By Agar Mayor Gai-Makoon
The most important factor that Minister Bak Barnaba did not mention in his address about the forthcoming National Economic Conference (NEC) is corruption.
It is a factor that most of our sitting government officials rarely talk about. But deep in their hearts, I am sure they know the weight that corruption holds in the basket of our problems—it is really huge. It challenges anyone’s intellect why corruption has become so dreadful that we have accepted to suffer from it, and instead always place the blame on other factors. This does not make enough sense to the common man.
Possibly, South Sudan cannot produce the appropriate solutions to the economic and political problems if the problems are not accurately identified. According to the Annual Corruption Perceptions Index, South Sudan ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world. I wonder how someone will still struggle to find out why South Sudan is not economically and politically progressive. We are corrupt, period. We have economic systems that do not support the realization of our national goals.
The National Economic Conference on 4th -8th September should really have much to cover. In the words of Minister Bak, the NEC aims at diversifying the economy, enhancing policy dialogue, achieving sustainable resource mobilization, effective budgeting and planning, prudent resource allocation and spending, organizational capacity building and intergovernmental fiscal discipline.
But all in all, the systems that will bring forth macroeconomic stability and diversify the economy must be immune to corruption. We have to have a corruption-free state for such progress to be realized. And this is why the NEC should put on the top of its list of things to be discussed in developing a resilient and corruption-immune financial systems.
They can approach the corruption factor in two main ways. One is initiating a nationwide campaign against corruption. The president should be the main brain behind this campaign.
While justifying his usual decrees, our president has always admitted that he has not got the right people to work with and that all the people he has employed, only want to divert our resources to their pockets. This is very true, but the problem calls for more than just relieving them from their duties. In order to avoid the reoccurrence of such unpatriotic practices in our government, these people must always be punished.
The nationwide campaign against corruption should be well contrived—to identify the areas that give room for corruption, identify the ministers and other government dignitaries who are involved, and provide appropriate punishments to these people. The campaign should have legal backing.
A committee headed by the person the president will appoint should be formed and vetted by the parliament. But the president must be the mastermind of this campaign. I do not believe there is a perfect system against corruption in this world. What I do believe is that when the top leadership decides to fight corruption— punishing the perpetrators, we are able to minimize the levels of corruption.
It is high time our top leadership takes up this role and knows that the fight against corruption does not necessarily require special systems. All it demands are the will and competence from the top leadership.
Secondly, we should build institutions that produce the required outcomes. For instance, our institutions should be made efficient and effective by applying technology. At Juba International Airport, you will find there are no detectives. The CID personnel check your bags manually. This makes the service at juba international airport slow and less effective.
In fact, it puts South Sudan in a vulnerable state. Anything harmful can be smuggled into the country. This shows the level of our vulnerability. Our resource mobilization systems should also use technology.
The technology ensures that there is a great gap between people and money. No one can be so much trusted with money, but when there is technology—the second employee, there is some level of trust. We should embrace technology and make it work for us.
The writer is a former contributor to Juba Monitor