KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - As soon as the defunct Bashir’s regime was removed in a successful mass revolution that continued for 5 months (from December 2018 to April 2019), a number of Sudanese intellectuals and think-tanks have embarked upon drawing reform plans and strategies to build up a new Sudanese ruling model that corresponds to the aspirations of Sudanese people and help the country stand on its feet again after thirty years of methodological destruction under Bashir’s regime.
One such urgent reform initiative was presented by the Forces of Freedom and Change (FFC) constituents, as drafted by a considerable number of Sudanese economic experts, think-tanks and intellectuals.
The FFC states that its urgent reform initiative contains general strategic guidelines and does not represent a detailed programme for reform. However, the initiative set broad lines for reform frames and the details will be presented through both the political reform committees, that are responsible for drafting reform policies and plans for eight sectors, and holding of debate and consultation conferences at the beginning of the transitional period.
Below is a sum up of the FFC’s proposed urgent reform programme:
Short-Term Programme (for the first two years of the transitional period):
** The harsh economic crisis mandates the crafting of a quick remedy plan. It is well known that the defunct regime has wrecked Sudan’s economy and subjected its agricultural, industrial and natural resources to continued exhaustion through political nepotism and corrupted investment policies. The service sector has also suffered greatly under the defunct regime. All this inherited burden of complicated issues requires concerted efforts by Sudanese think-tanks and professionals to craft a standardized thoughtful approach out.
** Another major challenge during the transitional period is to put an end to armed conflicts all over the country, impose justice and compensate war victims and victims of the defunct regime.
** The transitional authority also needs to restore Sudan’s foreign relations on both regional and international levels.
** There is also urgent need to rectify monetary policies, curb inflation and the persistent increase of consumer goods prices. It should be noted that in a reckless bid to fill in the economic abyss the defunct regime adopted a plan to print Sudanese currencies in large amounts to cover its exaggerated expenses that exceed its tax and oil revenues, though oil gross revenues have actually multiplied nine times over the past few years. This exaggerated injection of local currency into the market have led to the increase of exchange rates and overburdened the local economy, only to reflect harshly on the daily living expenses of citizens most of whom already live in destitution. This combination of nepotism, corruption and lack of rationalized monetary policies has led to the deterioration of productive and service sectors in the country, and consequently to the increase of unemployment rates among citizens. Having said this, it is a pitying fact to indicate that documented statistics reveal a high increase in military expense budget which exceeded 75% of the defunct regime’s public expenses. It is also a pity that the earmarked budget for education and health under Bashir’s regime were the lowest worldwide.
Moreover, the defunct regime launched an intentionally organized assault on local economic producers. It has also privatized many public productive sectors to the benefit of ruling party members and opened the country’s agricultural land resources to greedy foreign investors under long-term lease contracts, with no direct benefit to Sudanese local markets or economy.
In another reckless move to find a way out of the economic bottleneck, the defunct regime tended to retain the people’s funds inside the banking system and set withdrawal limits from bank accounts, thereby adding to the people’s suffering. This, in addition to the aforementioned factors, has led to a lack of trust in the banking system.
In order to remedy such complicated issues, there might be a need for decisive and uncompromising decrees, but such remedy would also not pass without reverse effects. Therefore, time is of essence for any remedial procedures.
The following is meant to be a guiding model to the urgent remedies required:
- We should enhance the competitiveness of local products in regional and international markets while, along the same line, encourage alternative local production to reduce the demand on imports. This remedy will increase local productivity, create more jobs and increase tax revenues.
- There is a need to rationalize petrol and gasoline consumption through short-term policies such as imposing limits to private transport fuel consumption and enhancing public transport fleets.
- There is also need to craft urgent remedies to the bread scarcity issue through the rearrange of hard currency priority allocations for imports and the enhancement of alternative local produce of sorghum, for example.
Short- term package of development policies:
In addition to the remedies required to curb inflation rates, there is also need to work on other fronts, such as:
- Though Sudan’s GDP multiplied nine times with the introduction of oil produce revenues, there is no clear reflection of this increase on Sudanese economy. Therefore, concerted efforts should be made to know what actually happened to oil revenues. The findings would definitely be of benefit to resolving the current situation and many lessons might be learnt of such findings.
- Budget resources should be revised to provide more development and growth allocations and reduce military and executive government expenses to reasonable levels.
- Urgent aid should be provided to people in conflict areas and IDPs camps on first priority basis.
- Public health services should be restored free of charge to all citizens without discrimination and public hospitals and health service centres rehabilitated, especially within regional and conflict zones.
- Launch fundraising campaigns among diaspora Sudanese professionals and encourage professionals’ return home in order to participate in re-structural and development efforts.
Mid-Term Programme (Throughout the transitional period):
In economic terms, focus during the transitional government term should be on two arenas:
- The productive sector (agricultural and industrial sectors), the purchasing power (raising wages above poverty level and providing locally produced goods and opening the door for sustainable development. It is proven that Sudan has vast agricultural potential that promises a wealth of produce in light of fair and rational investment policies. Such investments would also help provide employment opportunities for Sudanese cadres.
In Sudan there is also good ground for light and transformational industries such as foodstuffs, textile, etc. that are expected to provide good employment opportunities and increase per capita income.
- In terms of human development, much attention should be devoted to promoting education and healthcare services as these two sectors have suffered greatly at the hands of Al-Bashir’s regime. As part of the reform efforts in these two sectors special regard should be paid to women and people at marginalized areas.
- In political terms, the transitional government period should witness a fair division of power and wealth between all parts of Sudan. Economic and trade exchange with neighboring countries should also be enhanced.
Mid- term package of policies:
- There is a need to fully and comprehensively revise educational curricula with a view to introduce some immediate and gradual changes.
- Introduce rational land reform and allocation policies to localize production and services.
- Raise wages of all public employees above the poverty line as soon as possible in order to enhance the purchasing power and retain local productive force.
- Enact and enforce a cooperative society law as cooperative societies play a vital role in re-shaping and diversifying the economy.
- Enhance trade unions and raise their capacities.
- Establish a state fund through the launching of fundraising among Sudanese in the diaspora and in coordination with Sudan’s friendly donors. This fund may try to follow suit of the Rwandan model in this regard, where it would act as controlled local investment vehicle serving development priorities in order to reduce dependence on foreign aid and investments, though Sudan may still be in need for some carefully-selected foreign sources of aid and investment.
- There is a need to get university and college students involved in the development effort against reasonable wages, and this may act as replacement for the current conscription policy.
- There is need for cooperation with the government of South Sudan to make oil production a zone for cooperation and restoration of trust between the two countries. There is also need to establish a mechanism to control oil revenues and make sure that they go for development efforts.
- Establish government or semi-government companies with sufficient capital assets and to operate in the agricultural, mining and power sectors and work to enhance quantitative and qualitative production in all these sectors. These companies would be independent and act as strategy tools to enhance the country’s economy and ensure food security. These companies should also work towards redistribution of wealth by allocating high percentage of their produced to the regional and state areas where they operate.
General arrangements to achieve sustainable development and vital economy in Sudan:
There will be general guidelines to steer this reform programme during the transitional term, based on historical experience and lessons learnt, where such guidelines will work to secure the following:
- Enactment of fair and just labour laws that protect workers’ rights in public and private sectors and allows for trade unions organization, work safety standards and strict tax system. All international laws and conventions protecting workers’ rights should be ratified and endorsed. Since the revolution has been initiated and supported all through by professionals, the professionals of Sudan will actively participate in the development efforts, and accordingly the transitional government should provide all possible means to secure a convenient working environment for these professionals through the enactment of viable and fair laws.
- There is vital need to seek the help of technical experts and technocrats to help move forward the planning process and participate in the setting of development strategies and plans. To this end conferences and discussion forums should be held to invite think-tanks and experts to participate in finding viable ways out of the current crises of Sudan.
- Facilitate small and medium entrepreneur enterprise registration and funding procedures and provide such enterprises with required technical and logistic help. It should be noted that small and medium enterprises are very important at this stage since they secure self-sufficiency and provide employment opportunities to skilled labour. Big companies and corporations should be dealt with wisely and flexibly taking into account the company’s contribution to the development of Sudan and compliance with tax policies as well as their contributing to the development of education and health services.
- Enacting of a carefully-studied and vetted tax system that contributes to the country’s sustainable development while at the same time does not curb or hinder production.
- Proper economic guidelines and policies should be set to control and steer the market towards the benefit of the people and their communities.
- Sudan, having been subjected to 30 years of unjust and illegitimate rule, shall have a right to apply for partial or full exemption from all the huge burden of debts that has accumulated under the defunct regime’s rule, especially that most of these debts are actually accumulated interests and debt management fees.
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