Sudan trader strikes continue, more market closures to come

Traders and merchants in El Gedaref and White Nile state went on strike again yesterday to protest a tenfold tax increase. Strikes have been announced in South Kordofan and El Gezira too. They coincide with the launch of the tax appeals committees’ work.

Featured Video Play Icon Traders and merchants' march in El Gedaref during strike against tenfold tax increase yesterday (RD)

Traders and merchants in El Gedaref and White Nile state went on strike again yesterday to protest a tenfold tax increase. Strikes have been announced in South Kordofan and El Gezira too. They coincide with the launch of the tax appeals committees’ work.

Traders and merchants in El Gedaref went on strike again and closed all stores and stalls in the main market and other markets yesterday to protest a tenfold tax increase.

Kamal Ibrahim El Amir, a member of the steering committee of El Gedaref traders, told Radio Dabanga that the strike was happing at 100 per cent, referring to the closure of the main market and all smaller markets in the city.

There were protest marches to the office of the tax appeals committee as an expression of the merchants’ opposition to the committee’s work and their rejection of the exorbitant tax increases recently imposed by the federal Ministry of Finance on traders. The increased taxes are a new strategy of the government to fill the national treasury.

“The exorbitant taxes will certainly lead to great losses among traders and force many to leave the market permanently,” a trader from Sennar told Radio Dabanga’s Voice of the States programme last month.

Multiple protests and strikes against the tenfold increase have already taken place and the Chamber of Commerce in Kassala embarked on a comprehensive strike on Sunday.

El Amir explained to Radio Dabanga that the next step of the El Gedaref traders’ committee would be to organise a conference in Wad Madani, capital of El Gezira, for merchants and traders in six different states to discuss the exorbitant taxes and take a unified position regarding them.

In White Nile state, traders continued to strike for the second day in a row in protest against the exorbitant taxes. Shops and market stalls closed their doors in Kosti, Rabak, Ed Duweim, and other cities in the state.

The Steering Committee of Kosti Merchants stressed its rejection of the tax increase and its refusal to meet with the tax appeals committee. During a meeting yesterday, the merchants stressed the necessity of collecting state and local taxes in a way that preserves the merchants’ dignity and position. 

The committee also called on merchants to prepare to return to the strike if the situation required it.

The Chamber of Commerce in Delling, South Kordofan, confirmed strike action and the closure of markets on Wednesday and Thursday to protest the tax increase.

They notified the locality government and the security authorities of the strike.

The El Gezira State Chamber of Commerce also announced the strike on Wednesday and Thursday after the state’s tax director rejected the list of demands they had submitted.

Tax increases

The Minister of Finance, Jibril Ibrahim, recently called for expanding the ‘taxes umbrella’ [span of taxes], as he considers it “the most effective and successful way to increase tax revenues and combat tax evasion”.

However, many economic experts in the region are not convinced that increasing taxes is a good way to support Sudan’s economy. They warn that it will further increase the economic hardships of many Sudanese, who already struggle to make ends meet.

Tax increases will eventually affect the consumer, and will lead to a weakening of purchasing power and reluctance to consume, economic analyst Hafiz Ismail told Radio Dabanga. 

Economic expert and politician Sidgi Kaballo recently warned of a ‘revolution of the hungry’ in an interview with Radio Dabanga if the root causes of the economic problems are not addressed.