By: Sirir Gabriel Yiei Rut
September 19, 2014 (SSNA) — The seeds of mass discontent have been planted and it is our national duty as patriots to water these seeds with courage and sacrifice so that we can dismiss this government and build a new Federal Republic of South Sudan based on social justice and equity.
History shows us that revolutions occur in extractive political and economic systems that seek to suck the sweat and blood of the poor masses.
The French Revolution, the Glorious Revolution of England, The Russian Revolution and many others were as a result of an aristocracy that sought to live on the backs of the masses with a sense of unbridled entitlement.
They sought to own everything by decree, to dominate society politically and economically and had unreasonable demands and extravagant habits while shielding themselves and their families from the vagaries of hard work, sweat and pursuit of ambition.
Through this, they inadvertently planted the seeds of their own destruction and abhorrence by the masses – the chickens came home to roost as they always do.
South Sudan is faced with a similar conundrum where a government whose legitimacy remains questionable headed by a President who appears insensitive to the plight of the very masses whose vote he enjoys; a man who really should have resigned by now, but has chosen selfish ambition above that of the country.
South Sudan can rise again, but something has to give.
I cannot believe that Finance Minister Agrey Tisa Sabuni thinks that deduction and detention of people’s salaries will create a sustainable and viable economic system that can lead to social recovery in South Sudan.
The impact of further reduced disposable incomes will merely create an irreversible downside spiral of increased poverty and unemployment as people hold onto the little that they have. You cannot re-engineer this economy through taxes, but can only do so through fundamental structural and institutional change.
Most South Sudanese I have spoken to are sick and tired of SPLM-Juba faction and the way it treats them; the true citizens and owners of this country.
We are tired of the greed and corruption we see; the insensitivity of the President to our plight while he lives and behaves as if a king; the lack of conscience of all those around this regime’s leadership circles, its parasites and spies; we are tired of the arrogance, sense of entitlement, non-accountability, theft and abuse we have hitherto experienced. Enough is enough!
The raft of measures announced by Agrey Tisa Sabuni are penalizing poor South Sudanese to fund a government that is not accountable. That remains our fundamental challenge; no matter how much he may raise revenues through taxes, there are no fundamental structural measures announced that seek to put this economy on a recovery trajectory.
There are no measures to plug illicit revenue leakages and smuggling in the resources sector to attract more revenues to government.
There are no plans to cut government expenditures through better management and accountability in all government institutions especially State enterprises and this includes the President’s Office.
There are no plans to cut inflated salaries and benefits of government officials, local authorities and State enterprises so that we all live within our means as a country.
There are no plans for this government to buy local goods and services as a matter of policy especially when it comes to motor vehicles, but the minister expects everyone else to do so. The irony of it all being that the very next day after Sabuni’s fiscal statement, the President offers traditional chiefs “any car they wish for”.
Our main problem here is that there is no authenticity in the current leadership and it is quite obvious that they are now groping in the dark for quick-fix solutions to address the crisis we face.
There continues to be an arrogant denial of reality to deal with the hard issues, thus further postponing any likelihood of recovery.
We have to see this government also walking its talk if indeed things are tough, but it seems that in South Sudan there are two economies; one for the chefs that imports luxury goods and services, is above the law and survives through milking the masses and the other for the masses; that is informal, unstructured and survivalist and is continuously penalized through tax measures to increase revenues for the chefs to spend. That is a formula for disaster.
I keep saying that we need a government that manages through incentives and not through punitive measures especially now since we must revive local industry as a matter of priority.
The idea of increasing duties on imports or banning them before we have local production capacity does not work. It creates a parallel market that fuels inflationary pressures and corruption and does not create sustainable alternatives as required.
Another example is the fact that South Sudanese currently pay the highest prices for data and voice in the region; thanks to monopolies in that sector. Increasing communications costs stifles economic activity and further reduces government revenues in the medium term.
The South Sudan we want to create will see a government that is pro-business because a successful business sector is good for the government revenue and for everyone else. We will also give the responsibility of running this economy to people who have been in business and understand economics and not academics.
We must see a paradigm shift in government, but I am afraid that, as long as Salva Kiir is at the helm, that is not likely to happen; his narrative will continue to arrest our development and potential as a nation for a long time to come.
I have spoken my words……
May gods hear my voice…………
Sirir Gabriel Yiei Rut is the current SPLMYL acting chairman in Egypt; get Him at [email protected]