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Sudan’s Kiir fires finance minister amid deepening economic woes

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Juba (AFP)

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has fired the finance minister, the head of the tax authority and the director of the state-owned gas company, state radio reported on Thursday.

No reason was given for the move, but it came after the drop in oil revenues saw the country end up with foreign exchange reserves last month, leading to the rapid devaluation of the South Sudanese pound.

The South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation read an executive order announcing that Kiir had decided to “relieve” Salvatore Garang Mabiordit of his role “as minister of finance and planning in the revived transitional government of national unity”.

The head of the Revenue Authority and the director of the Nile Oil Corporation (NilePet) were also fired.

South Sudan is emerging from a six-year civil war that left 380,000 dead and devastated its economy, which depends almost entirely on oil.

At its peak, oil production in South Sudan was at 350,000 barrels per day.

Since the signing of a peace agreement in September 2018 production has risen again to 180,000 barrels per day.

However, falling oil prices have caused overall revenues to fall.

Garang told a parliamentary committee last week that the drop in oil revenues was the fault that civil servants had not been paid since April – a common occurrence in the country.

According to the private Eye Radio station, he also blamed the country’s economic problems on mismanagement of non-oil revenues.

“There are a lot of taxes that are not coming to fund. We could afford to pay salaries if taxes were put in the treasury,” the station said, quoting Garang.

Garang has been replaced by Athian Diing Athian.

Corruption and mismanagement are often blamed on South Sudan’s economic woes.

The United Nations and other observers have accused South Sudan leaders of using the Nilepet to fund conflict and military activities, as well as oil revenues from pipelines to government elites.

In the past two weeks the South Sudanese pound has fallen 37 percent against the US dollar on the black market, hitting citizens hard as prices rise.

The latest report from the UN humanitarian office OCHA said that 7.5 million people across South Sudan are in need of humanitarian assistance, of whom 6.5 million are hungry.

Floods affecting 500,000 people in August, armed clashes between communities and a desert locust invasion have also exacerbated the situation, OCHA said.

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