By: Alsir Sidahmed
Two weeks before the announcement of the new Sudan government the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) published its monthly country report on Sudan. The report provides a good read into the challenges facing the new government and its chances of success given its claim being a product of a national dialogue.
The EIU report predicts that on the political side discontent will continue at the long tenure of President Omar Al-Bashir and the National Congress Party (NCP), but they will continue to govern. It went on to add that periodic protests due to the austerity measures will persist though it cautioned that these are unlikely going to translate into wider anti-government mobilization or displace of the regime.
Against this forecast it remains to be seen whether the new government will add value politically speaking and that the numerous new political parties and breakaway rebel movements will have a positive political impact on the whole scene. Eyes will be focussed in particular on the People’s Congress Party (PCP) given its presence in the government and the parliament. After all they have turned over an18 years’ page of schism with NCP that pitted the two into a bitter infight given what was once their one constituency. The question is whether it is only Islamists closing ranks and things were back to where they were before the famous 1999 breakaway or it is a new development that will impact the whole political scene.
Though the new government is a product of more than three years of a national dialogue, but the outcome of that dialogue has not been translated into a detailed workable program. At best it provides some guidelines that may or may not be binding and all depends on the ability of each party or its representatives in the government how to behave and perform.
Moreover, The EIU report reiterated its 5-year outlook forecast that, “The National Congress Party and Omar Al-Bashir (or his potential successor, Bakri Hassan Saleh) are well placed to win 2020 polls given the lack of co-ordinated opposition and tight control of the state apparatus.”
On the economic side, the report noted that the agricultural sector, which has been the backbone of the country’s economy and has suffered negatively from the El Nino weather phenomenon last year is expected to do better this year and achieve a 3.2 percent growth due mainly to La Nina weather that follows El Nino and leads to an above average rainfall.
However, the notable mark in the new government is the change in its economic team. Ministries of finance, investment, oil, agriculture, animal resources, mining and industry are all new faces, which could be a signal that handling the economy needs a fresh outlook. A case in point is appointing Abdel Rahman Osman for the oil portfolio. Abdel Rahman was a key figure, who conducted the only negotiations with Chevron Oil Company that led eventually to its relinquishing its concession back to Sudan. Moreover, he was the architect of building the consortium that helped Sudan to join the club of oil producers. He takes over the sector that has been paralysed for quite some time given lack of investment, aging fields, conducive political environment and lack of professional leadership. All exemplified in the form of a poor performance of the sector. According to the EIU report oil production is averaging this year at 130, 000 bpd rising to 144, 000 bpd next year and forecasted to reach 153, 000 bpd by 2020, when the term of this government comes to an end.
To what extent the new government will navigate its route through tumultuous political and economic waves remain to be seen, but in the meantime eyes will be heading for Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, which will be hosting an American-Islamic summit where both President Al-Bashir and US Donald Trump will be together at the same venue. If the event takes place next week as has been reported, many will be watching whether it will provide a signal to the future of US sanctions on Sudan. In July three options will be on the table: extending the easing measures carried out by the Obama administration as it closed its final days, or reinstate them or abolish them all together. Each of these options will have its impact on the new government and its ability to carry out whatever program it adopts.
Again it is the external factor impacting politics in Sudan.
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