Experts and researchers in the field of economics have criticised the current policies adopted by the transitional government to address the economic deterioration in the country, and demand the government be transparent and conduct structural reforms in the Sudanese economy.
At a seminar in Khartoum this week to discuss possible solutions to revive the Sudanese economy by arresting the collapse of the Sudanese pound and the continuing high inflation rates, independent economist Hafiz Ismail said that the Sudanese economy needs a the issue of transparency in budgets and their sources, and an evaluation of the government’s economic performance.
He pointed to monopolisation and fraud, especially with regard to the distribution of investment opportunities and contracts, which affects the attraction of foreign investment.
“There are companies that do not pay taxes and are not subject to accountability, which creates difficulty in their competition,” he said. “This is in addition to companies that monopolise the market and control the prices, raising them at will.”
Ismail called the restructuring the Sudanese economy by making “real reforms”, raising the technical capabilities graduate students so that they can join the work force in the investment sector, and reviewing all investment contracts signed under the previous regime, due to its non-compliance with the necessary requirements and its environmental impact.
Economist Kamal Abdelkarim, a member of the Communist Party of Sudan, said that the current government lacks any clear economic policy to address the economic deterioration.
“The current approach the government wants to follow serves the interests of parasitic capitalism, and that will lead to destroying the slogans and goals of the December revolution,” he stated.
He stressed that the reality of Sudan today is not similar to the reality in which Sudan dealt with the World Bank earlier, referring to the severe poverty and unemployment in the country.
“The government will find great difficulty in implementing the proposed economic policies, because of the inability of the current state apparatus to achieve any economic policy.”
Abdelkarim attributed this to “the control of elements of the previous regime over the joints of the economy in all government institutions, and their work against any policies followed by the government”.
He called for the need to seek the help from “the revolutionary youth who carry new ideas to remove all the elements of the previous regime from the country’s institutions”.
The economist acknowledged the importance of the role of the International Monetary Fund and the need to deal with it, but with a different approach. He referred to the possibility of offsetting Sudan’s debts with the World Bank with the large sums of money smuggled abroad by the former regime.
On Monday, photos of Mohamed El Taayshi, member of the Sovereign Council, riding a bicycle to his office at the Republican Palace in Khartoum widely circulated on social media.
El Taayshi is used to riding a bike. His father was reportedly the first to introduce the bicycle in his hometown Reheid El Bardi in South Darfur in the 1940s.
The Sovereign Council member said he has important initiatives in this regard that will soon see the light.
Avoiding traffic jams, maintaining a clean environment, or exercising could be the main reasons for cycling to one’s work place. However, a number of social media users link the use of the bicycle to the fuel shortages the country is suffering from for many months without a solution in sight. “Perhaps the fuel crisis has reached the Sovereign Council,” they commented.
Fears that a civil war raging in neighboring Ethiopia’s northern Tigray Region will reverberate across eastern Africa are playing out in Sudan, which is contending with a massive influx of refugees who’ve fled the fighting.
More than 40,000 people have streamed across the border from Tigray into eastern Sudan since Nov. 7, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Sudan itself is seeking to rebuild its shattered economy after conflict in the Darfur region and the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir last year, and lacks the resources to meet their basic needs.
“Sudan won’t be able to manage and finance the response to this disaster alone,” said Alsir Khalid, the Sudanese aid commissioner for the eastern Kassala state. “We’re asking for the international community to help Sudan as it keeps its border open to the Tigray people.”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered soldiers into Tigray after months of tensions, accusing the state’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front of attacking an army base. Tigrayan authorities say the fighting has displaced 100,000 people and the United Nations has warned that an additional 1.1 million people may need aid.
Refugees have crossed into Sudan’s Kassala, Gedaref, and Blue Nile states and their total numbers could surge to 100,000 within six months if fighting persists, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned. They are being temporarily housed at reception points before being relocated to sites where they are given food, blankets and materials to construct shelters.
Gado Gabir Hawari was among those who abandoned her home to escape the fighting. She walked for four days from her home in Tigray before crossing the Setit river into Sudan and became separated from her husband and three of her children along the way.
“I still don’t know where they are,” the sobbing 40-year-old said as she held her two small children at Village 8, about 60 kilometers (37 miles) from the border. “The Ethiopian army attacked us from all directions, using warplanes and heavy weapons, including tanks and artilleries,” she said, echoing other accounts of intense fighting and civilian casualties.
Sudan was engulfed in civil war for two decades before a 2005 peace deal that partitioned the country six years later. It’s among the world’s poorest nations, ranking 168th out of 189 countries on the UN Development Program’s human development index.
The U.S. is doing all it can to help Sudan cope with the refugees crisis and to continue its development, Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Tibor Nagy said in a call with reporters last week.
It’s unclear how long Ethiopia’s conflict will last, with Abiy’s government and the Tigrayan leaders giving wildly differing views.
The cost of living is gradually becoming more unbearable; all prices have doubled, for everything, with the pound losing its value. And now the cost of fuel is increasing significantly. How can I send my children to school this year when the transportation fees increased from 10 000 Sudanese pounds ($40) for the school year to 10 000 a month for a single student, and I have three children in school,” Mohamed Ibrahim, a resident in Khartoum North, told Ayin.
With average incomes in Khartoum at about $100 a month, school transport costs are prohibitively expensive for Ibrahim, despite the fact that he works two separate jobs.
More challenges fell on to civilians’ laps after the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies on 27 October as part of its attempts to remedy the dire economic situation in the country, where inflation recently surpassed 200%.
As per the new orders, some petrol stations are now selling locally produced fuel at 56 Sudanese pounds a litre for petrol and 46 pounds a litre for diesel, roughly double the previous prices of 28 Sudanese pounds and 18 Sudanese pounds, respectively. Other stations are selling imported fuel at the international market rate: 120 Sudanese pounds *a litre for petrol and 106 a litre for diesel.
The IMF’s prescription
“Lifting fuel subsidies and liberalising the currency exchange rate are part of the government attempts to meet the technical conditions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) — by having a good track record and showing commitment to economic reform — to enable reviewing Sudan’s debt and seeking possible future support,” says economist Khalid al-Tijani. “The government took this move, relying on financial support it expected from the donors’ conferences.”
Al-Tijani told Ayin that talks about lifting subsidies go back to the end of 2019 as the government prepared the 2020 budget, but the implementation was delayed, partially because of internal political disagreements and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The government suspended the budget for the first quarter of 2020 as a temporary solution and called for an economic conference around March. It also wanted to see how the conferences of Friends of Sudan and donors panned out.”
The Sudan Partnership Conference held in Berlin in June pledged $1.8-billion to improve macroeconomic stabilisation and develop the Sudan Family Support Programme. Although welcome, the pledge was far less than the government had hoped for — estimating that $5.4-billion was needed to revive Sudan’s economy.
Transport costs are now prohibitively expensive for Khartoum residents with the partial lifting of the subsidy, while the fuel shortages continue and many public transport vehicles are no longer available on a regular basis. Transport prices witnessed an increase of 100% to 200%, which vary at different times of the day, without an official rate. The decision has been met with a barrage of criticism, both in public spheres and on social media. “Lifted fuel subsidies — this is in the name of raising the blood pressure and diabetes for the defeated Sudanese citizen,” Emad Hamid tweeted.
The revolutionary umbrella group, Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC), issued a statement on 31 October condemning the abrupt lifting of fuel subsidies and called for the removal of those who implemented the policy.
The government seemed to have no supporters in its action, but Sudanese Congress Party was reported to stand by the move. Party representative Nuraldeedn Babiker told Ayin that it does, in fact, support lifting the subsidy, but not the way it was done by the government, calling it premature and problematic.
“First — as a short-term plan — the government should have gained control over public funds, [ and] reformed investment laws, among other steps, in addition to identify[ing] all the people impacted by lifting subsidies; then restructure subsidies for them not to be affected. Then, in the long-term, subsidies should be lifted and the funds can go to basic services for the citizens,” Babiker said.
A huge burden
The lack of clarity over the level of donor support and internal rifts within the government, such as the resignation of the former finance minister — not to mention disputes over economic reforms with the FFC — have put pressure on the government to act, says al-Tijani. Even the IMF has criticised the plan, he added. Lifting subsidies, even partially, and shifting to a liberalised currency exchange rate without the necessary cash reserves available in the central bank will lead to further disastrous inflation rates, al-Tijani warns, since the state will be forced to print more local currency.
Questions remain about how the government can achieve economic reform without having tangible control over the market, al-Tijani says. The security and military sectors, the Rapid Support Forces militia in particular, own corporations operating in the private market sector with little oversight of tax payments and other fees, he added. “The [fact that the] head of the Rapid Support Forces, also heads the [government] economic committee — besides controlling the gold market — is an example of this issue.”
Al-Mughtaribeen University (or “Expatriate University”) economics professor Mohamed al-Nair told Ayin that the government took a leap to the unknown by abruptly, albeit partially, lifting the fuel subsidies. “This is a step in the wrong direction as the government needed to achieve economic stability first — and it had a year to work that out — then consider the citizens’ situation and how they will be impacted.”
“I can’t go to my work most of the days as the transport isn’t available, and many times I have to take taxis, which is a huge financial burden that my salary doesn’t cover. I had to apply for my annual break until things get better,” says Amal Abdullah, a commuter who lives in Omdurman and works in Khartoum.
The way out
“The government put all its eggs in the foreign-aid basket and made up an unrealistic budget based on support that is not in hand. Therefore, expenses exceeded income, the central bank kept printing more currency and the inflation increased,” says al-Tijani, adding that the country needs to fix the basic economic indicators to move forward.
“Sudan needs to focus on productivity and support to farmers, [as well as] enhance the tax system,” he adds. According to the World Bank, Sudan has one of the lowest tax revenue bases in Africa. Sudan accrues about 6% of its gross domestic product from taxes; the average in Africa is more than double that, at 15%, according to al-Tijani. “Rich people are not taxed — most of them have the power to avoid taxes, while less privileged people suffer from taxation.”
Al-Nair also thinks that the government neglected production and placed too many hopes on financial aid. The university professor does not think the country will receive this elusive aid. “The government is unlikely to receive financial support, and if it continues down this road, it will not emerge from this darkness anytime soon.”
It may be up to South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir to decide the country’s direction after the National Dialogue conferences proposed several legal changes to stabilise the country.
The discussions, which were divided into two phases, began with grassroots regional meetings followed by the national conference.
Participants presented solutions to local issues such as cattle rustling and land tenure, as well as to more critical concerns like whether the country should adopt a federal system.
Other matters covered were a suggestion for two presidential terms per holder, appointing South Sudanese with dual citizenship to senior government offices, and return of the country to 32 states.
The conference, led by a steering committee with funding from the Japanese embassy through UNDP, held regional meetings in Upper Nile, Bhar-el-Ghazel, and Equatoria, with representatives from the grassroots levels.
At the final national event that ended on Wednesday, more than 500 representatives from various communities and political parties were present.
At the closing ceremony on Wednesday in Juba, President Kiir said the resolutions will be incorporated in the permanent constitution.
“The National Dialogue has been broad-based bottom-up consultation. The revitalised agreement on the other hand came as a result of talks between political elites, which makes it narrow in scope,” President Kiir said, referring to the 2018 peace agreement between him and various rebel movements that led to the formation of the Government of National Unity in February this year.
“However, the agreement has a constitutional sanctity that the National Dialogue lacks, despite its popular legitimacy. Therefore, we should not attempt to replace the agreement with the consensus reached through the National Dialogue,” the president said.
He added that the National Dialogue should be used as a guide to enrich the constitution-making process, which the 2018 peace deal mandates.
However, some participants feared that the country may sweep the suggestions under the carpet now that there is some sort of stability.
Jame Kolok, who heads Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance, a civil and human rights advocacy organisation, recommends the formation of a select committee to follow up the resolutions’ implementation.
“South Sudanese have reasons to doubt the commitment of the government towards implementing matters. The criticism coming from citizens is, if the government is unable to implement a broader peace agreement that looks at the National Dialogue as a sub component of the peace process, then how can it implement the dialogue resolutions?
“What is important now is translating the recommendations that have been made into tangible outcomes that must come in terms of improving the situation of this country. This can be done when a committee is constituted to monitor the resolution implementation,” said Mr Kolok.
NIMULE – The South Sudan chief of defence forces, Gen Johnson Juma Okot, led a high-profile delegation of the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) to meet their Ugandan counterparts in Gulu City on Friday.
The meeting was held at the 4th Division Barracks and attended by Lt Gen Wilson Mbasu Mbadi, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) deputy chief of defence forces, the Land Force commander, Lt Gen Peter Elwelu, and Maj Gen Paul Lokech, a senior military officer, among others.
The meeting was meant to settle the recent series of clashes between the two forces at their common borderlines, cause reconciliation and derive a way forward to peaceful coexistence between the two countries.
“We have come here to make peace. How do we put our hands together and chat the best way forward for us to live together, take care of our countries and authorities,” Gen Okot said.
Gen Okot noted that it was unfortunate to have people misunderstand the wealth of historical relations between the two countries by causing conflicts that would, in other words, risk the lives to thousands of South Sudanese refugees that are currently settled in Uganda.
“We have been so privileged that Uganda is providing protection to our displaced people in northern Uganda. Our children have been able to go to school, pursue their welfare, including their health,” he added.
The meeting between the two top army commanders comes after Ugandan forces attacked a village in Eastern Equatoria state killing two members of South Sudan army in October.
This is the first time Sudan has refused to partake in the GERD talks, signaling a drastic turn in neighbourly relations
November 22, 2020
Sudan plans to boycott further talks with Egypt and Ethiopia over Addis Ababa’s massive dam project on the Nile river and called on the African Union to play a greater role, Khartoum’s irrigation minister said on Sunday.
The years-long talks over how water should be shared and the operation of Ethiopia’s Grand Renascence Dam have failed to yield an agreement even as Addis Ababa completed the first filling of the reservoir behind the structure – considered a red line by Egypt without a lasting deal.
This is the first time Sudan has said it will not attend talks with the two other Blue Nile river countries.
Sudan’s Irrigation Minister Yasser Abbas said, “The African Union should do more to facilitate negotiations and bridge the gap between the three parties” given the current approach has not solved the dispute.
The foreign and irrigation ministers of the three Nile Valley countries met virtually on Thursday, two weeks after the last talks failed to agree on a new framework for negotiations.
There was no immediate comment from South Africa, the current leader of the African Union, nor Egypt or Ethiopia regarding Sudan’s action, and it remains unclear when the countries would resume negotiations.
Egypt for years has expressed concerns that the dam just south of the Sudanese border will significantly threaten the water supply in downstream nations. Egypt relies on the Nile for over 90 percent of its freshwater.
Sudan is concerned that without real-time information sharing on the operation of the GERD, heavy rain or un-announced water discharges by Ethiopia could lead to flooding downstream or endanger Sudan and Egypt’s own Nile dams.
Both nations also worry that if a deal is not reached to build a framework for operation, it could have implications if Ethiopia builds further dam or irrigation projects upstream as they have suggested.
The formation of Sudan’s transitional parliament, a key element of a power-sharing deal between the military and protesters after the ouster of president Omar al-Bashir, has been pushed back to December.
In a statement late last week, the FFC said efforts to ensure “national consensus” were still underway to establish the legislature.
Its formation had been due within 90 days of a power-sharing deal signed on August 17 between the FFC and military generals who seized power following al-Bashir’s ouster in April last year.
The deal stipulated that the legislature should include no more than 300 members, 40 percent of them women, with the FFC obtaining 201 seats and the rest going to other factions.
But in November, an FFC leader suggested that the group should hold 165 seats in the transitional parliament, with 75 going to the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance and the rest to other groups.
Several organizations, including the powerful Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) trade union alliance that spearheaded the protests against al-Bashir, rejected the proposal.
“In order to take into consideration the views of the Sudan Revolutionary Front and to engage in a broad dialogue on the distribution of seats with (all) factions, it has been decided to push back the formation of the assembly until December 31,” the FFC said in its statement last week.
The SPA is insisting that “all revolutionary forces be represented” in the new parliament, which will be tasked to legislate until new general elections are held in 2022.
NEW YORK (AGENCIES) – The United Nations humanitarian office is releasing $100 million in emergency funding to seven countries at risk of famine in Africa and the Middle East amid conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, while the humanitarian chief says returning to a world where famines are common would be “obscene”.
A United Nations statement released Tuesday said $80 million of the money will go to Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Congo, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen.
Another $20 million has been set aside for “anticipatory action to fight hunger in Ethiopia”, where deadly fighting erupted this month in its rebellious northern Tigray region.
“Without immediate action, famine could be a reality in the coming months in parts of Burkina Faso, northeast Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen. This would be the first time famine has been declared since 2017 in parts of South Sudan,” the statement said.
A return to a world where famines are commonplace would be “obscene in a world where there is more than enough food for everyone”, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said.
The UN said the money will target the most vulnerable, especially women, girls and people with disabilities.
The money breaks down as follows: $15 million to Afghanistan, Burkina Faso $6 million, Congo $7 million, northeastern Nigeria $15 million, South Sudan $7 million and Yemen $30 million.