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Sudan: Tax increases and salary issues spark more strikes

Striking electricity workers (social media)
Striking electricity workers (social media)

The wave of strikes in Sudan continues in full force. Traders and Merchants went on strike in several states to protest exorbitant tax increases, a new strategy of the government to fill the national treasury. Other workers went on strike to demand fair salaries and unpaid financial dues amidst the economic crisis.

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”.

Ibrahim said that the Finance Ministry has almost completed its 2023 budget. The Sudanese government is not receiving any external support for its annual budget for the second year in a row, so it must rely on its own resources.

The government of former PM Abdallah Hamdok, of which most members (not Ibrahim) resigned following the coup d’état on October 25 last year, did not receive external funds for its 2022 budget either. It succeeded, however, in securing at least $4,364 billion in aid from the international community, including the World Bank, for 2023. Yet, these funds were frozen following the military coup of October 25 last year.

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. Tax increases will eventually be reflected on the consumer, and will lead to a weakening of purchasing power and reluctance to consume, economic analyst Hafiz Ismail told Radio Dabanga. He described the current economic policies as having nothing to do with the knowledge of the economy, giving the example that work has been suspended at some factories because of an increase in electricity and other costs. 

Since the coup, exports have also decreased significantly. Turning to domestic revenue “is unrealistic given the current economic and political crisis,” said Zeinab Mohamed, an analyst at NKC African Economics, in an interview with Bloomberg on January 25. According to the analyst, with purchasing power declining and little support for military rule, tax hikes will push Sudan further into political turmoil. 

'The current protests are linked with other strikes all demanding the increase in salaries to match current inflation' - Hafiz Ismail

Eight months on, “we are in a state of stagnation and the current protests are linked with other strikes all demanding the increase in salaries to match current inflation,” said Ismail.  

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.

Traders and merchants

Merchants in Ed Damazin, capital of Blue Nile state, organised a comprehensive strike and closed all shops in the markets on Sunday in protest against the exorbitant tax increases recently imposed by the federal Ministry of Finance on traders.

People in Ed Damazin reported to Radio Dabanga that most of the shops in the city’s markets responded to the strike. The strike was scheduled for two days.

The merchants of El Obeid, El Gedaref, and Sennar carried out similar strikes due to the huge tax increases of up to 10 times more than current tax rates.

A trader from Sennar told Radio Dabanga during a traders’ strike two weeks ago that the increase in taxes in the state seriously affected market merchants.

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

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

Merchants and shop owners held a vigil in front of a tax office in North Kordofan
to protest the exorbitant tax increases (social media)


Electricity workers

Electricity workers embarked on a renewed partial strike on Sunday, which was turned into a comprehensive strike yesterday, to protest the decision by the Ministry of Finance to retract the implementation of a new salary structure that had been previously approved.

The strike reportedly led to power outages in the Republican Palace and the ministries.

The Council of Ministers approved a new salary structure on September 12, after previous strikes, which stipulated a 25 per cent salary increase from October and another 25 per cent increase from next April. The decision was, however, retracted.

In a statement submitted to the Salary Structure Committee, the workers said that they would continue to strike until the promised new salary structure is fully implemented.

Ministries' staff on strike

Employees of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry also resumed their comprehensive strike on Sunday after the government failed to respond to their demands.

The list of demands includes allocating 40 per cent of revenues directly to the Ministry of Agriculture, the payment of due allowances, and other demands related to promotions, transport, health insurance, and training.

Workers in the Ministry of Trade and Supply in Khartoum also went on strike on Sunday to demand improvement in their work environment and salaries. Ministry employees said that the strike caused the suspension of all office transactions.

Salary structure

An employees’ committee in South Kordofan reported that the state government should have received sufficient support from the central government in Khartoum to cover the new salary structure for 2022.

The committee’s delegation returned from Khartoum on Sunday and told the civil servants, who have been on a comprehensive strike to demand their financial dues, that the federal government sent the state government the Eid El Adha bonus, which equals two months' salary.

Government staff reported to Radio Dabanga that a large number of workers had marched to the government secretariat in the state capital Kadugli to denounce the fact that they have not received their financial dues.

Strikes have become increasingly common in recent months, especially around the 2022 salary structure.

New 2022 salaries were meant to provide increased 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 Health and Medical Staff Coordination team in El Gedaref also threatened a comprehensive strike in the entire state to demand financial dues.

One of the coordination leaders told Radio Dabanga that they are demanding the payment of unpaid dues for one month in 2020, the allowances for four months of 2021, and the Eid El Fitr and Eid El Adha grants according to the 2022 salary structure.

The Coordination demanded that the promised differences in the salary structure and the differences in promotions be paid.

North Darfur

The sit-in in El Sereif Beni Hussein in North Darfur has entered its third week, as the residents of the state reject the state governor’s recent decision to appoint a tribal leader. The protesters demand the dismissal of the executive director and a number of other officials of the locality.

They confirmed the continuation of their sit-in to Radio Dabanga and said that they want to transfer their sit-in to the secretariat of the state government in El Fasher until all their demands are fulfilled.

The people protest the appointment of a new superintendent from the Bani Hussein tribe and 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.

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