On August 1st the UAE will no longer regulate the price of oil. Instead the prices will be set according to an average of international benchmarks. Historically, UAE citizens and residents have enjoyed protection from international oil price fluctuations through government subsidies. Hence the reason the topic of fuel prices hasn’t really been an issue of concern at a community level.

A few of the common questions I have been asked to comment on are what these new prices mean for me as a family man? How will they impact my day-to-day life? What does this mean for the way of life we have grown accustomed to? Where commodities such as fuel, electricity, water, and food have been kept very affordable regardless of the prices beyond our borders.

First and foremost I want to point out that I believe this is a great move for the UAE, economically and socially. Although the timing is a little bit of a concern but I will address that later. What I like about this the most, to use the Ministers exact word, is that it “Liberates”.

The actual definition of liberate is to set free from imprisonment, slavery, or oppression. By shifting away from subsidizing such a valuable commodity you liberate, you set free all the money that was only promoting bigger, faster, and less efficient ways of life. Now all the freed up resources can be spent on building fundamental elements that help us grow as a society such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, and community welfare.

Will there be short-term pains? Probably. Will certain sections of society feel an impact? Of course, my wife is already asking if they sell the Toyota Prius or the Nissan Leaf in the GCC. More importantly, will we as a society adapt? No doubt. Look nobody is excited about higher expenses, with many of us it is the last thing we need given the excessive school fees and increasing rents in a questionable global economic environment. However as with any big change to our way of life it will take some getting used to. Eventually we will all reach a new state of normal with the social and economic changes, and be stronger and more efficient because of it.

Another positive note that I am taking away from the deregulation process is the level of engagement on behalf of the Minister of Energy who took time to address the questions and concerns from the community. Every previous change or increase was simply announced and life goes on. This new approach shows a strong element of care on behalf of the leadership and Ministry to address issues from the get go and maintain an open dialogue as this process gets underway. There will no doubt be certain bumps and bruises that we all might experience further down the road, it’s just good to know that the authorities will have their eyes and ears on the ground and be ready to support.

So what are my concerns? Well I previously mentioned the timing issue that I had with deregulation process. Currently we are being told not to pay too much attention to the changing prices since any increase or decrease will be minimal, and they’re right. Having said that the current price of a barrel of crude oil is around 54 dollars. To put this in perspective the last time the prices were this low was in 2009 as a result of the economic crash. Just prior to that the oil price reached an all time high of 136 dollars in June 2008.

Here is a good chart to show you how the prices have fluctuated throughout history. What this chart will show you is that the prices today are at 10 year lows, but pretty much at an average price level historically. Hence my concern is that even in saying we are not to be concerned today, which we shouldn’t be, what if prices go back to above 100 dollars a barrel? How will feel then? I believe that is when our ability to adapt as a society will be put to the test, and here is what I believe will help that process.

First and foremost is public transport, which is the only part of the press release from the Ministry of Energy that I disagreed with. They were quoted as saying “Public transport is good”. Let’s be realistic, it isn’t. For many Emirates there is no alternative to using a car. Apart from Dubai there are no other metro or tram systems in the UAE. Even then the services don’t cover all points of the city. Out of curiosity I logged on to the Abu Dhabi Department of Transport’s interactive portal www.darb.ae and the bus system is comprehensive, but again quality and accessibility is always a concern.

The quote further states “In every society around the world the low-income population use public transport, except in the UAE”. I agree completely, but higher fuel prices aren’t going to change that until we actually have a comprehensive public transportation system, one that is comparable with international counterparts.

It says a lot about the development of a community when even high income people in certain parts of the world use public transport. In some cities around the world people actually think you are weird for having a car. It reminds me of a great quote by Columbian politician Enrique Peñalosa Londoño who famously said “An advanced city is not a place where the poor move about in cars, rather it’s where even the rich use public transportation”. That is what I hope we are aiming for.

Secondly, the committee that gathers to set the price include representatives from the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Finance, and CEO’s of the distribution companies. What I would like to see are senior members from the private sector and community included in this committee in order to formally share their views on the day-to-day perspectives and impact certain prices are having on their businesses and communities.

This is not a “complaint box” mechanism to voice our concerns. Rather I see it as a direct line of communication to take social or business matters into consideration which could potentially be incorporated into the committee’s research or passed on to other authorities to address.

I think we can all agree that the UAE has always been a place that prides itself on the ability of citizens and residents to live in comfort, safety, and stability. Our leadership and authorities would never make a decision to the detriment of the people who live here, and always go above and beyond to support our way of life. So even if prices go up, even if things may get a little tighter, even if we have to let go of our SUV’s sometime in the future, it is all for a better cause. It’s to invest in a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where future generations should have access to the benefits and opportunities we have been so lucky to have.

If I have to pay a little more so my children and the children of every parent that call UAE home can enjoy their future so be it. I think that is the type of mind shift that people are going to go through. Where contribution to the development of our country is going to come directly from us, where we support our government the way our government has supported us. I believe that’s my duty as a father, it’s my duty as a human being, and it’s my duty as a proud Emirati.