Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sudan Now, Sudan Then Part II: The Moral Dilemma of the Middle Class

The point of this “blog thread” (for lack of a better phrase) that I started almost a year ago, was to point out what my small family is going through. Two working professionals and three small children and barely making ends meet. When I started, I wanted to write about how hard it is to afford a vacation or birthday gifts and reward the children with a “special” toy when the report cards come in.
I wanted to write about the struggle of buying shampoo and hair conditioner – and the perfume you wish you had. That was a year ago. Before South Sudan seceded (and we wish them luck on their new voyage) and before the economy of Sudan tanked. It didn’t “take a turn for the worse”; our economy did not “face sudden difficulties”. Our economy tanked.
The acceleration of the deterioration and inflation were swift, ruthless and fierce, as the day oil money was gone, the entire country learned a lesson in economics overnight. The oil that been pumping for most of the government’s 26 years in power was gone. The oil revenue was nowhere to be seen. Not in strategic projects, not in agricultural programs, not in the country’s infrastructure, nor in our educational or medical institutions.
The money was gone. All of it.
Not even the naïve wondered where it had gone. There was some speculation about how the Sudanese Government owned a complete “frond” of The Jumeira Palm in Dubai. Others spoke of towers in Malaysia and villas in Turkey. A few officials had purchased local apartments in the distinguished local “Misheirab” Qatari Project, spun the rumor mill.
This speculation may vary in figures and geography but they all came to the same conclusion. Sudan was broke. Sudanese officials were rich. Hmmm… (For the record, the President spoke on National Television, that livelihoods were in the hands of God, implying that the disgruntled were heathens).
The official rate of inflation over the past year was estimated between 40-60%. That is a large range but the truth of the matter is that it is not reflective of the expenses of the Sudanese citizen that have more than doubled.
What does an average family need? School tuition and associated transport expenses. School Sandwiches. Food. Breakfast at work. Filling up the car. The occasional household purchase. Detergent.
As our young family struggles to keep up with our middle class[1] needs, you can’t help but think of the other families. The single income, working laborer that has the same commitments as you. He too has to pay rent. In a country where public education is no longer free, they too have tuition, and too often, their children go without sandwiches. Prepaid power bills and talk of pre-paid water too. The children become malnourished. Then they are susceptible to sickness that cripples the family, attempting to pay for medical treatment, or accepting with heartbreaking resignation, the death of their child.
How can my country go on like this?
Cry, beloved country.
The well dressed man rummaging through the trash has become a familiar sight. The old man at the street light begging for change and the men of all ages selling tissue boxes on the streets. (I don’t get that; when did disposable tissues become a “must have” item for all vehicles?)
How has my life changed as a middle class working professional? Our grocery list has taken a hit but while we cut back on meat, they cut back on meals. We cut back on shampoo and imported detergent, they cut back on soap. We cut back on power bills, they cut back on power.
I find my struggle very real and resent the fact that it sounds bourgeois. I tell my children that we can’t go on vacation but they tell their children that there is no food, this night. I resent the fact that a country should provide basic living for its people, and anything more is considered a luxury.
It hasn’t always been like this. As a matter of fact, we can say that it has never been like this because this government managed to take an operating nation and turn it into an oil producing nation with the longest river in the world, and reward it with the dubious position at the top of the Failed State List (http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/washington/2007-06-18-failedstates_N.htm).


[1] Personal classification that is open to dispute, because if middle class means the average, then in my country, the middle class do not have basic human needs.

1 comment:

Siham Elmubasher said...

I think that we were left without any middle class after all,but that should not be an issue if the other classes donot suffer the trauma.In Egypt the lower class has all those basic needs and it's this category or majority who determine the stability of government.There are unions and organizations who support them to have food and secure health care .Truly a fairly balanced society in my opinion not perfect but aware.god bless Sudan and its miserable life.Cry alllllll the beloved Sudan!