The newly-appointed minister of finance and planning, Bak Barnaba Chol announced the beginning of his tenure with an elaborate economic revival promise.
After having been given the directives by the appointing authority, President Salva Kiir, it was expected that Mr Chol would inevitably come out with a blueprint on how to achieve the deliverables. So he did. He expansively touched on the austerity measures to address waste and came up with avenues to raise more money under the non-oil revenue.
Some of his quotes that stood out with the message were as follows: “Those expensive commodities are very expensive to our economy, and that’s why I’m going to increase tariffs on luxury goods and commodities…We need to bring food to our people, not V8s or V6s.”
That was Mr Chol talking about curbing wastage waste that goes into procuring high-end vehicles, mostly V8 cars, for government officials. He pointed out that under his policy, aimed at stimulating growth in the economy, he would increase value-added tax on the vehicles with the aim of reducing their use by the government or earning extra coins from the importers. This was a marvelous idea.
He then pointed out the usual problem. South Sudan is heavily dependent on oil revenue, which now stands at 90 per cent. Again, the minister promised to break this chain of overreliance on oil to make the economy more balanced and secure it from the unforeseeable negative consequences of the global oil market or even the depletion of the oil reserves.
To this, he said: “We are not utilizing the factors of production. We don’t have capital. We have very little profit from the oil. We don’t have entrepreneurs supported by the government, and we also don’t have technology in our production system. That’s the problem.”
To remedy this, the minister touched on various ways of fixing it, one of which being empowerment to spur local production. A postmortem of the blueprints communicated by the minister shows that he is in touch with the needs of the economy. As a country, we need a stable currency, prompt payment of salaries, jobs and local production that will ensure food availability. The ball is in your coat, Mr Chol. You have all the support you need to deliver on your promises.