BY: Andrew A. Nikenora, Rumbek, SEPT/13/2013, SSN;
The tough promise by the new Minister of Finance, Commerce, Trade and Industry, Mr. Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, that he would raise non-oil revenue collection in 100 days did not meet any necessary euphoria. In fact, nobody talked about it again the day after his announcement.
The reasons as to why people did not celebrate such a beautiful economic promise are many. Apart from the fact, that people have real substantiated doubts on whether the Minister would walk the talk by the end of the day or not, the underlying issue – and actually what could have caught the public attention – is the timely payment of Government salaries.
The apathy in the minister’s promise provokes a million of reasons. Some seem to be small but they factor in the lives of other people.
To raise the revenue collection is one thing but to manage it well is another thing.
South Sudan’s non-oil revenue can sustain the economy of the country if proper procedures, good measures and right regulations are put in place and implemented by people of meaningful integrity.
But without that done people will just continue to believe that this promise has just happened only to be listened to but will surely pass without anything visibly reaped by the public.
People who happened to know Minister Tisa Sabuni before described him as a tough administrator but fears have equally been expressed on whether he will remain the same guy he used to be or a manoeuvred one.
His statement is already being analysed simply as one to make him appear like he is ready for the job.
Another hurdle in implementing the promise of the new Minister is how hard it has been to discipline the junior staff employed in Nimuli, Kaya, the airports and across major towns of South Sudan.
These junior staffs have crafted ways and means to direct money to their own pockets. For them, it is brain encountering brain.
When the ministry concerned puts instructions in place, they also sit and plan on how to go overcome them. Those who know how to cheat better, are referred to as genius.
Big officials just like those ones and they are called ‘good boys’. They end up building hotels, houses, marry wives and shoulder concubines with public purse.
But as the minister tries his efforts, the other important concern must be placed on his table: what delays the government salaries? What can the minister promise about that?
During the days of the CPA, the delay of the government salaries was blamed on Khartoum.
When the oil flow was shut-down, the delay of government salaries was on blamed on what even those did not go to school now understands, the so-called ‘liquidity.’
Now we are an independent nation and free from Khartoum, can we know our problems?
Our oil has been flowing from April, is there still liquidity problem? The public needs to know and understand what are the problems are associated with salary payments.
One can have anything it his or her mind, but the conclusion by people is just wrapped around two issues about the delay in their pay: a matter of negligence or lack of proper systems for speedy transfer of funds to the states.
Most people do not have lots of money like ministers and other public officers do. Most people who work for government only wait for the end of the month to earn cash in hand. But delay in pay has devastated lives of many government workers.
Some people already turn down government jobs for NGOs work even for a lower pay – the reason being the unreliable, untimely and untrustworthiness of the government pay.
Those who choose to hold on – maybe for lack of alternatives or love of their jobs – continue to carry the burden of service offered every week and service delayed every month.
It actually becomes so painful when one budgets the little money to take him or her towards the end of the month, you are led again into the middle of another month without pay.
When circumstances of emergency or any other essentiality hit like treatment or payment of school fees, you go to borrow money from those who have money and pay it back with ‘riba’.
Riba is a word for interest that is usually charged when you pay back the amount borrowed. For every 100 SSP you borrow, you pay an extra 50 SSP as a profit to the lender.
The longer the salaries are delayed, the more you pay in interest over the same loan. It reaches a cycle where others are tied in complete rounds of loan.
So, a teacher in grade 14 who earns about 300 SSP per month borrows 100 pounds, he will have to pay back 150 SSP, that is already half of his salary. Left with 150 SSP and with a bag of flour going at more than 100 SSP the guy is left with nothing for soap and salt let alone medical care for the family, which are sometimes very very extended ones.
The following month the salaries are late again and before you get the next pay problems are already many that you have to go back for the same loan with ‘riba’.
The unpredictable pay scheme pushes to go on and on borrowing and borrowing until it reaches a time when they just come on a pay-day to sign the pay sheets just to pay the lenders.
Minister after minister, the issue of delay of government salaries has remain unresolved. Tisa’s appointment has led people into discussing his reputation, but one month on he promised nothing and did nothing about the government salaries.
It is almost one month down the line and there no change in payment of government salaries. That he will raise the revenue is heard all over.
Down the line it will be seen if the promise will be delivered in 90 days. But there still questions one would wish to ask: what causes the delay of the government salaries and what is the institution concerned doing about it?
Only one Hon Aggrey Tisa Sabuni has the answers!
Andrew A. Niknora works in Rumbek. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.