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Sudan's Finance Minister to answer about price hikes before parliament

January 10 - 2018 KHARTOUM
The Sudanese parliament (file photo)
The Sudanese parliament (file photo)

Members of the Sudanese parliament will discuss the 2018 Budget with Dr Mohamed El Rikabi, the federal Minister of Finance, on Wednesday. An economist has warned for the collapse of the overall structure of the Sudanese state.

MP Siham Hasan told Radio Dabanga in an interview on Monday that the doubled bread price has been “a surprise” for the MPs.

“During preparatory meetings of the High Committee for National Budgets, the Minister promised that the 2018 Budget would not affect the people’s livelihoods,” she explained.

“He also said that the available wheat flour reserves in the country were enough to cover the needs until April, so we expected no bread price increases in the first quarter of the year.

“Now, the six main markets of Khartoum are witnessing sky-rocketing prices again, causing dramatic consequences for people with low-incomes.”

Hasan has requested the Minister to take action to improve the situation. “The Ministry could issue ration cards for poor families for instance, but the most important is the formation of a mechanism to control the market prices.”

Private sector

In an attempt to combat the plummeting rate of the national currency at the black market, the government raised the customs rate of the Dollar from SDG 6.7 to SDG 18 in end December.

The result was that the prices of the main consumer goods doubled or even tripled in the first week of January. The price for a piece of bread increased from SDG 0,50 to SDG 1 ($0.14*).

The State Minister for Finance, Majdi Yasin, told the press on December 28 that the government planned to cut wheat subsidies completely under its 2018 Budget and will leave imports of the basic commodity to the private sector.

The government would buy locally-produced wheat at “encouraging prices”. Yasin said that Sudan imported 2 million metric tons (MT) of wheat in 2017. The local wheat production was 445,000 MT.

Collapse

On Monday, the exchange rate of the Dollar reached SDG 29.5 on the black forex market.

Dr Hamid Eltigani, Head of the Department of Public Policy and Administration of the American University in Cairo, expects further increases in inflation rates in the coming period.

“The Dollar rate may rise above 50 Pounds,” he told Radio Dabanga, pointing to an increase by more than three Pounds over the past three weeks.

The economist warned for “serious moral repercussions of these disastrous economic policies”, and expects a further rise in the numbers of crime and drug abuse cases”.

"The 2018 Budget will definitely increase the country’s poverty rates in the country. And because of the low spending on health and education, these sectors will continue to decline.

“The brain-drain of university professors, medical doctors, and engineers will continue as well,” he added.

Eltigani accused the government of abandoning its responsibilities towards the majority of the population, while increasing its spending on paramilitary forces and security services. The revenues depend mainly on levies.

“We may expect a collapse of the overall structure of the Sudanese state,” he predicted.

Price hikes

In eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref, the price of a 100 kg-sack of sorghum reached SDG 1,400 ($200). The price of a 50kg sack of sugar jumped from SDG 780 to SDG 950 during the past two days.

“In December. The price rose from SDG 580 to SDG 650 pounds. Last week, it jumped to SDG 780, and now again to SDG 950,” a listener told this station from El Shawak in El Gedaref.

“We now pay SDG 20 ($2.85) for a kilogram of sugar at the groceries, while people here earn not more than SDG 1,000 ($142) a month.”

Schools closed

In Kadugli, the capital of South Kordofan, the basic schools have been closed for more than a week because of the lack of bread.

“Because of the scarcity of flour and the soaring bread prices, the students just don’t have enough to eat any more to follow the lessons,” a government employee reported from Kadugli.

“A 100 kg-sack of sorghum now costs SDG 700 ($100), a sack of millet SDG 1,200. The butchers now ask SDG 100 for a kilogram of mutton.”

He added that a pound of tea costs SDG 17 ($2.40), a bar of laundry soap SDG 9 ($1.30).

Fuel crisis

In Wadi Halfa, along the Sudanese-Egyptian border, people not only complain about soaring prices but also about the continuing shortage of fuel, causing long queues in front of the petrol stations.

“The price of a 100kg sack of flour rose to SDG 550,” a listener reported from the border town.

* Based on the official US Dollar rate quoted by the Central Bank of Sudan (CBoS)


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