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Strikes over exorbitant tax increases and economic struggles in Sudan

September 13 - 2022 SINGA / TEMBOL / PORT SUDAN / DONGOLA / EL FASHER
Closed market in Sudan due to protests (social media)
Closed market in Sudan due to protests (social media)

Workers and traders went on strike in various parts of Sudan in the past few days to protest increased taxes and high fines. Workers also protested over unpaid salaries and the failure to implement the promised 2022 salary structure. Some strikes and protests took place around political disagreements as well.

Sudan’s economy is in peril, and poverty rates are likely to be even higher than reported. With rising inflation and low wages, most Sudanese are struggling to afford their basic needs.

The government lost more than $4 billion in international support, secured by the previous government of PM Abdallah Hamdok, when the military took power in a coup on October 25, 2021.

Since the coup, exports also decreased significantly, leading to a loss of income, and recently the Finance Ministry announced that it expects no external support for the 2023 budget. These factors do not paint a rosy picture for the state treasury.

For the people, unrest increased now that state governments announced significant tax increases to enhance their income, leading to strikes and protests.

Market traders in Sennar went on strike and all shops closed their doors on Sunday to protest the large tenfold increase in taxes. Not only market traders and shopkeepers went on strike, but private health institutions such as clinics, pharmacies, and medical laboratories are also part of the action.

Mohamed Abu Hereira, one of the Sennar market traders, told Radio Dabanga’s Voice of the States programme that the increase in taxes in the state seriously affected them. “The new tax estimates are arbitrary and imaginary, and should be reversed,” he said.

“The exorbitant taxes will certainly lead to great losses among traders and force many to leave the market permanently,” Hereira added.

'The exorbitant taxes will certainly lead to great losses among traders and force many to leave the market permanently' - Sennar market trader

The traders submitted a memorandum to the tax director in Singa, the capital of Sennar, but did not receive a satisfactory answer.

Neighbouring El Gezira also witnessed protests. In Tembol, workers embarked on a strike and traders closed their shops at the town’s market to protest a tax increase and recent days-long electricity and water outages.

In El Hasaheisa, rickshaw drivers staged a protest in front of the Judicial Authority building because of exorbitant fines.

In eastern Sudan, the El Gedaref Traders Association threatened to strike as well due to the imposition of taxes that exceeded the previous estimates by three times.

Kamal El Amir, a member of the steering committee of the El Gedaref Traders and Companies Association reported that, in a meeting, its members had unanimously decided to stop working, not to engage in commercial activities, and to close the public market because of the increased taxes.

Salary strikes

On Sunday, junior doctors in all hospitals across Sudan embarked on a three-day general strike because their salaries had not been paid for eight months.

The Junior Doctors Committee said in a statement on Sunday that the Federal Ministry of Health did not respond to the doctors' demands within the period specified by the protesters.

The committee threatened to strike for an indefinite period if its demands are not met.

Yesterday, the High Committee for Claiming Workers' Rights in Red Sea state announced the continuation of the strike for the second week to demand allowances according to the new 2022 salary structure.

Sudan has been witnessing a large number of strikes and protests following the federal authorities’ failure to implement the promised 2022 salary structure for civil servants, which increases wages amidst Sudan’s rising inflation. Despite being more than halfway through the year, many workers are still paid their old salaries instead of the increased 2022 wage.

The committee said in a statement that it rejected a proposal made by the state government to pay an alternative in cash and continue paying the clothing allowance according to the old salary structure.

The committee confirmed that it has no objection to scheduling the payment of the allowances in instalments, but they should be disbursed according to the new salary structure so that workers get the full amount they are entitled to.

Disagreements

In northern Sudan, doctors announced the escalation of their protests following the dismissal of the official spokesperson for the steering committee of the Northern State Doctors Association by the director general of the state’s Ministry of Health.

In a statement yesterday, the steering committee described the decision as unfair and announced new escalatory steps.

The medics had laid down their tools since last week to demand an improvement in the work environment and the payment of financial dues. Instead of implementing these demands, their spokesperson was dismissed by the ministry.

In North Darfur, protesters continued to close the state offices in El Sereif locality with a sit-in on Sunday, for the fourth consecutive day, to protest the appointment of a new superintendent from the Bani Hussein tribe. Chief Executive Officer Ismail Rabeh left the locality.

The protesters accused the North Darfur authorities of violating an earlier agreement concerning the appointment of native administration leaders, in particular concerning nazirs*. The agreement stipulates that each tribe should hold a conference to choose its nazir, and that they should not be appointed by state authorities.

The protesters told Radio Dabanga that two police vehicles arrived from Kabkabiya to contain the situation.

* A nazir is a state-appointed administrative chief of a clan, according to the native administration system in Sudan.


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