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ATMs remain empty as Sudan’s cash shortage deepens

March 31 - 2019 SUDAN
A deserted Bank of Khartoum ATM in Wad Madani El Gezira (File photo)
A deserted Bank of Khartoum ATM in Wad Madani El Gezira (File photo)

The lack of liquidity in Sudan has intensified, with some people reporting that they have had no access to cash money for nearly three weeks.

They explain that bank staff told them that the Central Bank of Sudan has not provided cash to feed the ATMs.

They said lack of liquidity has led trade in the to the crop market in El Gedaref, where the difference in prices of crops in cash and cheques lie between SDG 500 ($10.50*) and SDG 4,000 ($84), to resort to the use of cheques.

An ardeb [approximately 189 kg] of sorghum costs SDG 2,700 ($57) in cash and SDG 3,700 ($78) in cheques, and millet SDG 3,700 ($78)in cash and 4,900 ($103) in cheques.

Forex flux

Foreign currency prices have risen again against the Sudanese Pound in the parallel foreign exchange in Khartoum. Parallel market traders said the price of a Dollar has now climbed to SDG 89 in cheques, and ranged between SDG 70-72 in cash, after reports of the greenback was trading at SDG 86 on Wednesday.

Traders expect a continued rise in the Dollar prices in the coming days because of increasing imports for the needs of the holy month of Ramadan that will start at the beginning of May.

Emergency Orders

Last week, President Al Bashir issued Emergency Orders number 6 and 7 forbidding storage and speculation of the national currency and amending earlier Emergency Orders of this year. The order also prohibits “speculation in the national currency for the purpose of harming the national economy, and storing it outside the banking system for non-authorised parties for the purpose of speculation and damage to the economy”.

The order prohibits all parties or persons authorised to refuse to provide goods and services to the public, refuse to receive the payment by ATM card or bank checks or approved checks, and any person or person to perform any transaction to convert national or foreign currency or receive them outside the approved channels.

The order stipulates that anyone who contravenes the provisions of this order shall be sentenced to a term of not less than six months and not exceeding ten years and a fine, confiscation of money and storage places and any means used in committing a crime in violation of this order.

West Kordofan

Since Thursday, health insurance workers of El Mujlad in West Kordofan have entered into an open strike in protest against the non-payment of their salaries.

A health worker told Radio Dabanga that health workers have spent more than six months on 50 percent of their salaries, suffered as a result of this, especially because they support families.

He added that they have also been harmed because of the interruption of work.

Liquidity crisis

Public anger in Sudan has been building up over price rises and other economic hardships, including expensive bread, fuel and medicines, as well as limits on cash withdrawals over a liquidity crisis.

Over the past few months, as the value of the Sudanese Pound has dropped steadily against the US Dollar. In December 2018, the Central Bank of Sudan issued a decision to set the limit of cash withdrawals by bank card at ATMs. The recent printing of new currency by the Central Bank of Sudan has been necessitated by hyperinflation, coupled with a chronic shortage of hard cash. Banks have limited cash withdrawals so traders and the public prefer to keep their cash at home, rather than deposit it into banks.

The most recent reports reaching Radio Dabanga say that a large proportion of ATMs in Khartoum state have been out of service for more than two weeks, making it difficult for people to access their February salaries.

As effective foreign exchange rates can vary widely in Sudan, Radio Dabanga bases all SDG currency conversions on the daily US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS)

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