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South Sudan’s civil servants: Waiting in vain for payment

Ayuen Akuot
South Sudan’s battered economy is a pressing issue for the transitional government, amid the ongoing economic crisis, soaring inflation and three months unpaid salaries for civil servants and armed forces.
30.06.2016  |  Juba, South Sudan
Students at Juba University wait for their lecturers, who are on strike over salary delays on May 24, 2016. (photo: The Niles | Waakhe Simon Wudu)
Students at Juba University wait for their lecturers, who are on strike over salary delays on May 24, 2016. (photo: The Niles | Waakhe Simon Wudu)

The Economic Presidential Advisor Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, stressed that the National Ministry of Finance and Planning and the Bank of South Sudan are working out ways of solving the country’s acute economic crisis. The exchange rate for the South Sudanese Pound has been climbing and prices in the market have been increasing rapidly. Meanwhile, civil servants have not been paid for several months, giving rise to strikes by judges, university lecturers and some teachers.

You will harm 12 million people by trying to please half a million.

Sabuni said the economic situation may require printing more paper money but warned that such a move would worsen the situation further. “The immediate solution to the economic situation in the country is not easy,” he added. “Now prices are high but if you pour paper money or bank notes into the market, prices will become even higher so you will harm 12 million people by trying to please half a million government employees,” he said, adding that short-term moves could cause more harm than good.

The Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of South Sudan Dor Majok, meanwhile, underscored the need for more U.S. dollars: “To make sure that oil production goes back to pre-crisis levels, this is very important!” The Deputy Governor however said that the decision to float the local currency was well intended. “We were thinking of what we call a level play ground,” he said. “We also thought organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank would come and salvage us and this is what is happening now, the IMF is interested.”

But government employees and civil servants have gone for three months and more without receiving salary before the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity (TGoNU) was finally formed in March. Many complain they are running out of options.

“I have no other job to do – without my salary there is no live for me and my family,” said Michael Dut Deng, a sergeant in the prison warden unit of police. He added that while he has failed to get a salary, prices of key foodstuffs have soared at the local market, making it hard for him to feed his family.

On her part, Eliza Fatima, a mother of five children who works as a messenger at the National Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, said every day she promises her children that as soon as possible her salary will be paid. “How long can I deceive my children?” she said. “The government should act immediately before the economic crisis hits starvation level.”

The Minority Leader, representing the Democratic Change opposition party in parliament, Onyoti Adigo Nyikuach, blamed the delayed payment of civil servants on greed and corruption in addition to mismanagement of the funds.

Everybody is angry and without food.

The unpaid three months salary of civil servants and forces, including the army, has threatened the security of the residents, said the Chairman for the United Democratic Front, Sebastian Uchan Kiech. “If the government fails to pay the army and the civil workers, I guess the country will be lawless with the possibility of anarchy,” he said. “Everybody is angry and without food.”

The chairperson of the Joint Monitoring and Evaluation Commission (JMEC) Festus Mogae, warned that the South Sudanese economy will collapse if the unity government does not take measures to rescue the ailing economy. “Correction in the economic sectors should be done before the country’s economy collapses,” said Mogae.

Meanwhile the Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan Ma Qiang, accused the Finance Minister of undermining the financial aid and the long term bilateral relations that exist between South Sudan and the Chinese government. On May 18, Qiang wrote to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, complaining of what he calls a “negative attitude” of Minister David Deng Athorbei, adding he was “disappointed” in the Minister after a meeting in which Athorbei argued that “China has been taking our oil but doing nothing to help South Sudan”, according to an Eye Radio report.

Earlier in June, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has directed all civil servants in the country be paid to enable them continue providing services. Kiir’s directives came during a meeting with Finance Minister David Deng Athorbei and Central Bank Governor Kornelio Koryom Mayiik after they briefed him on the current fiscal and monetary situation in the country.

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