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Economist Amna Mohammed Ibrahim: Referendum question goes beyond the petroleum or north versus south wealth share ?to things much graver

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)


Enthusiastic as ever, with think intellectual glasses and a pensive eyes,  Amna Mohammed Ibrahim seem in the right place to be head of the Arab Union for Trade Points and Deputy Chair of the Arab Trade Mechanism of the Arab League.

Dressed in a simple white-dove Sudanese Tob- an Indian Sari-like, Amna seems to represent the aspiration and drive of Sudanese and Middle Eastern women in claiming their right place in the trade and business world. She is presently member of the Supervision Committee in the Arab and Electronic Market and Member of the Federal Union for Trade-point in Geneva.

The 1981 Graduate at the Cairo University, appears to have maintained her drive for more knowledge and mastery or her filed, as in 1996 she obtained a master degree inelectronic trade. And since then she has participated in a numerous training and refreshment workshops and gathering before taking up the current post. She has become a reference in her domain, and few people could claim. Following are excerpts of an interview conducted by Sudanow reporter: Amani Gandoul:

Question: What are main factors behind the rise in prices? How do you assess and avert, or at least mitigate their effects on the increase and decrease of the local and foreign commodities?

Answer:  The prices are influenced by the market mechanism of supply and demand in the ordinary and stable situations where free and fair competitiveness is available.

Question:  There are many factors in the Sudan that cause hikes in the prices such the scarcity in the production of some agricultural commodities and Illegal internal trading practices including storage and speculation in addition to rises in the rates of exchange.

Answer:  In order to cut down the prices, we believe that it is important to activate laws regulating competitiveness and banning monopolization along with rationalization of importation and consumption with a view to lowering demand for the dollar and fighting the black market by applying more effective mechanisms and consolidating the productive sectors for achieving self-sufficiency.

Question:  To what extent are the domestic prices affected by the international ones? What are the factors that lead to rises in the domestic prices?

Answer: -The prices of the imported goods and the locally produced ones which are based on imported inputs are influenced by the hikes in the international prices in addition to the domestic factors of poor productivity and rise in the rates of exchange.

Question:  Some politicians and economists, particularly in the third world believe that the policy of using food as a weapon of pressure for achieving gains is still valid. Do you agree? Do you have examples to this in the third world and in Sudan, in particular?

Answer: There is a strong belief that when you are weak and cannot secure your food and cannot posses the power to take your own decision, all decisions will be dictated upon you for achieving gains sought by the other party who dictates those decisions. This policy, however, differs from one state to another and from one community to another

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has adopted a motto of investment in agriculture for food security which is linked with self-sufficiency, food weapon and food sovereignty.

The self-sufficiency in the basic consumer's commodities has been set at 80% for cereals, 60% sugar, 35% edible oil, 85% milk and milk derivatives and 100% meat. These rates depend on a number of factors, including the weather, the inadequate cultivable lands, the scare irrigation water and the globalization effect in addition to the weak position of the agricultural sector.

The United States, for instance, uses food as a weapon by offering assistance as a means for securing its interests and influencing the decision-making. This is clearly apparent in times of food crises for the states which are dependent on food imports. A former US President once said: "If we manage to monitor the food situation, we will possess the world's strongest and most effective political weapon. The US once dumped thousands of tons of cereals in the sea instead offering them to hungry people. 

A striking example of this policy was what has happened in Iraq where the forces of occupation deprived the Iraqis of water and food as a war weapon. Siege was clamped, food imports were banned and water tanks were destroyed and unfair sanctions were imposed on the people of Iraq in 1991.

It was reported that Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe had referred to huger as a weapon for winning elections. In Morocco pressure was placed upon them by offering aid to influence their decision-making, in spite of the fact that Morocco at that time used to offer aid to African countries.

Israel, for its part, switched from the power policy to starvation to make the Palestinians in Gaza strip bow down.

Question: Environment and climates changes also have a grave impact on production and harvest, and so have the insects, also influencing the local and international prices. To what extent do you think this will raise the prices? What precaution should the countries take to meet the food needs?

Answer: As it is known the production of all commodities and products is based on a relative advantage and on this premise, they gain relative competitiveness and, depending on the climate and environment elements, there arises a desire for fulfilling the human and animal demands. The environment and climate therefore have a direct impact on the pattern of production and productivity and on the availability and scarcity of food and on its local and international prices.

                                                                                                                    Question: Can the cooperatives play a role in stabilizing the prices? Is there any relationship between the economic crisis and the price hikes?

Answer: The cooperatives have a tremendous role to play in stabilizing the prices provided that their activity be directed towards production rather than distribution of consumer's goods. Yes, the financial crisis had a substantial impact on the prices, up or down, in all countries of the world.

Question: How is the result of the upcoming referendum, either unity or secession, going to affect the local economic of the existing state and on its regional and international security?

Answer: I don't like to talk much on politics, but the self-determination and choice of secession by the southerners constitute a grave issue. The question goes beyond the petroleum and the share of the north and south to things much graver – the public security, the infrastructure and the administrative affairs in addition to the cultural interaction.  

If the result is for s secession, it will certainly affect the share of the northern state from the oil proceeds and consequently on the general budget of the northern state. Although we are looking for unity, we must take precaution for secession; if the referendum results in unity, then the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), the Constitution and the institutions which have been established thereon will continue as usual. But if the result is for secession, we suggest that the arrangements take the form of a declaration, an agreement or a pact to be signed. This declaration or pact must cover the following aspects:

1- The economic aspects:

A/ Those include issues on determining the productive oil wells and fields to each party.

B/ Settlement of the obligations and fields for the existing companies for the production of petroleum in the common fields.                                                                                                       C/ Agreement on a detailed price for the crude that is produced in the south and delivered to Khartoum Refinery. It s to be noted that the oil proceeds make up 45% of the general revenues of north Sudan (2009) and 99% of those of south Sudan. The country's total oil production amounts to 480 bpd (May 2009) out of which 56% is produced in the south, 30% in Abyei and 14% in north Sudan oilfields

2- Agreement on the Nile Water

3- Agreement on foreign debts. 

4- Agreement on communications

5- Agreement animal movements.

6- Agreement on transit trade

If we exclude the petroleum from the balance of trade which represents 95% of the exports and 54% of the imports of the north, while it makes up 99% of the budget of the south, we will notice a fluctuation in the growth of the non-petroleum exports during 2004-2009. This is attributed to the remarkable decrease in cotton, gum Arabic and groundnuts exports, in addition to nine commodities exported in crude forms. Those constitute around 77% of the total value of the non-petroleum exports

In view of the present situation of the non-petroleum exports and a bid to increase them during the remaining period of 2010, short-term emergency programmes have been drawn up, with emphasis on increasing the amounts of a number of specific exports to meet the growing demand on them, such as the animal wealth, besides rationalization of importation.

Generally speaking, there is a phenomenon of soaring prices which is a global phenomenon from which the majority of the peoples of the world, particularly those dependent on food import.

In case of secession both the north ad the south are going to suffer economically and precautionary arrangements must be taken forthwith.

Question:  In case of secession to which side will the balance of trade be tipped?

 Answer: The balance of trade is at present and will be for a long time in favour of the north due to the availability of the infrastructure and the administrative experience the northerners are missing. However, in the distant future, the south will witness a flourish in trade if the resources are better exploited.

 Question:  What is the direct and indirect impact of empowered women on economy, in general, and on prices, in particular? 

 Answer: The female element has a tremendous impact on the living standard and determining the spending on the partial economic level. This in turn affects the overall economy. So the women's economic role will be in the form of contribution to and participation in the production capacities

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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