The meeting held Wednesday between President Omar Al-Bashir and the ministers of the economic sector to prepare for the upcoming forum with the Saudi counterparts to provide finance for priority development projects in Sudan raises three important issues if tackled properly a breakthrough could be found.
The first issue relates to the relationship with Saudi Arabia and how to base it? For quite long time Sudan has been in the receiving end of some Saudi financial support and oil handouts to alleviate some pressing financial and fuel shortages and for a short period. There was never a long term arrangements despite the fact that Sudan, which occupies the western front for the kingdom and has been securing this front and went even step further to sever its diplomatic relations with Iran and sent its troops to fight in Yemen, but hardly such moves were recognized from the Saudi side at least in the form of high profile visit by senior Saudi officials. Part of the problem is that such relationship was not based clearly on mutual interest. In addition to the political support, Sudan provides one of the best places for investments especially in areas of food supplies and to secure its needs. Businessmen like the tycoon Al-Rajhi or public enterprises like the NADEC company have made investment inroads, in addition to financing building three dams and against that the kingdom was given one million feddans in Eastern Sudan. All these investments need to ensure having enough fuel to run their businesses. And that is why cooperation in the field of oil industry serves these Saudi investments in Sudan.
That brings the discussion to the second point, where the key is to depend on domestic resources and provide a base for foreign investment to top up what is made available internally. Take gold for instance. Despite different and even contradicting production figures, but clearly Sudan is producing enough gold that puts it among top African exporters of gold. But hardly such production of the precious commodity is reflected in a significant role in the national economy. Tackling the malpractices of smuggling, bad policies and having the government compete in buying gold from miners all helped in downsizing the impact and the return for the government coffers. A strict control of the gold trade would have provide the government with a collateral that can amount to five times to what it generates from selling gold.
But that depends more on a government machinery able in devising rational policies and more important implementing them. In the same meeting a decade-long presidential directive not to levy taxes and tolls was reiterated, which shows the magnitude of the problem. If a presidential decree is ignored, what are the chances of other directives or policies in being implemented?
These are the issues that should be the center of the political discussion that paves the way for quick and disciplined implementation that will quickly result into a qualitative change.
No one needs to look outside or travel along way to Malaysia to study its success story. In nearby Northern Kordofan state the Nafeer, or social and political mobilization shows clearly that something could be done when there is vision, political will and before that putting priorities in an orderly manner and most important where people are involved and own the call for change.
The first step Ahmed Haroun, the governor of Northern Kordofan took was to tap on the human resources and expertise of those belonging to the state. Then asked them to come up with a plan and prioritize it, engaging all political parties be it in government or opposition and then started with his government deducting contributions from the salaries of its ministers and top officials, and moved down to grass roots, then took that to the federal government with a simple message: this is what we did and we need your help to carry out our plans for the state. Khartoum committed itself to provide four pounds for every pound the state provides.
Nafeer Kordofan was not smooth sailing and there are different views and feedback on what has been done so far, but clearly something has been achieved and the state is moving along hope and confidence.
Before heading to Riyadh there is a need to head to Al-Obeid and see how to prioritize, commit the top officials and engage the people regardless of their political affiliation so as to own this drive.
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