National, News

Parliament ratifies Ethiopia-South Sudan Road Financing Agreement

By Philip Buda Ladu


National Assembly has finally ratified the road financing agreement worth $738 million, between the Ethiopia and South Sudan.

Before approval, yesterday, the lawmakers discussed the bilateral agreement which was differed twice over absence of concerned ministers.

Initially tabled by the Minister of Justice, Ruben Madol, the agreement covers construction of Paloch-Guelgulc-Mathiang-Maiweil-Pangak highway, about 320 km, connecting South Sudan to Ethiopia.

Four committees were tasked to scrutinize the agreement and report back to the house for deliberation, which they did.

Changkuoth Bichiok, the chairperson of standing specialized committee for finance and planning, presented their findings to the house in Tuesday’s session.

He said the committees observed that the proposed $738 million cost for the initial 220-kilometer estimated road was too high, amounting to $3.35 million per kilometer.

The national minister of finance and planning as well as the minister of roads and bridges, were present.

However, the Minister of Roads and Bridges, Simon Mijok Mijak, clarified that the actual length of the road could be 320 kilometers, as it would pass through a swamp and black cotton soil, requiring extensive excavation.

Minister Mijok further stated that there were no feasibility studies done on the road network earmarked for construction due to a lack of finances.

He said the $738 million initial budget is an estimate from South Sudan Road Authority engineers, adding that the exact distance of the road will be determined by a road consultant engineer that’s going to be hired to do feasibility studies.

He further underscored that the estimated 320 km of road, whose construction project was estimated to take three years, is subject to alignment and adjustment after feasibility studies that might reduce the distance and cost.

Mijok, however, called on the parliament to ratify the financing agreement with amendments.

Minister of Finance and Planning, Eng. Daniel Awow Chuang, promised the house that the government will try as much as possible to mobilize money to hire a consultant to do the feasibility studies on the road.

Finance committee chair, Bichiok then submitted the report to the August House and urged member to deliberate on it, adopt a motion, and pass the report with all its amendments and observations.

MPs threw in their submissions over the report, all of whom appreciated the importance of the bilateral financing agreement and, with few observations, urged the House to ratify the agreement with all its recommendations.

Mayen Deng Alier, representing Jonglei State, commended the report, saying Upper Nile State is blessed with a lot of resources that are not being tapped because of the lack of accessibility.

He stated that this road financing agreement is important to unlock the economic benefits of the region.

Alier emphasized that for this agreement to work, there must be a guarantee from the Ministry of Petroleum, as the loan is going to be paid through the oil proceeds.

MP Bol Joseph Agau, representing Lakes State, stated that it was not even necessary for the house to wait time debating the agreement but rather approve it.

“We don’t discuss bilateral agreements; they were discussed by the two countries, and there is nothing we can change about them; we just ratify or reject them,” he submitted.

Another lawmaker, honorable Goc Makuac, expressed that the project touches the hearts of the rural people, especially those in the Upper Nile region, and deserves approval.

“Since this financing agreement benefits people in South Sudan and Ethiopia. The agreement is in favor of our people. I urge the august house to pass this agreement,” he said.

Justin Joseph Marona, a lawmaker representing Western Equatoria State, echoed the need to embrace this practice in parliament, of MPs scrutinizing any bilateral agreements and loans.

“We appreciate that if there is any loan that the government is going to borrow, it must be brought here to the parliament with a detailed report of the project accompanying it,” he emphasized.

After the thorough debate, Hon. Gathkuot Peter moved a motion for the House to terminate the debate and ratify the road financing agreement between Ethiopia and South Sudan with all the recommendations and observations.

Thereafter, Speaker Jemma Nunu Kumba ruled the debate after the motion was seconded, and the bilateral agreement was unanimously passed and ratified by the honorable members chapter by chapter in totality.

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