Correcting the economic mess in South Sudan

BY: Bol Mathieng, RSS, DEC/31/2012, SSN;

Dear readers, on returning home, I thought the government through the Central Bank, has got rid of the money changers along the streets by asking the police to arrest such individuals in a bit to curb the incidence. On seeing them again, I immediately asked myself several questions like:

‘Why were they (street money changers) left undisturbed when in other countries you can rarely see them?’

‘How does the Central Bank regulate the amount of money in circulation when the money changers exist and actively go about their money changing business?’

‘How can limited hard currencies be rationed to meet the nation’s hard currency demand with the presence of money changers?’

‘How can fiscal policy successfully work when the money changers are not organized dealers with considerable level of experience in education necessary for book keeping which can be used to levy taxes?’

The list is endless. What is the way forward? The solution lies in the hands of policy makers in government (Central bank) to immediately get rid of money changers, and remain with Forex bureaus and commercial banks.

In my opinion, the numbers of Forex bureaus should be regulated, you can agree with me if you look at this view at the angle of extending credit to borrowers necessary for expatiating economic growth and development. Have you ever seen the Forex bureau extending credit here in Juba or anywhere in South Sudan?

What they are known for is exchanging money and transferring hard currency abroad to student, importers, sick people etc… to meet their hard currency demands abroad, but the number of commercial banks that extend credit to local people is limited in comparison with these numerous Forex bureaus. It should be noted that commercial banks in which I cherish increase in their numbers are the locally owned or jointly owned commercial banks.

So how will local entrepreneurs get credit and financial advice if some areas are not covered by the commercial banks? I was happy to see an indigenous bank known as Nile commercial bank operating well in early 2006, 2007 before it collapsed. What are our local businessmen waiting for? I have seen many of them opening Forex bureaus instead of commercial banks.

I am also pleased by the existence of National commercial bank as an indigenous bank, what is now needed is its expansion so that it can cover more areas country wide. Let me give you example of Centenary Bank in Uganda, the bank has the widest coverage in Uganda, interestingly, its share holders are not all foreigners. Of the shareholders are indigenous people (the Catholic Church, local individuals and few foreigners).

We can also learn a lesson from Rwanda, whose indigenous bank is doing great task in accelerating economic growth and development there through extension of credit to local farmers. In my opinion, an organized group of south Sudanese should pooled their resources together and form a commercial bank through partnership, or else the one which is now present should be encouraged to expand its services country wide by emboldening savers to opening many saving accounts with it instead of saving abroad or increasing consumption locally.

The next issue that did not impress me is a domination by foreigners of the informal economic sector. What will local individuals with relatively limited amount of capital invest in small businesses like bars, restaurants, tea selling, water selling through water tanks, hair cutting, bodaboda riding, taxi or public transport system, building of houses and fences etc…

These should have been owned and dominated by the citizens because they required limited capital and skills, but now the opposite is true, why? Can’t we do those jobs? Are they financially and physically hard for us to afford? The answer is no, people just need to wake up and recuperate their economy from foreigners.

If you have been in Juba, you must have read how the some foreigners testified how they made money from the jobs that are considered dirty, for example, one of the newspaper last year published a story of a chapati seller who made roughly 100 south Sudanese pounds in two days, assuming he is a good saver, he would have made considerable amount of money at the end of the year.

Domination of hotel services by foreigners
If you ask yourself a simple question like this: how are the citizens of south Sudan particularly residence of Juba city who happened to be neighbors of such hotels benefiting from the existence of the business in their area? The answer is no, they are not economically benefiting in any way.

Just take your time and tour hotels in Thongpiny, you will not fail in your survey to find that all the waiters and waitresses are all foreigners, why? Don’t we have young ladies that can do those jobs? If the criteria of choosing a waiter is based on beauty, then I can also ask a question, don’t we have beautiful girls that can occupy those vacancies that are now filled by foreigners? The answer is YES, we have beautiful girls that can suit that criterion.

Taxes alone are not enough, yes, government can obtain taxes from those hotels but what about the local population especially unemployed young ladies, where will they get employed?

I call upon the ministry of public service to look into that matter and employment in general, those who have academic documents should register with the ministry so that they are employed depending on their careers, those who lacks academic papers should also be registered and they should be employed in areas that do not need academic qualification.

Reduction of imports
Since the approach that our government has taken is seemingly people-based agriculture production system where government avails tractors to farmers, the individual states should take advantage of Juba city as their ready market for all their agricultural products in the first place before they would think of exportation in the future.

For example, Central Equatoria state citizens can take the advantage of its being the host of the national government and invest heavily in perishable goods like tomatoes, onions, all green vegetables such as Kudura, okra…etc, it can also invest in other crops that they can produce well. Each state can specialize in commodities it can produce better and leave the rest to other states. They can then have inter-states trade and this will definitely reduce importations of food stuffs and boost unity among states since traders will interchangeably carry out their trade.

In short, government should have agricultural farms, or they can relocate residents of Rank and use the entire region of Rank as an agricultural area in a bit to produce more output.

Establishment of National planning Authority/planning commission
Without a planning commission, the country can not be able to formulate, monitor and evaluate the plans effectively. This is true with perspective plan which is broken down into annual, five or ten-year plans. It should be noted that it was because of feasible plans that Indian commission formulate that account for Indian sustainable development, China had also followed the same suit while pursuing its developmental goals.

Therefore, my appeal to the government is that, when it gets resources once again, it should endeavor to form a planning commission. The saying goes thus: failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning commission is equally important like other commissions that republic of south Sudan are now having.

Formation of national examination board for primary and secondary school and national council for higher education for university education
Human capital development is one of the important aspects that every country needs to flourish in its economic development ambitions. Although the nation is still young, the formation of national examination board charged with reviewing the syllabus, setting and marking primary and secondary examinations is important, it is a strong foundation laid in primary and secondary education that give raise to quality graduates.

On the other hand, national council for higher education plays an important role of reviewing the qualifications that an institution has to award degrees, masters, and PHDs. These facts are not new to each one of you but I greatly wonder why such institutions are not in place when we have very experienced, knowledgeable professors like Prof. Machar Kachuol, prof. Cuir Riak, Prof. Job Dharuai and many other highly educated south Sudanese that I may not know but are qualified as well,

To proof to you that we are not well off educationally, just log on to Google and type top 100 African universities, you definitely find none of South Sudanese universities in the ranking. The massive search of quality education in our neighboring countries and overseas and is clear manifestation that we have a poor education system. But it is not too late to rectify it, it requires formation of the above institutions, establishing teachers training centers country wide, improving school facilities like classrooms, syllabus, and above all paying attractive salaries to all teachers and lecturers that are under government aided schools or institutions.

Our great nation needs strong education system that can even attract foreign students to study here in Republic of South Sudan. It will also reduce the need to study abroad because everything that overseas educational institutions have will be found here if the above measures are put into considerations.

In conclusion, I appeal to my fellow south Sudanese, both policy makers in the government and local people to do something about our economy, we have successfully achieved our political independence until we obtained the title of Republic, the next battle is economic independence, which requires everyone (policy makers in the government and public at large) to be involved, do any economic activity that earns you a living and stop dependency.

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