Commentary, Politics

Why Bak should be cautious about economic reforms

By Mamer Abraham


The current national minister for finance and the governor of the Bank of South Sudan have taken significant strides to improve the financial sector since their appointment last year.

The Treasury Department had been grappling with a major crisis related to the skyrocketing dollar exchange rate and rampant inflation. This issue had been a cause of concern for several Central Bank governors and finance ministers who had been trying to come up with a viable solution.

However, despite their efforts, the situation continued to worsen and eventually led to the dismissal of these key officials from their positions

The citizens are watching whether someday these industrious professionals will lose their jobs or be the most successful ones to heal the economic injury that has seemed to translate into a mortal wound in recent years.

Last week, the national minister for finance, Dr Bak Chol Bak, urged the spending agencies and accounting officers to send legitimate documents to the ministry of finance so that bogus claims are filtered out.

“Dr. Bak Barnaba Chol urged representatives of spending agencies to regulate the claims they send to the Ministry of Finance to ensure such documents are authentic, legitimate, and procedural to curb the issues of bogus claims and contain the rampant overcrowding at the Ministry of Finance,” the statement from the ministry read.

The minister also said the salaries of civil servants and organized forces will be paid using an identity card issued by the National Ministry of Finance so that ghost names will be erased from the government payroll.

“Bak informed the forum that the next payment of salaries will be conducted through financial ID cards issued to all public servants and organized forces immediately upon receiving their salaries to clear the payroll from ghost names and set the pace for the biometric system of salary payment,” the statement continued.

Pity the minister

With all these notable plans that will transform the financial sector and might reduce fraud in the payment of salaries, some citizens are concerned that this might cost the minister his job someday, looking back to his predecessors.

Galdino Ochama Ojok, the executive director of SSuNDE, acknowledged the efforts of the minister, but some figures who might be against the improvement in the financial sector will betray him just the way other finance ministers were betrayed.

“The intention of the minister of finance is good in terms of ridding the payroll of ghost names, and it is welcome,” he said.

“However, this is not the first of its kind; many attempts have been initiated previously and have utterly failed. So long as the political leadership does not have the will to implement financial reforms and financial discipline in the country.”

He said the minister who might have the heart to set the country free from economic challenges may risk dismissal because of his efforts to improve the economy.

“The effort of the current minister will not yield any fruits. The worst will be his dismissal if he insists on reforming the financial sector. It is a known fact that the system works with those who are super corrupt; as such, the minister should either join them or be removed,” he concluded.

Weakening economy

The South Sudan Pound has been depreciating every month and now stands at about 110, 000 per $100.

The prices of the commodities are notably high, leaving citizens struggling to sustain themselves and their families.

Currency depreciation and weakening of the economy have been measures of performance by President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The head of state had been sacking and appointing several ministers and bank governors, but everything seemed the same.

Many people are left in doubt about whether strong men and women are pivoting the performance of the financial sector and gearing it towards what benefits them. Whether these figures exist or are just a myth, this is what the government needs to dig out to liberate the suffering citizens economically.

Fatigued economists

Several economists have been giving pieces of advice in a bid to ensure the economy is stabilized and resuscitated, but these have not been applied to date.

The comments they gave included reverting to a fixed exchange rate instead of floating the currency. Another comment had been the boosting of local food production as well as the paying of salaries in banks so that the currency is regulated.

Some of these have been tried, but some are yet to be applied, while others are planned, but implementation takes a snail’s pace.

In October 2023, Abraham Matoch, an economist, told the No. 1 Citizen Daily Newspaper that the challenges facing the economy are linked to foreign market monopolies and poor protectionism policies, leading to the depreciation of South Sudanese pesos against the United States dollar.

Matoch said the irrationality of domestic products plays a negative role in the downfall of South Sudanese pounds and the weakening of the economy.

“In the commodity area, there is no reason to import vegetables and fruits in Uganda; while we have them in abundance, some fruits rot because no one is eating them,” he said.

He said the food production is enormous across South Sudan, including Western Equatoria State, Central Equatoria State, and Eastern Equatoria State, to mention but a few, but the traders focus on imports instead of buying quality products within the country.



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