As the cost of living rises, free distribution of hot bread to the poor has been introduced in Dubai, a wealthy Gulf emirate where millionaires go hand in hand with hardworking migrants.
The city of skyscrapers towering above the desert, which imports nearly all of its food, has been hit by rapidly rising consumer prices, a global trend exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ten vending machines were installed in supermarkets last week, with a touch screen computer that allows people to select different types: sandwich loaves, pitta bread or Indian flat chapati.
The machine has a credit card reader – for donations not for payment.
“A friend told me there was free bread, so I came,” said Bigandar, a young Nepalese who works in a car wash, not wanting to give his full name.
Like millions of Asian migrants, she dreams of making a fortune in the UAE.
He headed to Dubai, a city that has earned a reputation for conspicuous consumption and excess.
According to data from the government of the Dubai Statistics Center, the food price index, which tracks the monthly change in the cost of a basket of food, increased by 8.75% in July, year-over-year.
The cost of transportation jumped by more than 38%.
The bread machines are the initiative of a foundation established by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.
“The idea is to reach out to disadvantaged families and workers before they come to us,” said the director of the foundation, Zeinab Joumaa al-Tamimi.
Anyone who needs it can now get hot bread at the push of a button, he said.
The oil-rich UAE has a population of nearly 10 million people, 90% of whom are foreigners, many workers from Asia and Africa.
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Dubai, the commercial heart of the UAE, relies on this army of workers to build skyscrapers and for the service sector, from real estate to luxury tourism, on which it has built its reputation.
Bigandar, who has worked there for the past three years, says he earns three dirhams, or 81 cents, for every vehicle he cleans.
By working hard and with customer suggestions, he can earn between 700 and 1,000 dirhams per month ($ 190-270).
“My employer covers housing and transportation, but not food,” he said.
As a sign of the growing difficulties encountered by migrant workers, a rare strike in May was led by messengers demanding better wages in the face of rising fuel prices.
In July, the authorities announced a doubling of social aid, but only for the handful of Emirati families with an income of less than 25,000 dirhams per month (6,800 dollars), considered disadvantaged families.
This aid program does not include foreigners.
“Due to inflation and rising interest rates, there are many people whose wages are low and who, with the rising cost of living, are no longer able to meet all their needs,” said Fadi. Alrasheed, a Jordanian businessman who has lived in Dubai for 20 years. years.
According to the United Nations Report on World Migration, the UAE hosts nearly 8.7 million migrants, mainly from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.
Henley and Partners, a London-based investment migration consulting firm, estimates there are more than 68,000 millionaires and 13 billionaires in Dubai, ranking the city 23rd richest in the world.