Salva Kiir’s inconceivable optimism

By: Sirir Gabriel Yiei Rut

August 6, 2014 (SSNA) — South Sudan’s future prosperity cannot be engineered through economic blueprints or development aid. It is shocking, disappointing, insensitive, naive and utterly disconcerting for President Salva Kiir Mayardit to announce that the country will face a terrible famine! I guess he knows something we don’t — China loan perhaps?

Added to this are the recent comments by Finance minister Agrey Tisa Sabuni and Eastern Equatoria governor Louise Lobong Lojore that south Sudanese are too negative and are eternal pessimists while foreigners are more bullish about the country. Goodness, what do you expect given the abuse that south Sudanese have experienced!

For the avoidance of any doubt, let me be clear that I am a patriotic south Sudanese who feels that our country certainly has the potential for a bright and prosperous future. However, I still need to be convinced that those that have taken the responsibility of moving our country forward are not only competent to do so, but are passionate enough to create the south Sudan we want.

No country will ever create sustainable development without private property rights and the rule of law.

No country that has extractive political institutions can ever create an inclusive and growing economy. An extractive political culture is where an oligarchy is in place and the economy is structured for the benefit of political elite at the expense of the majority. Such an economy does not encourage innovation and free enterprise and the State deliberately limits growth and dominates commerce through unnecessary State intervention and State monopolies.

Because of our extractive political culture, we have a petroleum and mining sector that has been usurped by the State and characterized by opacity, corruption and inefficiencies. We have a public companies sector that continues to suffer because of inconsistent government policies and indigenization.

Added to that are its outdated production methods and machinery; it can hardly produce competitively-priced products.

Our public sector is a political cesspit that gobbles billions [of dollars] each year and only acts as a cadre deployment platform. Our growing informal sector is essentially a trader’s paradise and produces nothing of note while importing almost everything it sells. It is survivalist and insecure.

We have an agricultural sector that is dominated by ragtag smallholder farmers who have no security of tenure and are mainly producing cassava. They cannot feed the nation. That is a hardly a platform for an economic rebound.

What is it that makes us allocate $200 million for the President to spend on bribery and blackmailing and yet we beg the international communities to pay school fees for our disadvantaged children? What is it that makes government ministries and our city councils borrow millions to buy luxury cars while the country is battling to pay wages?

I shudder to imagine what a $10 billion Chinese loan will be used for — only 1% on luxury cars — that’s a cool $100 million by the way! There will be a time to reject your requisitions.

Why is it that this government has not spent a cent on medicines for years and expects the West to donate medicines to our clinics and hospitals? Look at the chaos in our State enterprises, the greed and corruption. As for our ministry of petroleum and mining sector, I read the other day that south Sudan loses close to $800 million a month on smuggled Oil exports. I can’t imagine what we have lost in the Gold sector and who has stolen from us.

Look at the incompetence in our sporting bodies and how politics is a cancerous thread in how we manage sport in the country.

I will not even talk here about members of parliaments and how speaker of parliament Hon. Manaseh Magok Rundial runs them with impunity like his own backyard. This man has cost this county so much and caused so much suffering and pain.

Billions of south Sudanese pound have been mismanaged by organizations such as the border personals and Security Authority and these funds could have been productively invested in our economy; all this while our National army get 502 ssp per month.

That is scandalous.

I have never seen a country whose development has been sabotaged by its own leadership who are actually very confident in their folly. South Sudanese deserve better and, for me, the only way for this economy to revive is to clean up, first, our politicians and, second, our institutions.

South Sudan’s future prosperity cannot be engineered through economic blueprints or through aid; it can only change through a profound paradigm shift at the political front.

The root cause of our decline is SPLM-JUBA FACTION and their role in creating the circumstances we now face. For me, therefore, as long as they preside over the affairs of this country, we are unlikely to see sustainable economic recovery in this generation.

Any progress will be temporary simply because the political architecture and foundation of this country is not suitable to create a robust inclusive economy that is underpinned by pluralistic democratic institutions that put the people first.

If you ask me, we are in for a long fight, a rough and long fight as we seek to create a Federal State in south Sudan. It will take some doing and yet we really don’t have much choice.

In my opinion therefore, Salva Kiir has no choice, but to be optimistic that things might change since he is the chief architect of our current dismal economic condition. However, some of us with some brains between our ears can’t afford to believe in him anymore — he has let us down and cost us far too much and for far too long.

Sirir Gabriel Yiei writer and author based in Egypt. You may contact him on [email protected]

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