South Sudan’s newly-appointed finance minister unveils approach to fix economy

Newly-appointed South Sudan finance minister Athian Diing Athian taking oath of office before President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba last week. [Photo by Presidency]

Newly-appointed South Sudan finance minister Athian Diing Athian taking oath of office before President Salva Kiir Mayardit in Juba last week. [Photo by Presidency]

JUBA – South Sudan’s new finance minister is determined to check runaway inflation as the first step in turning around a country shattered by conflict since it seceded from Sudan in 2011 and, more recently, the coronavirus pandemic.

Production of crude — the landlocked nation’s main export — has dropped to 170,000 barrels a day, less than half the output just before war broke out in 2013. Attempts to revive output have been stymied by low international prices, while lock downs to control the virus have delayed the movement of equipment and materials.

“Rampant inflation is detrimental to our overall goal and must be curbed as soon as a matter of urgency,” Athian Diing Athian said in an interview from the capital, Juba. “To accomplish this, we must immediately maximize revenue to ensure the efficient and prudent allocation and accountability of public resources.”

Oil is the country’s biggest source of income and the lower prices have battered its reserves and revenue, fueling inflation that reached 37.2% in April, according to the last data released by the central bank. The South Sudanese pound has plunged to 447 per dollar on the parallel market, compared with the official rate of 167 to the greenback.

Meeting Obligations

“I will be working closely with all financial institutions of the government as well as our international partners, to position ourselves to navigate this crisis,” Athian said. “Once we have streamlined revenue flows, we will ensure that government obligations are met.”

Service delivery is paramount for success, Athian said. “One thing the pandemic has taught us is that it is imperative we build the capacity of our basic services,” he said. “The threat of Covid-19 is still real and we must focus on improving access to health-care across the country.”

South Sudan had 2,649 cases of the virus as of Tuesday, with 1,290 recoveries and 49 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Kiir says non-oil revenues are considered “private” by those who collect them

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit speaking during the swearing in ceremony of newly appointed minister of finance in Juba on Friday [Photo by the Presidency]

South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit speaking during the swearing in ceremony of newly appointed minister of finance in Juba on Friday [Photo by the Presidency]

JUBA – South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit has said that non-oil revenues are considered to be private by those who collects them saying the corrupt practice is a tragedy facing the world’s youngest country.

The South Sudanese leader made the remarks during the swearing in ceremony of the country’s newly appointed minister of finance who was appointed on Monday following a public outcry over corruption which has rendered the country’s central bank empty.

“Our problem is that the non-oil revenues are considered to be private by those who collect them,” Kiir said Friday. “That they don’t go to the treasury of the government. That is our tragedy. But if we were collecting this money in good faith and put them in the coffers of the government, we would have a lot of money.”

Kiir also urged the new finance minister to limit tax exemption on some of the imports that he said are not supposed to be exempted adding that he believes the non-oil revenues could be a source of riches for the country that depend mostly on oil export.

“Now there is an issue of exemptions. Many people have companies and these companies bring all sorts of goods and owners of the companies including very senior people in the government either ministers or whatever they are, they bring goods and ask to be exempted. This is not possible,” he said.

Machar, new R-JMEC chief General Charles Tai discuss peace implementations  

First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny (right) and the newly appointed chairperson of the Reconstituted Join Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), General Charles Tai Gituai (left) meeting today in Juba at Machar's office [Photo by SSBC]

First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny (right) and the newly appointed chairperson of the Reconstituted Join Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), General Charles Tai Gituai (left) meeting today in Juba at Machar’s office [Photo by SSBC]

JUBA – South Sudan’s First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny  has today met the newly appointed chairperson of the Reconstituted Join Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (R-JMEC), General Charles Tai Gituai, and discussed range of issues related to the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement.

Machar is a signatory to the revitalized peace agreement, which came about as result of a two-year peace process under the auspices of the former Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir.

Speaking following the meeting with Machar, Gituai said he discussed with the main armed opposition leader the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement especially the issue of the responsibility sharing at the states and local government levels.

“The time now is two years since the signing of the revitalized agreement on the resolution of the conflict in South Sudan. So, we have been going around meeting the senior leadership so that they can brief us on the progress, what so far has been achieved and what are the programs for the future towards the implementation of this agreement,” Gituai told the state-owned SSBC.

“So this afternoon we had a lengthy discussion with His Excellency [the First Vice President] particularly on the issues of the governance. We have discuss the issues of the chairing of responsibilities at the level of the states and the chairing of the positions at the level of the counties as well,” he said.

He said the two men also discussed the peace deal’s provision on the security arrangements which is related to the training and the reunification of the rival forces for the possible establishment of the country’s first professional national army.

“We also discussed as well the issue of the chapter two which is the security arrangements and how the training of the troops and how they are going to be trained, looking at the training itself, how it is established and how they conduct this training and how the management of the training,” he said.

He further said the two also “discussed the economic reforms and the public finance management issues.”

Kiir tells new finance minister to limit tax exemption

South Sudan President Salva Kiir speaks to the press at the State House in Juba, during South Sudan's independence anniversary, on July 9,2019. [Photo via Getty Images]

South Sudan President Salva Kiir speaks to the press at the State House in Juba, during South Sudan’s independence anniversary, on July 9,2019. [Photo via Getty Images]

JUBA – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has told his newly appointed finance minister Athian Diing Athian to limit tax exemption to help restore the country’s economy which has been badly affected by corruption, coronavirus pandemic and the civil war.

Earlier this week, Kiir removed Salvatore Garang Mabiordit as minister of finance and replaced him with Athian, a former deputy finance minister. Mabiordit had in the week earlier said the country could not pay civil servant because there was no money in his ministry.

Speaking during the swearing ceremony at the State House J1 this afternoon, Kiir urged the Athian to reduce the tax limitation and to work hard to find better mechanisms to address the economic challenges that are threatening to fail the country.

“I encourages you to double your efforts to succeed in your assignment. What you need to do is to find a better mechanism to address demands of the people in the Ministry of Finance,” Kiir told Athian in during the swearing in ceremony administered by chief justice Chaan Reec Madut.

“Now we know the oil doesn’t pay much, but if the non-oil revenues are collected in good faith by the tax collectors, the government would have enough revenues in the financial system. So, I inu urges you to put a limit on tax exemptions because there are some items that should not be exempted from tax,” concluded the South Sudanese head of state.

In August, the Central Bank chief Abdalla Wani said the financial institution had ran out of foreign exchange reserve. The President later on formed an economic crisis management committee to work to centralize non-oil revenue.

Public servants have not been paid since May.

Chinese government donates 3,000 tons of rice to South Sudan amid floods

Manasseh Lomole (L, Front), chairperson of SSRRC and Chinese Ambassador to Juba  Hua Ning (R, Front) sign documents during a handover ceremony of food aid in Juba, South Sudan, on Sept. 17, 2020. [Photo by Xinhua]

Manasseh Lomole (L, Front), chairperson of SSRRC and Chinese Ambassador to Juba Hua Ning (R, Front) sign documents during a handover ceremony of food aid in Juba, South Sudan, on Sept. 17, 2020. [Photo by Xinhua]

JUBA – The Chinese Embassy in South Sudan on Thursday handed over 3,000 tons of rice as emergency food aid to the east African country.

The embassy said the 1,500 tons of the donation will go for emergency relief to help people affected by recent floods.

The remaining half will be used to support the training of the unified armed forces as part of China’s support to South Sudan’s peace process.

“On behalf of the people of South Sudan, we say thank for the rice donation,” Peter Mayen Majongdit, South Sudan’s Humanitarian Affairs Minister, said.

“Our relations with China are unbreakable and we will continue to maintain this strong relationship in various areas,” Majongdit added.

Manasseh Lomole, chairperson of South Sudan’s Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, said the Chinese food aid came at the right time when the conflict-torn country is battling severe disasters such as floods and food insecurity.

“People have been displaced, crops submerged under water, livestock lost and property destroyed. People are heading for a serious food shortage,” Lomole added.

The oil-rich South Sudan is currently facing a severe economic crisis amid a fall in global oil prices.

The crisis in the world’s newest nation is further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and floods that have affected over 500,000 people nationwide.

“The Chinese government and people are very concerned about the recent floods in Unity, Jonglei and other states which affected a big population,” said Hua Ning, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan.

Hua said since 2018, the Chinese government has so far provided a total of 9,600 tons of rice to South Sudan in seven batches, adding that Beijing will continue to support South Sudan to attain peace and stability.

“Our own experience has made us fully empathic with South Sudanese people,” the Chinese envoy said, adding that China will strive to help the country within its ability.

“China is also willing to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with South Sudan in disaster prevention and mitigation, so as to reduce the loss of people’s lives and property caused by natural disasters,” the Chinese envoy added.

South Sudan advocacy group urges new NRA chief to centralize revenue in single bank account

Executive Director of the nonprofit Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Edmund Yakani [Photo via Radio Tamazuj]

Executive Director of the nonprofit Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), Edmund Yakani [Photo via Radio Tamazuj]

JUBA – The Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO)  is calling on the South Sudan National Revenue Authority to centralize all forms of revenue collected into a single account openly and transparently.

The Treasury Single Account, where all government revenues are collected, was opened and became operational in December 2018 but it didn’t work when then Commissioner-General of the National Revenue Authority Dr Olympio Attipoe was fired in August by the Finance Minister.

The revenue collected continues to be diverted into private accounts that were opened and managed by some senior government officials according to Economic Crisis Management Committee

The CEPO Executive Director, Edmund Yakani, described the reopening of treasury single account as the best and practical way to reform the financial system in the country.

Edmund appeals to the Revenue Authority to direct other government institutions tasked with revenue collections to use the banking system for payment of all forms of revenue across the country to minimize corruption

Yakan said firing the Finance Minister is the best way of dealing away with corrupt public officials and reform the corrupt system.

He calls on the government to charge all directors in the Ministry of Finance to open ways for the financial reforms.

CEPO appeals to the recently established Economic Crisis Management Committee to conduct a public workshop on how to design best practice for rescuing the current economic situation.

He added that the government should use the revenues collected to buy more goods to reduce the prices in the market.

He further said that the government should ensure that the Central Bank has enough reserves so as stop Pounds from depreciating against the US Dollar.

WBG governor Sarah Cleto tours Wau’s Jou market to asses basic commodity prices

Western Bahr el Ghazal state governor Sarah Cleto touring Wau's Jou Market [Photo by WBGS governor's office]

Western Bahr el Ghazal state governor Sarah Cleto touring Wau’s Jou Market [Photo by WBGS governor’s office]

WAU – The newly-appointed governor of South Sudan’s Western Bahr el Ghazal state Sarah Cleto has on Wednesday toured Wau’s most busiest market of Jou to asses prices of basic commodities.

This comes as the country faces economic crisis imposed by corruption, Coronavirus pandemic and the global decline of oil prices.

In a brief statement on her social media Facebook page, the only female governor in the country said she visited the Jou market to access prices and to assure traders that the state government would work with them to make the takes moderate to avoid price hike.

‘[I] visit[ed] Jou Market to express effort to work with traders to take consideration of the situation the clientele and not to over burden them with prices,” she wrote.

Cleto is the only female politician to be nominated as governor in the country.

Her appointment rendered praise for the main armed opposition group, SPLM-IO, which nominated her.

Kiir fires finance minister, Nilepet and National Revenue Authority bosses

Finance minister, Salvatore Garang Mabiordit, acting NRA Commissioner-General Erjok Bullen Geu, and Nilepet director Dr Chol Deng [Photo designed by Sudans Post]

Finance minister, Salvatore Garang Mabiordit, acting NRA Commissioner-General Erjok Bullen Geu, and Nilepet director Dr Chol Deng [Photo designed by Sudans Post]

JUBA – South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has on Tuesday fired the country’s finance minister, Salvatore Garang Mabiordit, acting National Revenue Authority (NRA) Commissioner-General Erjok Bullen Geu, and Nilepet director Dr. Chol Deng, according to a decree read out on the state-owned SSBC.

In separate decrees, the South Sudanese head of state appointed Athian Diing Athian as the country’s new finance minister and Africano Mande as Deputy Commissioner-General of the National Revenue Authority pending his recruitment as the head of the tax body.

Bol Riing Mourwel was appointed as the new director of the state-owned oil company Nilepet.

Athian was the country’s deputy finance minister and served until July 27 went he was fired by the President to be replaced by Goc Makuac.

The decree did not state why the three were dismissed.

However, an economic crisis committee formed by President Salva Kiir in August recommended that reforms are made  within the country’s financial systems after the central bank announced that it ran out of foreign exchange reserve.

The country is in a mid of an alarming economic crisis with government officials including the now ex-finance minister announcing at some points that the country cannot control the foreign currency prices at the parallel market.

$1 is traded between SSP 490 and SSP 500 at the parallel market as of this afternoon in Juba.

Public servants have entered the fifth month without salaries with trade minister Kuol Athian saying this week that the country could not afford to pay workers due to corruption, COVID-19 effects and decline of oil prices at the international market.

Government says it will not allow transfers that exceed $10,000 outside the country

South Sudan petroleum minister Puot Kang Chuol addressing journalists following a meeting of the Economic Crisis Management Committee (ECMC) in Juba on Tuesday [Photo by SSBC]

South Sudan petroleum minister Puot Kang Chuol addressing journalists following a meeting of the Economic Crisis Management Committee (ECMC) in Juba on Tuesday [Photo by SSBC]

JUBA – South Sudan government has announced that it will not allow transfers of amount exceeding $10,000 to destinations outside the country, according to the petroleum minister Puot Kang Chuol.

The announcement by the Economic Crisis Management  Committee (ECMC) comes as the country’s economy sees setbacks caused by corruption, decline of oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic.

“Transfers to destinations outside the country should not exceed 1000 US dollars. This is basically to say if you want to send money outside South Sudan, it must not exceed 10,000 US dollars otherwise you will explain why you are sending such a huge amount,” Puot who is also the spokesman of the ECMC told reporters on Tuesday.

The senior government official said those involved in transfers must declare the transactions and that all transactions must be carried out through banking system.

“All transfers into South Sudan should be announced as soon as transfers are done. We want all transfers to be declared,” he said.

“There must be declaration to that effect and the money must come in through banking system, not outside the banking system be it at the borders or the airports, we are instructing all security agencies not to allow any amount beyond this unless it is declared or it is for government purposes not individual purposes,” he further added.

Kiir vows to ‘address’ challenges facing South Sudanese students abroad – minister

Minister of higher education Gabriel Changson Lew Chang meeting President Salva Kiir Mayardit in J1 [Photo courtesy of the presidency]

Minister of higher education Gabriel Changson Lew Chang meeting President Salva Kiir Mayardit in J1 [Photo courtesy of the presidency]

JUBA – South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit has vowed to address challenges facing South Sudanese students studying under government scholarship abroad, according to higher education minister Changson Gabriel Lew Chang.

This come during a meeting between Kiir and the minister at J1 this afternoon. The meeting according to Changson, the meeting between him and President Kiir discussed the many challenges facing students abroad.

“I met H.E the President of the Republic of South Sudan Salva Kiir Mayardit and raised to him the challenges facing our students abroad,”  Changson told the state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation.

“The president has pledged to resolve and address some of the most complicated issues for our student because the COVID-19 has complicated many things including the source of income for the students’ families here back home,” he added.

In March, South Sudan’s high-level task-force released $3 million for South Sudanese students studying in most coronavirus-affected countries including Zimbabwe, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, India, and China.

1 2 3 6