Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Austerity in Sudan

A dramatic increase in the price of medication, fuel and electricity in Sudan has spurred discontent across the country. Over the past two weeks, protests and strikes have been calling for the government to reinstate subsidies, which were removed earlier this month. The cuts are reportedly part of wider austerity measures that have been implemented to address the country's foreign currency crisis and fiscal deficit. The Central Bank of Sudan (CBOS) stopped providing foreign currency for the import of medicine. Medication prices increased between 150 and 300 percent

"The new decision, which caused the increase, is a huge disaster," local pharmacist Hatim Aldaak told Al Jazeera. "This will affect many citizens, especially the poor, because, as you know, the percentage of the poor in Sudan is very large. You cannot imagine the reaction and emotional effect it has on us, when someone comes into the pharmacy to buy medicine and asks for the price and tells us they can't afford it and they then leave with the medicine still on the shelves," said Aldaak.

The end of subsidies was also implemented on fuel and electricity.

Amna Sayed, a 42-year-old mother and tea lady says she is struggling in every way. "It is not just the medications; I can barely send my two children to school. Transport alone is too expensive now and so is food. I sell tea, and even before these increases I hardly managed to get by."

Shop owners, such as Mohammed al-Amin, are similarly struggling. "A 50kg of sugar went up from 510 Sudanese pounds [$78] to 580 [$89], and a 10kg packet of flour went up from 65 Sudanese pounds [$10] to 85 [$13]. Most notably, 100kg of beans went up from 1700 Sudanese pounds [$262] to 2100 [$324], beans – which is the most consumed meal,"

Sudanese citizens responded to a call for three-days of civil disobedience. Some neighbourhoods in the capital saw limited movement of vehicles and pedestrians. Universities and schools were largely effected by the strike, as the majority of students stayed home, forcing some schools to cancel the school day.

Since 2011, following the split of South Sudan, Sudan has been struggling to recover from the loss of three-quarters of the country's oil exports. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended that the Sudanese government gradually introduce such measures to address its crippling economy.  Prior to the split, Sudan experienced substantial economic growth driven by oil exports and foreign direct investment, with nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita more than quadrupling between 1999 and 2010. But Sudan's growth was too heavily reliant on oil. When oil export revenues dropped and austerity measures introduced, the country entered a depression, losing more than 15 percent of its GDP in 18 months.

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