News of the Middle Class

By Jumana Ghunaimat

تم نشره في Wed 27 September / Sep 2017. 12:00 AM - آخر تعديل في Thu 28 September / Sep 2017. 12:16 AM
  • Jumana Ghunaimat

Wishfully, had the figures published in Tuesday’s piece on the shrinkage of the Middle Class in Jordan come from an official report, they would’ve been far more accurate, and helpful.

More must be done to shed light on the erosion of the middle class. We need solid, reliable, accurate information, instead of speculation, and instead of having to resort to compiling data, comparatively, in an unscientific approach.

After all, we’re journalists, not experts on statistics and surveys.

The report was prepared by our colleague at the Economics Department, Samah Beibars, who put a lot of effort into the comparative compilation, based on inconsistent data.

Back in 2008, former minister, Dr Ibrahim Saif, oversaw the first income census focused on the middle and fixed income classes in Jordan.

The second study was conducted in 2010 under the ministership of Dr Jaafar Hassan, currently Director of the Office of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Back then, Dr Hassan was the Minister of Planning and International Cooperation.

More than six years have passed, and not a single update to the census or survey was conducted to check on how the middle class is fairing under the straining circumstances.

From the economic crisis nearly a decade ago to consecutive, unfair and uncalculated taxation polices, all of it has drained the average Jordanian household’s resources.

The middle class, being the wider segment of society, and the largest taxable income-demographic, has suffered a great deal since.

In the absence of precise official figures, AlGhad had only to improvise, estimate, and get as much accurate results as possible, bearing a reasonable margin for error.

Comparatively, AlGhad has found that the middle and fixed income classes have shrunk to 27.8 and 29.9 per cent, respectively, whereas poverty has increased to 23.2 per cent, in light of the latest census in 2013/2014.

Back in 2008, the middle-income segment comprised 41.1 per cent, down to 29 per cent in 2010, and now lower!

While the point is not to showcase these figures, which are cited in my previous article, the real focus here is to reiterate the obvious fact that the middle class is indeed eroding.

The class which comprises the backbone of society, the pillar of stability, progress, and change, and above all the catalyst of development, is shrinking.

If this isn’t enough to sound the alarm, someone tell me what is?!

We need to thoroughly understand the threat entailed by this erosion in order to construct a realistic vision which would help protect the middle class. Which leads us the important question: In the absence of clear figures and studies, how do we advance protective mechanisms to save the middle class from further erosion?

Of course, this cascades into a bundle of other questions.

How myopic are the government’s studies and strategies? How big is the gap between the government’s figures, surveys, plans, and reality?!

How on earth are we supposed to address an issue we know so little about? How big is the problem, really?!

What is the real role of the Statistics Department if not to make available the statistics on poverty and income distribution, including the middle-income segments of society?

Such information is indispensable to all orders of business and public affairs, from social security to economic stability, all throughout the mechanisms of national security. These statistics provide crucial data for planning under such extremely conditions as ours at this point!

We tried here, at AlGhad, to figure something out. In case we got it right, well, that’s good for all of us.

However, in case we get it wrong, well at least we tried, and we all know what they say about trial and error.

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

Franklin D Roosevelt said that in his book “Looking forward”, and there is a lot we need to do in order to look forward through the shroud of ambiguity surrounding us.

We need real accurate figure if we are to address the problem.

More so, withholding information and delaying instrumental data of such sort is not the way to rebuilding the state-citizen relationship either.

Just like the last census, this hesitation and secrecy will only raise questions and down.

Our only way around this, is not around it at all, but through it.

We need to revisit the standing situation and reassess our situation.

What news is there of the middle class?

Everything we have indicates that the Middle Class is falling apart, and it is the cornerstone of society, progress, and stability.

Poverty, on the other hand is rising.

So, what do we know and what are we planning to do about it?!

This article is an edited translation of the Arabic version, published by AlGhad.