South Sudan Circular on Terminating Foreign Nationals by Mid-October 2014: False, Facts & Policy Options

BY: Garang Atem Ayiik, SOUTH SUDAN, SEP/19/2014, SSN;

1. Introduction
This week, Ministry for Labor issued a Ministerial Order that ordered all companies, and NGOs to terminate all foreign nationals working in South Sudan by mid-October 2014.

The same circular went further to mention some specific positions to be advertised and filled with nationals with the assistance of the Ministry. Specifying the roles to be South Sudanized, adds further confusion ‘to all’ mention in the circular.

This circular is already making head-line. Kenya Citizen TV reported Kenya Amb. To South Sudan having said that all African ambassadors in South Sudan are considering approaching South Sudan Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discussed this issue.

As usual, though this is a good policy intended to helps localized opportunities to South Sudanese, it seems the Government of South Sudan has done this out of emotions with little due process, without due diligence to diplomatic implications, and operationalization considerations.

This article aims to discuss the impact of this circular from an economic policy perspective, suggest possible implications and policy options.

2. What does the circular mean?

South Sudan through Ministry of Interior, ordered foreigners nationals driving motor cycles in South Sudan early this year. There was rapid and immediate uproar from Uganda. This got the attention of Ugandans Parliamentarians, with some members looking at South Sudan as attacking her economic interest.

Some members of Uganda Parliament asked the Government of Uganda to pays South Sudan with the same coin. However, these calls died down after it received low reception from the executive.

Though the motors cycle boys’ case was a tangential issue, this circular touch on economic hearts of Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopian, Eritrea, Africa and the World at large.

In a world runs on principle of self interest, will these nations allow South Sudan to edge them off the economic cake and did South Sudan anticipate these nations reaction and her respond?

This is viewed from the background that these nations contributed to significantly to well-being of South Sudan and to some extent; these nations consider themselves as stakeholders in South Sudan.

As an economic student, from theoretical perspective, I surely agreed with the need to put monies in the pockets of South Sudanese. These has multiples merit, first, incomes for the local will be re-invest in South Sudan and hence encourage local economic growth;

Secondly, reduced repatriation of salaries will reduce pressure on South Sudan Pound; and thirdly, improves standard of living for South Sudanese through employment creation.

With all the due advantages, the circular was a wild miscalculation. In late 2013, the Government through Central Bank issued order to devalue South Sudan pound from 3.16SSP to 4.5SSP.

Though at that time, I supported devaluation, I knew the way the devaluation was framed, it was not going withstand test of public pressure. There was no economic helmet to short term economic stones.

Again, the government is at it – a good intention but a wrong thought process and approach. Already Kenya media is leading hype with report of its 30,000 nationals being targeted for termination.

If it is true what Citizen TV reported its evening news of 16 Sep 2014 that Africa ambassadors in South Sudan are planning to see South Sudan Foreign Affairs Ministry on this, it is likely that South Sudan does not have economic and diplomatic muscles to withstand such pressure.

It is possible like the devaluation directive with all the due advantages, this circular will at some point be rescinded. In 2012, as graduate student at University of Nairobi, I overheard two Kenyans saying ‘tumewaletea peace, na wajinga are killing our people’. Translated to ‘though we bring them peace, stupid South Sudanese are killing our people’.

This was at period of hype reporting in Kenya whenever dead body was brought from South Sudan. The media reported another body from South Sudan. This reporting disregarded the realities of South Sudan.

This circular creates the following impact: one, it will create an opportunity for hype reporting in Kenya, Uganda and other nations about how thankless South Sudan is;

Second, it will creates a diplomatic war that South Sudan has no capacity to win, and mostly at such times when she is very vulnerable due to internal challenges.

Thirdly, it paints South Sudan business environment as gloomy and unfriendly. Such directives are done through regulatory frame-work and not through attention-calling approach.

In all economic jurisprudence, no government can participate in directing investors on who run their business, government give guidance and follow up compliance.

Already there are reports that South Sudanese are some of most reliable workers in the world. With this in the air, what will convince investors to invest in South Sudan when they are compulsory provided an option of employing from unreliable labor in the world! This circulate pollutes South Sudan business environment.

This circular point to serious policy contradictions within government establishments. At some point, the government is a number one pro-East Africa Community whose key principles included liberalization.

This circular is a total departure from this understanding. Though it is author’s believes that this circular will never be implemented in spirit and letter, it will cause diplomatic and economic damage.

3. Conclusions and Recommendations

At such times, the government does not need to piss off her allies and investors. In economic policy, it is about incentives, understanding the respond of the economic agents involved and prepare for perceived reactions. South Sudan should know better.

Can government tries fiscal policy – say a firm that employ 80% of South Sudanese work force, get tax preferential treatment! There are ranges of policy options to choose from;

It was not necessary to create unnecessary diplomatic and economic war. The government needs to coordinate and analyze her decisions. Was it really necessary to ask for namely calling from the region?

Already there are quotas in some sectors to be employed as South Sudanese. The government should make NGOs and private sector to comply with this for now instead for asking for lofty dreams;

Decisions such as devaluation, or directive to pay local staffs working with NGOs that cannot withstand test of time and realities should be avoided. These decisions portray lack of understanding, and appreciation of local and geo-economic realities;

The government has soft and friendly ways of implementing this directive in non-attention calling fashion. Doing audits to sustain compliance with employment quotas, and do human resource audit in South Sudan and thereafter, regulate entrance through work permits and entry visa. The government can use sectors’ regulators to ensure compliance.

The government has an option of refusing to issue permits and visas base on judgment of cadres that she needs to import.

After all, it is a legal non-sense to ask an employer to terminate an employee with a valid work permit and entry visa to South Sudan;

Economic decisions need to be institutionalized. Economic policy requires systematic analysis likely insufficient on an individual capacity.

It is better to subject policies to independent policy test through think tanks and expert advisers. Otherwise, South Sudan might continue to make short-sighted harmful economic policies.

Garang Atem Ayiik is an independent South Sudan Economic Policy Commentator base in South Sudan. He can be reached garangatemayiik@gmail.com

5 Comments

  1. galdino. sebit says:

    He who lives in a glass house, should not throw stones. Our neighbour’s reaction could be devastatingly harmful to our interest.

    • Eastern says:

      Galdino Sebit, you are not in touch with reality in South Sudan. You have been brainwashed by the loud mouthed East African citizens (chapati makers, sex workers, etc) who are up in arms against the recent government directives.

      Some of us studied in these countries and we know very well what their citizens can do in terms of work deliverable.
      Both Uganda and Kenya have issued these kind of directives way back in 2013! Check your facts on the regions labour regulation before you bash the government of South Sudan.

  2. Defender says:

    The Circular was a “Clearly Stupid” decision by the ministry of labour. Ministers do not pass laws, the suggest possible policy directions to protect local labour market, send the idea to the parliament for discussion; pass the legislation, then confirm it into law, through the ascent of the President. The law will then have triggering instruments/phases that will allow it to take effect. This can take between one to five years to implement. Because, South Sudan does not have the capacity to fill these positions, it is totally dependent on the economies of the countries that it wants their nationals out of the country and, the current economic, social and political situation in the country does not warrant such a drastic economic, political and labour policy.

    But as usual, there is nothing surprising that comes out of Juba these days. It is only the mediocrity! No coordination in communication, policy, organization, articulation, direction, and the list goes on and on…

    Even though the government has been beaten off the track by their own stupidity, do not count them out relying on cheaply ordered economic and labour policy advise they receive from half backed, homegrown, “pseudo economists” or labour law experts, to the country aground. Those who envisioned this circular and signed off on it, must be made to pay for the embarrassment the causes, if they have one.

  3. monychol says:

    This is a government especially the August 2013 Cabinet of Death thatt make decisions based on malicious intents to harm.All decisions that are made in this cabinet of death are intents to hurt security and economic wise.
    Their hostile attitude to hurt everybody in the country and outside the country had been obvious since the were appointed in August 2013. and those of us who knows hisstories and governments in the world knew from the beginning that the country was on a destructive course.Now even IGAD members have understood how reckless and thoughtless this August cabinet of death is.
    The solution is to tear down, disperse and prosecute the criminals that make up this cabinet of death.

  4. galdino. sebit says:

    Mr. Eastern, direct your disappointments to those who rescinded the order/circular. Check your facts about the response from Kenya and Uganda concerning this orders, I believe you would appreciate they helped us liberate south Sudan and conclude the signing of the CPA.

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