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Sudanese hardly able ‘to make ends meet’

August 4 - 2019 KHARTOUM
Eating dry sorghum porridge in Darfur (File photo)
Eating dry sorghum porridge in Darfur (File photo)

People all over Sudan are suffering from daily increasing prices of food and other basic consumer goods. “It has become almost impossible for those with limited incomes to provide for their families' daily needs,” a teacher in Khartoum said. A British analyst warns for "an impeding economic clash" in the country.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga, the teacher said that the salaries of government employees have lost more than two-thirds of their value since last year.

“My monthly salary is hardly enough anymore to cover the needs of my family for 10 days, given the unprecedented high inflation these days,” he lamented.

“An eighth-grade teacher earns SDG 1,268 ($ 28) which is equivalent to less than half the price of 100 kg of sorghum that now costs SDG 2,700. In Khartoum, we pay SDG 400 ($ 9) for a kilogramme of meat. A kilogramme of tomatoes, always expensive in the rainy season, costs SDG 250 ($ 5.50).”

Other sources reported that the salary of a ninth-grade employee (who is always a university graduate) is limited to SDG 1,042. Workers earn SDG 645 a month.

They explained that the wage increases approved by the former government for 2019, ranging from SDG 500 to SDG 2,500 did not help them facing the continuous rise in prices of basic commodities in the country.

“In addition, the former government ignored the recommendations of the Sudan Federation of Government Employees to increase the minimum salary for workers in the public sector to SDG 2,926 in 2019,” one of them said.

According to a study of the Sudanese Professionals Association last year, the average monthly cost of living for a family of five amounts to SDG 15,218 ($ 338).

In September 2018, Radio Dabanga already reported that Sudanese in various parts of the country were having difficulty in coping with the continuously rising food and consumer goods prices. A number of families complained that the circumstances forced them to reduce their daily meals to just one.

Liquidity shortages intensified in March this year. Some people did not have access to cash money for nearly three weeks.

Four months later, farmers warned repeatedly that the current agricultural season mail fail because of soaring fuel and seed prices.

A number of medicines have become hard to find or are not available at all.

Looming economic clash

The country lost 75 percent of its oilfields and “an even greater proportion of its hard currency earnings” after the secession of South Sudan in 2011.

As the Khartoum regime had expected the secession already, they began to focus on gold mining since the signing of the comprehensive Peace Agreement with the southern Sudanese rebels in January 2005, as a report of a National Umma Party economist showed in 2011.

Within a few years after the secession of South Sudan, gold was providing 40 percent of Sudan’s exports. “As much as a third of it, however, came to be smuggled to Libya, Chad or directly by plane to the region’s biggest gold market in Dubai,” British expert on Sudan and the Horn of Africa Alex De Waal says in his analysis On the limits of Middle Eastern influence in Sudan on Thursday.

“The government in Khartoum, desperate to control the commodity, responded by using the Central Bank of Sudan as its sole buying agent, paying above the market price to gold traders and printing money to cover this outlay.

“Buying gold to convert to hard currency became the engine of Sudan’s inflation, which skyrocketed. By 2018, the price of essential commodities such as bread and fuel was so high relative to stagnant wages that the people across the country took to the streets to protest. [..]”

De Waal points to Gen Mohamed Hamdan ‘Hemeti’, commander of the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), and currently deputy head of the ruling Transitional Military Council, as “the biggest winner in this macroeconomic distortion.

“His RSF militia controls the gold mines and he personally owns a number of concessions. Through Sudan’s monetary policy, vast resources were transferred from wage earners in the centre of the country to militiamen and gold traders in the peripheries.”

De Waal therefore warns for an impeding clash between Hemeti’s political market logic and Sudan’s macroeconomy.

* As foreign exchange rates can vary 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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