Perils of progress: Many Qataris are deep in debt


About 60 to 70 per cent of Qatar’s native population fall in the limited-income category and they are basically surviving on bank loans and credit cards, said Jaber Rashid Al Marri.

A senior government official, Al Marri told The Peninsula yesterday the citizens were feeling the pinch of the rising cost of living more than others. “Inflation is a major concern in our community, especially because it is leading to indebtedness. The situation doesn’t bode well for the society," he said.

Like every society, Qatar has the rich, middle and the lower classes. “I would say that about 60 to 70 per cent of our population fall in the third category."

"Being a community leader, I know my people closely and I know that many of them are suffering due to the steep price rise," he said. The income of these people, who are either retired or have few earning members in their families, is limited.

“There are large numbers of Qatari families who are so much in debt that, despite having several earning members, they are left with barely QR1,000 at the end of a month due to deductions for loans and credit card paymentd. You can imagine their plight.”

Al Marri said recently, Abu Dhabi’s government announced a 70 per cent salary hike for its employees. “We want our government to follow suit. We want 100 per cent raise in our salaries so we can offset the impact of the rising costs," argued Al Marri.

Blaming the trading community for manipulating and pushing the prices up, he said there was a severe lack of state surveillance. The government must hold the traders accountable if they raise prices without any valid reasons.

“I was shocked when I recently visited a shop to buy pampers for my child. I had bought pampers for QR15 from this very shop a month ago. But this time the man demanded QR40 for a similar pack. This should give you an idea of how the prices are being manipulated by the outlets," said Al Marri.

Ahmed Ibrahim Al Sheeb, a former member of the Central Municipal Council (CMC), however, said he did not favour salary hike in the government sector because the moment it happens traders would raise the prices of essentials.

“I am opposed to salary increase because the surplus income would be taken by further inflation," said Al Sheeb, who conducted a study on price rise early this year while he was in the CMC.

Abdul Mohsin Al Ghanem, also a government employee, said he favoured salary increase in the government sector but it should be done without making any public announcement. “Salaries should be raised secretly,” he told this newspaper.

If it is announced, traders would jack up the prices of all consumer items, said Al Ghanem.

Another citizen who did not want his name in print said the government had some time ago raised the salaries of its employees by 40 per cent but the move was of no help since the costs had risen by almost the same level or more.

He said indebtedness was increasing in Qatari society primarily because people were living beyond their means and taking loans to splurge money to show off and on luxury. No Qatari is taking loans to meet basic household expenses which are going up due to higher inflation, he said.


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