Quotes: US MENA   Enter Symbol: NewsLetter: Search: advanced

Politicians and the middle class: A modern love affair  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - Arab News - 09/10/2012

No. of Ratings : 0
Add to Mixx!


(MENAFN - Arab News) ONE of the great truths in the world today is that politicians, especially those in the West, are fascinated with the middle class. This fascination often borders on love.

Politicians' adoration for this group of people is based on the assumption that they wield great power and influence: According to popular Western belief, elections are won and lost based on how the middle class behaves. The problem is that we all struggle to define who or what the middle class really is.

Statements by a number of politicians over recent weeks have reaffirmed their fascination with the middle class. Geography is no barrier. In an interview with the Financial Times in London, Brazilian President Dilma Roussef, responsible for running Latin America's largest economy, said: "This, I think, is a very important gain for Brazil - that is, to transform Brazil into a middle class population." In the US, the Republican Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, launched a staunch defense of the American middle class, arguing that the policies of President Obama have "crushed" them during the last four years. The centerpiece of Gov. Romney's attack on Obama during the first live debate was that he would not raise taxes on the middle class if elected. In fact, it was notable how often Romney repeated this line, over and over again. In Britain, elections nowadays are almost exclusively devoted to wooing the middle class, much to the irritation of those who do not consider themselves middle class, who therefore feel marginalized.

Who and what is this middle class that everyone seems so keen to help? I normally define the middle class using two metrics (I'm no social scientist so experts might disagree with me): One is money, the other is education. If someone earns a sufficient amount of money not to be considered poor, but not enough to be rich (all of course very subjective terms), then they can be considered middle class. Basically, their income will hover around the national average. Alternatively, the metric I slightly prefer is concerned with education and the "type" of life someone lives. Very simplistically, highly educated people who work in an office are considered middle class.

The key point is that in the vast majority of cases, members of the middle class are richer rather than poorer. And this is where politicians come in. The reason, I believe, that the world's leaders are increasing their focus on their middle class populations - promising to expand their number and look after them better - is because of the ongoing world financial crisis. Across the world, from developed to developing markets, unemployment is high and in many places rising. In some African countries, over half of the working population is unemployed; in crisis stricken Spain and Greece, a quarter of the working population does not have a job; in the US, the unemployment rate is at a historically high 8.1 percent. Even those still in employment will have had their incomes squeezed. By definition, when politicians talk about expanding the ranks of the middle class, they are effectively saying they will make people richer. With so many people in the world out of a job, it is of course a welcome message. When Dilma Roussef says "we want a middle class Brazil" she is basically talking about lifting people out of poverty.

The problem is that when advancement in life is dependent on employment, if there are no jobs available it is very difficult to move onward and upward to fulfill your natural potential. This is why I believe the social side of life will be key to a lot of human progress over the next few years. How well we are educated and how much we engage in civic life, religious activity, charity work and so on will better define our lives.

Nowhere is this debate more important than in the Middle East today, a region which has experienced such upheaval over the last two years. One obvious observation must first be made: The middle class in Manhattan is clearly different from the middle class in, say, rural Egypt. They may occupy the same layer in society, but a New York banker is very different economically to an office worker in southern Egypt, perhaps struggling on a low wage. The latter might be described as from the middle class, but he may be not far from the poverty line too. The key difference between the two will be the amount each spends on non-life essential products, such as food and water. In New York, a lot of personal expenditure is devoted toward education and entertainment; on the banks of the Nile, it will be clothing and housing. Despite these differences, it is universally true that being middle class is a self-perpetuating process: The richer we get, the more we focus on intangibles such as, first and foremost, education. Then of course the better educated we are the wealthier we become.

Over time, more people from the developing markets, some of which are found in the Middle East, will enter the middle class bracket. Politicians who can harness this movement by providing new opportunities will be thanked at the ballot box. Dilma Roussef of Brazil, for example, famously owes her electoral good fortune to Brazil's poor, who voted for her with the hope of leaving poverty behind.

The messages are clear: Middle classes are here to stay, are growing, and have different life priorities than their ancestors did. Politicians across the world who are willing to work with this social change will do very well. That is why Mitt Romney, for one, has re-focused his campaign toward them, making earnest promises and expressions of good faith. He probably lies awake at night worrying about what they think of him. He may not know it, but he is in love.

- John Burman is managing director of an investment advisory firm based in London.


  MENA News Headlines
Apr 24 2014Qatar- HH Sheikha Moza Meets Mayor of Kobe Visits RIKEN Research Institution ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Kobe April 24 - Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser Chairperson of Qatar Foundation for Education Science and Community Development (QF) today held a meeting with the ...

Apr 24 2014Qatar- Sidra-BMC Event Boosts Biomedical Research Publishing ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Doha April 24 - A symposium organised jointly by Sidra Medical Research Centre and BioMed Central (BMC) mulled trends in research and on open access publishing here ...

Apr 24 2014Qatar- Mannai Corp Q1 Net Profit up 73% to QR 150.1 Million ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Doha April 24 - Qatar Exchange listed Mannai Corporation (QE: MCCS) net profit is up 73% to QR 150.1 Million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2014 ending March 31 ...

Apr 24 2014Bahraini firms forecasted to grow 10 pct ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) In a report based on a study of over 650 companies across GCC, Kuwait Financial Centre (Markaz) forecasts a growth of the Bahraini companies' earnings by 10 percent in 2014, Gulf Daily News ...

Apr 24 2014Israeli Army Storms Deir Samit Village West of Hebron ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) bron April 24 - Israeli army forces stormed at dawn Thursday Deir Samit village southwest of Hebron city in the West Bank. The Israeli forces conducted raid and search ...

Apr 24 2014Qatar Airways to add more seats on Doha-Vienna route ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) Qatar Airways plans to offer more 1.700 seats on its Doha-Vienna route beginning from September 2014, according to Gulf News. The company aims to expand the growing passenger demand from ...

Apr 24 2014Qatar- QFC Authority Five-a-Side Football Tournament Kicks Off ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Doha April 24 - Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority's first Five-a-side Football Tournament is displaying dribbling skills of executives from Doha's financial ...

Apr 24 2014Qatar Stock Exchange Down 0.05% ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Doha April 24 - The Qatar Exchange ended in the red area when trading closed Thursday at 12954.93 points (0.05%) down 6.63 points from the previous closing of 12961.56 ...

Apr 24 2014Israeli Tanks Enter Gaza Border area ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Gaza April 24 - Six Israeli military tanks on Thursday entered a border area in the southern Gaza Strip witnesses said. The tanks crossed into Gaza in an area called ...

Apr 24 2014President Salva Kiir Relieves his Chief of the General Staff ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Juba April 24 -South Sudanese President Salva Kiir relieved Chief of the General Staff of south sudan army James Hoth Mai. This came in a presidential decree aired ...

Apr 24 2014Afghan Guard Shoots Dead 3 Foreigners in Hospital ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Kabul April 24 - Three foreigners including a doctor were shot dead and their colleague wounded when a guard of a private Cure Hospital opened fire on them in the ...

Apr 24 2014Omani non-oil exports to enter African markets ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) A senior official at the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OCCI) said that the Sultanate is seeking expansion in new African markets, in a time it is looking forward to reduce its ...

Apr 24 2014Georgian Justice Minister Leaves Doha ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Doha April 24 - HE Minister of Justice of Georgia Tia Tsulukiana left Doha on Thursday morning wrapping up a two-day official visit to the country. An agreement on ...

Apr 24 2014US Secretary of State Meets Egyptian Intelligence Chief ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) shington April 24 - US Secretary of State John Kerry has met with the Egyptian Intelligence Chief Major General Mohammed Ahmed Fareed al-Tohami who is currently ...

Apr 24 2014Egypt's Interim President Receives Phone Call from South African President ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Cairo April 24 - Egypt's Interim President Adly Mansour has received a telephone call from President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma in which they discussed ...

Apr 24 2014Uruguay Public Health Minister Meets HE Qatari Ambassador ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Montevideo April 24 -Minister of Public Health in Uruguay Maria Susana Mu?iz met here on Thursday with HE qatari ambassador to the republic of Uruguay mohamed hassan ...

Apr 24 2014Egyptian Premier Off to Chad ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Cairo April 24 - Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlib left cairo on Thursday for Chad the first leg of a three-day two-state trip that will also take him to Tanzania ...

Apr 24 2014Australian Federal Parliament Deputy Speaker Meets HE Qatari Ambassador ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) Canberra April 24 - Australian Federal Parliament Deputy Speaker Bruce Scott met here Thursday with HE Qatar's Ambassador to Australia Yousef bin Ali Al ...

Apr 24 20143 GCC countries among top 30 on network readiness index ,MENAFN
(MENAFN) According to an annual global technology survey for network readiness index for 2014, three GCC countries have made it to the top 30 list for the third year in a row, Gulf Daily News ...

Apr 24 2014Morocco Admitted As Observer Member to SICA ,Qatar News Agency
(MENAFN - Qatar News Agency) La Romana Dominican April 24 - Morocco has been admitted as an observer member in the Central American Integration System (SICA) which also includes each of Belize ...





Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

MENAFN News Market Data Countries Tools Section  

Middle East North Africa - Financial Network

Main News
News By Industry
News By Country
Marketwatch News
UPI News
Comtex News

IPO News
Islamic Finance News
Private Equity News

How-To Guides
Technology Section

Travel Section

Search News

Market Indices
Quotes & Charts

Global Indices
Arab Indices

US Markets Details


Oil & Energy

Currencies Cross Rates
Currencies Updates
Currency Converter

USA Stocks
Arab Stocks

Saudi Arabia 

Investment Game
Economic Calendar
Financial Glossary

Portfolio Tracker


Financial Calculators

RSS Feeds [XML]

Corporate Monitor


Real Estate
Submit Your Property

Arab Research
Buy a Research

Press Releases
Submit your PR

Join Newsletters

© 2000 menafn.com All Rights Reserved.  Terms of Service | Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Advertise | About MENAFN | Career Opportunities | Feedback | Help