a $2.7 billion fund designed to provide loan assistance for lower-income citizens, and broadened the definition of who is eligible for citizenship.
Citizens account for little more than 10 percent of the UAE population, which is mainly made up of guest workers in the country temporarily.
According to the decrees, children of Emirati woman married to foreigners may now apply for citizenship once they turn 18. Previously, only children with two Emirati parents or an Emirati father were typically granted citizenship — giving them access to cradle-to-grave government perks like free health care and education.
WAM said Sheik Khalifa issued the decrees because of “his keenness to achieve the welfare of the citizens and help them (reach) their ambitions in a stable and comfortable life.”
Several Mideast nations have boosted state salaries in the wake of this year’s Arab Spring uprisings. In September, nearby Qatar announced wide-ranging salary increases that include raises of 60 percent for some civil servants and up to 120 percent for military officers.
The UAE has seen only limited calls for change and has kept a tight lid on reformers.
On Monday, Sheik Khalifa issued presidential pardons to five activists who were convicted of anti-state crimes for signing an online petition calling for reforms. They were found guilty a day earlier of endangering national security and inciting people to protest at time when uprisings against authoritarian rulers raged across the Middle East.
The UAE ranks second only to Saudi Arabia as the Arab world’s largest economy. It is OPEC’s third biggest oil exporter and includes the Middle East’s commercial hub Dubai.
The International Monetary Fund expects the country’s economy to grow 3.3 percent this year, helped by sustained high oil prices.
Sheik Khalifa assumed control of the seven-state union following his father’s death in 2004.