Shame – 20% of Bahrainis are under the poverty line

"High Costs Aid" benefiting 98,000 Bahrainis press announcement
High Costs Aid benefiting 98,000 Bahrainis press announcement

In a country that is awash with multi-billion dollar projects and where these kinds of projects are announced almost on a daily basis, we get a front page snippet advising us that 98,000 individuals in Bahrain – most of them probably representing a family each – will be receiving a monthly stipend of BD50 (US$132) from the government as an aid to allay the effects of sky-rocketing prices of basic goods and services in this country.

Can you believe this? What is this country coming to? Isn’t the government responsible to every one of its citizens to provide them with adequate housing and jobs as is enshrined in the constitution? What does it mean when we are faced with pictures such as this in the national papers?

Bahraini woman looking through the trash in the mid-day heat
Bahraini woman looking through the trash in the mid-day heat

Is this picture not a resounding notice of the abject failure of the government in its various duties? And are these alms they are giving fully one fifth of our Bahraini population – most of them indigenous I should think – enough to raise their standard of living and allow them to surmount the poverty line they have been living under?

Things like this and the various “makramahs” or Royal Gifts, although very welcome I am sure, should never be the modus operandi of a government. It surely should enshrine and inculcate basic rights to its citizens and be prepared to be held responsible for failures such as this. Giving out a stipend such as this should not absolve it of its basic responsibilities.


  1. heraish

    Is it possible for you to post the link to the article. I am interested in reading the whole thing.


  2. Post
  3. Salman

    Now that Ramadan is here, prices will inflate even more! Sit back and hold on tight!

  4. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Bahrain: Fifth of population living in poverty

  5. Ali

    Things will never change in a society where you don’t pay taxes – no taxation, no representation.

  6. Migy Mao

    Bahrain was proud to be mainly middle class in the 80’s and early 90’s. However, due to all these projects that the government is proud about, the pushed the majority into poverty because they inflated the pricesof everything. Now we have rich and poor and the middle class will be extinct slowly. Very sad picture and the BD50 is a big show.

  7. Sam

    Glad to see expatriates aren’t living at or below the poverty line, but who knows, and more importantly, who cares?

    Expats don’t feel the pinch of economic inflation and the rising price of basic commodities. Cleaver eh? The men and women that work & live here, that account for almost 50% of our population – yes THOSE people.

    Now where’s my sick bowl?

  8. heraish

    Hopefully people will adjust their habits to the true spirit of ramadan and not overindulge themselves this year. Also there should be a confederation setup with Qatar where they give out 0% interest loans for housing. Al-Khalifa to rule current Bahrain part as autonomous rulers and to have a strong say in a federal government. The head of state could be Qatari with bahrain getting the prime ministry position. They should call the country Bahrain. The degreed people should get 2 year internships whose salaries are to be paid by the government but they should be placed into the private sector. After the 2 years the government will cut the pay and the people will be on their own. The people with high school degrees should be offered positions in the military and sent abroad on peacekeeping missions.

  9. Post

    heraish, can I have some of whatever juice you’re having please? pretty please? I don’t think anything I’ve tried so far takes me on such a trip as yours!

  10. Hamad

    True Mahmood he is realy creative 🙂 what an arrangment
    🙂 we will give heraish ministery of health .

    have a great day very one .


  11. Jamal

    So question from someone who doesn’t know that much about Bahrain: when I visited I saw at least significant areas that looked as much South and Southeast and East Asian as Arab. A diversity which by the way I think is really wonderful and positive. I am guessing the Thai and Chinese type flks are more recent temporary worker arrivals, but are a significant number of the Indians/Bangladeshis/Pakistanis Bahraini citizens? They certainly look well-established and seemed to have their own old neighborhoods which I am guessing stretch back a hundred years or more to old British trade and labor migration routes? So, question I have is, when you say X number of Bahrainis are under the poverty line, are you counting these folks? There certainly seemed to be plenty of poverty among them.

  12. Post

    So, question I have is, when you say X number of Bahrainis are under the poverty line, are you counting these folks? There certainly seemed to be plenty of poverty among them.

    Nope, the numbers given by the government as shown in the article above are those of indigenous Bahrainis only. That number; however, is inclusive of newly naturalised citizens.

  13. Starkville

    I came here to post the same remark as you Ali – without a taxation system very little will change. Previously I believed that the reasons the Gulf States were stubbornly holding out on introducing even a nominal income tax were purely economic – fear that international firms would look elsewhere. Now I have come to realise that the reality is that the GCC are holding off from taxes because the second the huge expatriate populations in the region are obliged to hand over a portion of their own wages for the greater good, they will (rightly) demand representation. In a country like the UAE the population of South Asian expats is far greater than actual Emiratis – the result would surely be the beginning of the end for the Royal Family there. Bahrain’s population patterns are going the same way, so any electoral rights afforded to expats would likely have a similarly dire effect on the future of the ruling family here too.

  14. heraish

    Handing out checks by the government in an economy suffering from inflation may exasperate the inflation. As that would amount to increasing the overall money supply in the economy. A better solution may be to take money from as a tax from high net worth individuals and redistribute to the poor. That may have an effect of cooling the expenditures of the high net worth people a bit and that would cancel out the increase in expenditure of the poor. That way the inflation won’t get worse.

  15. milter

    When somebody mentions the word “powerty” it instantly triggers a load of emotional reactions, depending on the reader’s background.

    When is somebody poor?

    Are you comparing that individuals income to that of his flat mate?

    Are you comparing it to somebody in his home country in the same situation?

    Are you comparing it to the income level of the people in the country where he/she lives?

    Are you comparing it to his/her ability to pay for somewhere to live and food to survive?

    Does it depend on whether you can afford a TV or car or not? Does it depend on whether you can afford two TV’s or not?

    The study of the subject “powerty” has created a lot of heated discussions worldwide, with a clear distinction between discussions in the “developed countries” and the “developing countries”.

    Powerty can be measured in many ways. Economical powerty is one of them, but, there still is no agreed guideline for how to compare. Read here about relative and absolute powerty

    And then, of course, there is the question of other sorts of powerty, such as the powerty of academic freedom or individual thoughts.

    But that, I suppose, is a completely different subject 😉

  16. milter

    I’ll give you an example of the various ways of establishing a “powerty line”.

    According to EU’s way of defining that line, according to EUROSTAT, in Denmark anybody with an income of less than BD 6674 a year would be considered poor in the year of 2004.

  17. exclamation mark

    What would taxation do ? other than being drained to “someone’s” pocket !!
    Taxation will be very beneficiary if there are the right people to run the country…
    I think egyptians also pay taxes and since years, what did that do to improve the country ?

    who would want to pay taxes if people’s income and economic condition is just down the drain ?

  18. heraish

    مدونة اقتصاديات الكويت ودول مجلس التعاون

    You can post economic related comments here.

  19. abdulaziz mohammed

    What a way to manipulate things you guys!!!!!!!
    The income ceiling for receiving the inflation allowance was 1,500 dinars. Obviously, many would be eligible for it, even those earning 1,499 dinars.
    Have you ever looked at it that way??
    I bet if they reduced the ceiling amount to, say, 300 dinars, this figure would come tumbling down.
    Some people want others to see things they way they see it.
    That’s the power of the media!!!!!

  20. Post

    Abdulaziz, how many of those actually receive more than BD300 a month? Did you look at the actual government statistics which show that a very minute percentage actually receive salaries of more than BD300?

    I contend that the majority of those waiting in lines to receive alms are way lower than your 1500 ceiling.

  21. abdulaziz mohammed

    and one thing more, there may be thousands of pictures of people rummaging through trash even in developed countries, like the one uploaded here. One picture doesn’t give the whole picture of any society.

    We easily put the blame on the government. How about taking part of the blame ourselves.

    I hope you even read the news a few weeks ago saying Bahrain’s internal debt was 1.94 billion dollars. That is the debt owned by people to banks and financial institutions. Do you know how? Well, read then.

    People buy expensive American and European cars even if they can’t afford them, because the banks have made it easy for them. They give interest-based loans (which is haraam for Muslims anyway), and they end up paying those loans for years to come. They can easily afford well-maintained second-hand cars. No!!!!!!!! But they need to show off.

    They spend lavishly on weddings, even when it could be done in a very simple way. By the way, the government already gives a one-off allowance of 1,000 to 3,000 dinars for Bahrainis for marriage. Which developed country does that?

    They buy expensive clothing and furniture, and go to high-class restaurants, where they proudly use their credit cards, only to await frustration at the end of the month on how to pay their bills.

    They have adopted much of the Western TV lifestyle, and forgot the simple one that our religion and culture teaches.

    Now you tell me, is the government to blame for that. In Western countries, citizens are heavily taxed, which are returned in the form of services. But here we enjoy, a tax-free life, and even then put the entire blame on the government.

    The government gives you housing (even though the wait is long), jobs (under the Bahrainisation quota, you get the first priority even if you are half as good as the expats), job security (no one can kick you out even if you sleep on the job all day). And still you grumble?!!!!!!!!!

    It’s a shame really that people have the anti-government blinkers on and see things according to their convenience. No wonder when we go to the West, we are down the talent line – because we have been spoiled by our governments.

    We are like spoiled brats, whose parents give them enough and yet they want more.

    There we work as taxi drivers and dish washes and still are happily. But here, no, we must work as officers and managers and have a few expats under our proud command. What hypocrisy man!!! I guess you haven’t seen, or not even read of, poverty.

  22. abdulaziz mohammed

    I don’t think so Mr Mahmood. There are certainly people living under the poverty line and I don’t deny that, but tell me aren’t there are families with more than two or three breadwinners?

    A combined total income of theirs would be more than 500 dinars sometimes. Where is that sense of togetherness in our society, when we used to share. Now each son is separate leaving their parents in the lurch. I am sure, most of those standing in the queue are old people too – some even abandoned by their children. Now don’t tell me there aren’t and that I am quoting rare cases. You too are basing your story on one picture.

    This inflation allowance tells us much more than poverty my brother. It tells us of the degrading values of our society.

    Mark my words sir, if this continues, even an allowance of 200 dinars won’t suffice. Some things are only for us to fix things. The government cannot enter our homes to fix our rotting moral values.

    As for your complaint of people not getting 300 dinars, I guess you should also read reports of the labour department signing deals with companies each week of giving at least 300 dinars to Bahraini employees.

    And don’t you think – as a champion of human rights – that expats deserve that 300 dinars too? After all, they too are buying stuff in dinars and not in their home currencies here.

    Or do you think human rights are exclusive to Bahrainis only!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. Post

    Abdulaziz I admire your passion, though I think it is somewhat diluted by too many contradictions offered in your answers.

    I do not deny that our lifestyle in Bahrain leaves a lot to be desired, but also recognise the fact that the vast majority of Bahraini workers in this country earn a lot less than expats due to various factors, amongst those are reliability, dependability and educational level commensurate with what they are supposed to work at.

    Do I blame the government for this? Of course I do. When the new school year starts and students don’t have enough seats in their classes, or when you find out that once seats are scrounged for them they have no electricity and even if that is sorted you realise that there are up to 40 students per class and then you discover that they didn’t provide enough teachers and those who are available to teach think that entails only keeping kids off the street, sitting down and shutting up rather than preparing them for further education and the job market.

    Who do you blame for that exactly? Our morals?

    When the constitution clearly states that EVERY Bahraini has a RIGHT to proper housing and you get the government declared numbers of 40,000 families waiting for such accommodation, some for more than 17 years and no houses are forthcoming, who do you blame for that?

    When the constitution guarantees a job for every Bahraini and all we got is the so called labour reform of which we only witnessed the tax imposed and the watering down of its tenets and – as you succinctly describe – that me as an employer cannot fire a good-for-nothing employee even if caught sleeping at work because he is Bahraini, do you think that engenders the feeling of competitiveness and responsibility, who exactly do you blame for that?

    When a so called Islamic bank fires off a credit card campaign with “I like it I’ll buy it” and the government – who controls such banks through its Central Bank – and they get away with it and we hear not one peep of objection from the so called clerics and the government regulators, who do you blame for that?

    When you go into any village and you find out that its roads are not navigable because of non-existent roads AND the overflowing sewage which has not been connected to a national grid – which too is a pipe dream – who do you exactly blame for that?

    So spare me the pink-coloured shades, they are the last thing that we need in order to retake our country and hold officials responsible for these policies which rendered most Bahrainies’ life a misery.

    No, I do not blame the government for everything that has and is going bad in this country, but as the government has the full and only controls of the reins of this society, it is truly blamable first and foremost and it is well within its power to get these things fixed, rather than continuously try to ameliorate feelings by degradingly giving alms such as what we witnessed here.

    Does that picture of the woman represent the plight of Bahrainis at the current moment? Of course it does.

    All you have to ask yourself is what you would feel if that woman was your mother.

    Then come back and reevaluate your rant.

  24. abdulaziz mohammed


    Your really know how to spice up things.
    Kudos to you!!!

    Last thing first. I would die but not let my parents suffer, even if it meant not eating myself at all!!

    Second, about the housing. Why do you only want a villa? I have read reports in which citizens demand only villas. Isn’t an apartment a home too. It just speaks of our spoiled mentality.

    I say tax them and make them work more than eight hours and see how life is. Look at people in the West. They are feeling the pinch of inflation too. But they work for more than is required.

    There isn’t a constitution of any country that doesn’t give the citizens right to food and housing, but those facilities are not at all free. I am sure the constitution didn’t say free housing. Not even the wealthiest nations’ constitutions do. They provide you with facilities to those rights, like loans, mortgage facilities, subsidised food, etc — but free, NO!!!!!!!!

    By the way, I am a student of International Relations and have yet to stumble upon such a national charter.

    Now, the government has already increased the housing finance amount to BD60,000. Now you would say that there are no houses for that money. There may be no villas, but there surely are apartments. Learn to live simple man.

    Again when you mention shortage of schools, those are just selective schools. Schools in the countries from which most expats come don’t even have furniture, let alone electricity. But they work their way up and don’t see that as an impediment. Of course, their constitution too provides for the same, and they are much better constitutions, mind you.

    As for the slogan of the said bank’s credit card campaign, I totally agree with you brother. Such slogans itself are enticing and don’t befit an Islamic bank. [Thank God we have agreed on something! ;)]

    Now that every constituency has MPs, why not catch them? Ask them why the roads are not built. Why do they go to parliament then and enjoy the fat and bulky salaries if they can’t fix a couple of roads. Speaking of their salaries, I even object to them being so much. How would a happy parliamentarian, who gets all facilities and loads of cash, know how the ordinary people live and feel?

  25. Sam

    I disagree with the remark made stating that expatriates earn more than their Bahraini counterparts.

    If we take the authoritative figure released from our CIO office which says almost 50% of the current populous are of foreign nationals, I’m pretty certain that the large majority have disposable incomes considerably lower compared to their Bahraini counterparts – the majority not even coming close to earning minimum wages, which, only apply to Bahraini nationals at the present time.

    Would a non-discriminate minimum wage for everyone irregardless of nationality/origin not work here?

    It would appear to be the answer to allot of our problems!

  26. Ali

    Would a non-discriminate minimum wage for everyone irregardless of nationality/origin not work here?

    It would appear to be the answer to allot of our problems!

    No it wouldn’t as the Bahraini Employers would just have dummy contracts with the Indians and still pay them a pittance.

    The Best way forward is to adopt the Mcenzie report with out diluting it and to have transparent spending of the resulting income it generates.

  27. Sam

    it wouldn’t as the Bahraini Employers would just have dummy contracts with the Indians and still pay them a pittance.

    I’m sure that’s not the reason why they would hold back from introducing such a law. At the moment, you’ve got employers sponsoring “taking ownership” of and exploiting poor, vulnerable, many times uneducated human beings from 3rd world countries. It’s modern day slavery it happens right here in the 21st century on this little island we call home.

    A minimum wage for all, irrespective of nationality/religion would of course be inscribed into our law books. Employers signing dummy contracts in order to exploit would of course be illegal. It would be up to the courts to do whats necessary ie jail time, suspension of businesses etc..

  28. victoria


    All you have to ask yourself is what you would feel if that woman was your mother.
    Then come back and reevaluate your rant.

    Touche mahmood !! but on a serious note it makes me wonder how many of the 20% are actually women ? often women are more likely experience poverty due to unfair divorce laws or unequel earnings when compared with men…


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