I’ve been planning to write a post about the supposed ‘death’ of Jordan’s middle class for ages, but sadly did not have the time (please have a look at the lively discussion I started about this in March). But I’ve been asking everyone, from millionaires to taxi drivers about this and have started to form my own opinions on the economic situation of people in this country.
My tentative conclusion is that while a NEW middle class is coming into being and growing, an OLD middle class (teachers, government employees) is suffering from the rise of the cost of living. And then you have journalists who are connected to the old middle class who end up writing in the papers about the death and burial of the middle class.
A discussion with a middle class friend of mine last week (he’s alive, not dead by the way , taught me something important. When trying to understand people’s economic situation, don’t listen to what people say but look at what people do (and consume).
- More and newer cars on the streets of Amman
- Mobile phones in every pocket
- Fast food chains that are growing
- Al Waseet newspaper which doesn’t go below 88 pages in the winter
- Shopping malls expanding and new one being built
- Satellite dishes on every roof
- Pages and pages of holiday trips ads before public holidays
Yes, as I said, some people are having a worse time. But don’t tell me all this rise in consumption is just driven by the 2% rich elite in Jordan (the ‘Winners’ according to Nahed Hattar).
It has to be said that one real problem facing the middle class is the rise in property prices. On the flip side, banks are becoming more active in promoting housing loans.
The other problem when talking about personal finances is that of defining what ‘middle class’ means. I was talking to a quite rich person the other day. Definitely upper middle class or higher. The man considers himself ‘just’ middle class.
OK. I AM middle class. But if I compare myself to the 19 year old kid driving that Hummer or 100,000 JD Range Rover, I am ‘poor’. The rich in Jordan are showing their wealth, which gives many people the feeling that they are poor.
A variation on this issue is the question weather the investments in Jordan are trickling down to the poor or not. My Ajnabeeyeh friend says no:
Ajnabeeyeh: Jordan’s Reaganomics:She’s been talking to taxi drivers and lot of other people and came to the conclusion that life is getting more expensive and ‘things are out of control’.
So listen up, all you elites here in Amman: I’m getting more and more evidence that all this cash flowing into the country hasn’t yet even started thinking about trickling down to the have nots. Honestly, I’m getting really tired of people saying that this is the only way for things to move ahead, blah, blah, blah.
This ‘trickling down’ question needs some serious study, again, beyond what people say. Maybe the money is trickling down to the new middle class. Try to find an architect or engineer in Amman these days, for example. The construction boom is undoubtedly creating jobs for them. Newspapers have a lot of employment ads. There is more work. But there might be structural, social and educational problem that that prevent a better trickle down effect.
The other problem with Jordan’s current investment boom is how focused it is on construction. Construction does create jobs, but not the kind of jobs that have longer term effects and that increase the amount of intellectual capital in the country.
When the situation was bad a few years ago, Jordanians started to get creative and talk about the importance of the IT sector. We were to become a knowledge economy. Exporters of software. Owners of intellectual property.
The current boom, driven by petro-dollars has spoiled us once more. And we might be missing a chance for longer term development.
“Intellectual property” sounds so hard, doesn’t it. There’s this difficult word in it. Err.. What? intell.. intellectu.. what? Just delete it man and invest in what you know. You know? “Property”!
Read these related posts on 360east:
- If your a rich or poor Jordanian, you’re still going to be FAT!
- Jordan’s middle class: Dead? Shrinking? or Growing?
- So, do you consider yourself rich or poor? Get an immediate answer!
- Easy’s Stelios call for investment in tourism and liberalization of the airline business in the Middle East
- Al Wihdat football team discovers the REAL Third World
Bookmark this post on your favorite bookmarking service