BY: Machien Luoi, BENTIU, UNITY STATE, NOV. 7/2012, SSN;
The Republic of South Sudan (RSS) shutdown its oil production earlier this year over dishonest distribution of the oil resource revenues with the Sudan. Oil revenues compromised over 95 percent of RSS budgets prior to the relationship breakdown between the two countries. Moreover, conflict between the two countries raged over contested border areas of neighboring states, particularly at Panthou in Unity State, a South Sudan territory claimed by the Sudan. Consequently, South Sudan economy went down drastically forcing the RSS to operate on austerity budgets.
In response to the austerity pressure, some states in the RSS immediately cut civil servants basic salaries. Western Bahr El Ghazel is claimed to have cut salaries by 50 percent while in Unity State basic salaries for civil servants were curved by 25 percent. What this meant was that a civil servant, who earned 600 SSP a month before austerity budgets, earned 300 SSP for 50 percent cut for Western Bahr El Gazel and 450 SSP after 25 percent deduction in Unity State.
Of late, citizens in some states began to ask why their small incomes were getting sliced. Questions arose on whether the policy that slashed their basic income was a national government initiative or respective states decided on their own austerity policies.
Latest exchanges between the national government and some state governments are a revelation that neither the national nor the state governments can clarify specifically where the decision to cut basic salaries for civil servants came from. They are now trading accusations.
According to the National Minister of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP) in their recent statement dated October 24, 2012, the National Government did not order for *any cuts in the basic salaries of government employees whether at the state or national level. Any state authority that cuts the salaries/wages of its workers is not implementing the policy of the national government. It has nothing to do with the austerity measures undertaken by the National Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.*
According to the Mr. Kosti Manibe, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, the national policy of austerity reduced *housing allowances by 50 percent.* The states of course have no civil servants housing allowances. Conditional salary transfers were reduced *except for elimination of job specific allowances,* while Block Grants to the States were deducted by 25 percent, according to the Minister.
It is not clear from the MoFED and Mr. Kosti Manibe what *elimination of job specific allowances* implies. Were these eliminated *job specific allowances* to special civil servants, politicians or who?
Certainly this is confusing and ought to be clarified. Maybe the states took advantage of such unclear pieces to reduce basic salaries for government employees. Other states may have chosen to use Block Grants for basic salary payments to government employees in their respective states. This is not difficult to comprehend.
According to the Minister, *States are free to use their Block Grants in the way they want.* Thus, if 25 percent of the Block Grant to the states was cut by the MoFED, in response the states can also incise the basic salaries of employees paid on the Block Grant to adjust to the austerity reduction.
While the national government is not responsible for how states use their Block Grants, states did not choose to cut 25 percent of their Block Grants, the national government did. If the states and national government were not on the same page on the issue, states that are using Block Grants for payment of government employees may scapegoat the national government for the lost percentages of their Block Grants, after all they could use the Block Grants as they wish.
So far, there has been misunderstanding and confusion over who cut the basic salaries of government employees. National government is obviously not taking responsibility. The states are pointing fingers at the national government on the matter.
For instance, the Deputy Governor of Unity State rejected assertion by the National Minister of Finance and Economic Planning that it is not responsible for basic salaries cut calling it, *a clear accusation against state governments.* The Deputy Governor said that his government lost $ 500,000 in 2012 because of the austerity measures.
Unity State previously received $ 12 million from National Government. That means there is 4.2 percent of $ 12 million that is lost to the austerity policy. What is not clear from the Deputy Governor is whether $ 500,000 is from the eliminated *job specific allowances* or from the 25 percent deduction in Block Grant to the State or a combination of the two?
At this juncture into the austerity measures policies in the RSS, neither national government nor state governments have answers for the deduction of the lowly paid government employees in South Sudan states. But who has answers?
In the light of this article, the ball is back into the court of the National Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to make specific some of the issues they tried to clarify recently with regards to the basic salary cut for government employees in the states.
It is necessary to shed light on this subject. It is painful to use the austerity policies to disadvantage the very people who are most affected by the economic downturn and austerity policies of the country.
Something is wrong somewhere as accusations between national government and state governments are indicative of the mess.
The writer is a South Sudanese residing in Bentiu, Unity State and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and not of the website)