By: Alsir Sidahmed
Only one year into business and the government, the brain child of the National Dialogue (ND) felt the need to reshuffle. Though the reshuffle move was triggered by the outburst of former foreign minister Ibrahim Ghandour before the parliament regarding delayed payments to his ministry, but it soon proved to be that the problem is more deep and acute than originally thought.
With queues lining up before gas filling stations, tight control on liquidity to avoid more depreciation of the national currency, the pound, before the dollar, the full extent of the economic shock that has been engulfing the country following the separation of South Sudan came into full play.
When the separation took place, the new South Sudan took with it the bulk of the known reserves and current production and Sudan was left local production that covers some 40 percent of its domestic needs at best.
Given the heavy political price associated with the separation move, the government it seems, opted not to face up to the economic consequences that follow. It was helped by two factors: ability to have access to oil produced by the foreign partners in the oil industry with the understanding that it is going to pay, somehow, sometime, for the shipments it consumed domestically. But with debt accumulating well in excess of $2 billion those foreign companies started to drag their feet and see no point in injecting new investments in Sudan oil industry where it does not get a return. One of the companies, ONG of India went as far as filing for arbitration against Sudan in London for part of $425 million that were guaranteed through sovereign securities.
The other factor that helped Sudan over the past seven years to weather the economic storm was the gold discoveries that were left to ordinary people to extract in a very conventional way and through very limited means. Though it moved up the ladder as one of the country’s key exports and at one point it has been estimated that some two million people are involved in this gold trade and business, but eventually the gold rush started to flatter out achieving hardly any sustainable impact on the country’s economy in terms of enriching the government coffers with hard currencies or at least providing necessary collaterals.
A closer look at the way both oil and gold were handled show clearly the lack of sound policies that take into account rainy days and take the necessary measures on time. During the decade long oil bonanza the government failed to invest heavily in other productive sectors, namely the agricultural one, which is the backbone of the economy and a major job provider.
More important, the government failed in putting more efforts and resources on excavation for oil in the northern part of the county and prepare for the day when pumping from the South ends.
As for gold the instability of policies, sometimes contradictory ones, on who is going to handle the commercial side in addition to problems of Sudan being under US sanctions, all led to inefficiency in using this extracted precious metal as a replacement for the lost black gold component for the economy.
So the current acute crisis is an outcome of a trio of mismanagement, lack of transparency and missed opportunities.
The ministerial reshuffle did not address those issues be in terms of policies adopted, or personnel carrying them. And that is why it has been received with a good degree of frustration and dismay as long as it did not address issues related to the sufferings of the people, thus consolidating the impression that the whole political class on both sides of the isle of government and opposition have reached their dead end.
The inability and weakness of the government to stand up to the expanding economic and political crisis facing the country is matched only with the failure of the host of opposition groups in challenging the regime heads on and develop an alternative able to ally people around its banner.
The non-event political reshuffle coupled with the exposure of the opposition weakness puts the country on the verge of getting into an unknown stage where every development seems possible and the country can go into any direction.
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