An upbeat finance minister Dr. Ibrahim Elbadawi told reporters that Friends of Sudan meeting in Washington decided to fund the upcoming budget and that 20 projects are approved.
Leaving aside lack of details on who exactly of these friends is contributing to funding by how much and what are these projects, the minister needs to exercise some caution. A yellow light has already beamed from the very Washington that hosted the Friends of Sudan meeting.
The track record of the international community financial help points to a standing rule: pledges usually fall short of the actual needs and that actual disbursement falls short of what has been pledged in the first place and thirdly a good percentage of disbursed money is channeled back to donors in terms of payments for foreign administration, experts, logistics etc.
Sudan is not an exception and its experience with promises to shore up the CPA following the peace deal with the SPLM that brought to end two decades of war is a recent living example. Neither the financial pledges that were the outcome of the Oslo conference were met despite promises by then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that he personally will knock on doors of foreign capitals to honor their promises, nor unilateral declaration by the Bush administration to remove Sudan from the terrorist list were materialized.
In fact no one needs to look at history or waste more time to see whether Washington will behave differently this time. Only one day after the minister’s statement, the Trump administration opted to send a negative signal that for all practical purposes will not augur well for the helping promises that Elbadawi has garnered during his Washington 53 meetings.
“Despite recent positive developments, the crisis constituted by the actions and policies of the Government of Sudan that led to the declaration of a national emergency in Executive Order 13067 of November 3, 1997; the expansion of that emergency in Executive Order 13400 of April 26, 2006; and with respect to which additional steps were taken in Executive Order 13412 of October 13, 2006, Executive Order 13761 of January 13, 2017, and Executive Order 13804 of July 11, 2017, has not been resolved. These actions and policies continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. I have, therefore, determined that it is necessary to continue the national emergency declared in Executive Order 13067, as expanded by Executive Order 13400, with respect to Sudan,” read the official statement.
The key words to note are those related to the “Government of Sudan’s action and policies”. These are the same words addressed to the deposed Ingaz regime as if nothing happened in Sudan since April when former President Omar Al-Bashir was deposed or installing a new civilian-led government.
It is more rational to assume the worst and plan accordingly. Even if the pledges to finance the 2020 budget are to be met, there is a local component of funding that have to be met from domestic resources mainly from taxation and other sources of revenue.
A lot could be done in this respect from trimming and targeting mammoth state spending on many qasi and parallel organizations of the deposed regime, to staging a concerted effort against corruption and ways to retrieve embezzled resources, to tapping Sudanese in diaspora through effective and practical measures able to attract their remittances.
These are just samples of a long list of things that could be done domestically. More important is to declare state of emergency to make the coming season to plant wheat a success and secure the country’s bread for a year.
Such measures will send a positive message to donors, where some are really keen to help, but they will be more than happy to top whatever Sudan can achieve itself as a first step.
Besides Sudan needs to be more selective in the type of help it wants. One of the priorities should be training and capacity building. After three decades of empowering members of the deposed regime to occupy key positions in the state apparatus and the lack of exposure to foreign experiences because of sanctions, there is huge need to overcome that through extensive training and capacity building.
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