Photo of commodities at Custom Market (photo by Rose Keji Benjamin):
By Rose Keji Benjamin
The South Sudan Pounds has weakened to a record low in the past week, hitting 330 per one USD in the black market.
Market prices have been skyrocketing every day since last week, forcing many consumers to “crack their heads” before buying.
Yesterday, a kilogram of sugar was sold at SSP 250, a kilogram of maize flour was at SSP 200, a kilogram of rice was at SSP240, while half a liter of cooking oil was sold at SSP 180 and a cap of beans was at SSP200.
Many customers, who spoke to Juba Monitor from Custom Market, complained of high prices of goods in the market.
The Deputy Chairman of National Bureau of Statistics John Machiek last week said the prices are “going up” due to the daily increase in dollar exchange rate against the SSP.
In an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor, Mr. Machiek said there was need to control the prices of goods in the Market but the National Bureau of Statistics did not have funds.
He said unless South Sudan improved its agriculture production there will be no change.
“We are consumers, we are not producing that is why there is need for agriculture,” Mr. Machiek said. “We need roads and good security. Agriculture is the best for our economy,” he stated.
Mr. Machiek noted that the country cannot move forward if there is no peace. “We cannot improve our life if we don’t work hard. Security should be improved and roads,” he added.
He stated that agriculture should be prioritized in order to avoid increase in prices of food commodities.
According to Machiek, Juba only produces vegetables which were relatively affordable, but the goods produced by local farmers were expensive because they buy the seeds expensively and they could not produce other goods.
“The commodities like onion, building materials, soft drinks they are not produced in South Sudan even fuel is imported,” he said.
Mr. Machiek said the Bureau did not have fresh information about the market starting from Match due to lack of funding.
To improve the economic situation, he suggested that there was need to concentrate on agriculture, saying “it is the best for the economy of this country.”
Mr. Machiek said there was need to also change attitudes towards work, citing some communities who have refused to do certain kind of jobs in the country.
According to Machiek, the business community buys US dollars from the black market expensively to import goods that is why they increase the prices according to the rate of the US dollars.
The South Sudan annual Consumer Price index (CPI) increased by 12.7% from February 2017 to February 2018. The annual CPI increased in Juba by 149.3% and in Wau by 93.1% from February 2017 to February 2018.
For 2018, the monthly CPI increased by 24.9% from January 2018 to February. In Juba, prices increased by 37.5% and while in Wau prices decreased by 8.7%. The increase was mainly driven by the high price in food and non- alcoholic beverages, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The Deputy Chairman of South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics John Machiek in his office (photo by Rose Keji Benjamin):
Jane Kiden Elisa, one of the businesswomen at Custom Market refused to talk about the market prices, saying a lot of Media houses collect data about market prices but there was no change in the markets.
“We are tired of this dollar that causes prices to hike. My business is not improving there is need to reduce the dollar,” she said.
The government, she suggested, should put fixed price for the exchange rate.
“We can’t increase the prices of the goods if the dollar rate is low but if dollar is high then it also affects us,” she informed.
Last week, authorities cracked down black market money dealers in Juba in a move aimed at discourage the black market for exchanging the USD in to the SSP.
Speaking to Juba Monitor, Police Spokesperson Brigadier Daniel Justine last week said the operation would continue to avoid black markets.
For about two days, the black market dealers’ premises remained empty, but the last few days, they have resumed their operations.
A business man in Custom Market said the exchange rate keeps increasing since the year began which affects businesses in the country.
He attributed the fluctuation in the money market to “black market” dealers as a result of “increasing it without consultation.”
Last week the Minister of Finance and Planning Salvatore Garang Mabiordit who was in Washington to attend the 2018 World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings, assured citizens that the finance ministry was working to stabilize market prices.
““I want to assure our people that assure our people that the sharp spike that took place in the currency market in the last few days is transitory,” the Finance Minister said.
Mr. Salvatore said the situation will be arrested through concerted fiscal consolidation, revenue generation, and putting public finances in order.
“We are steadfast in solving this hiccup through committing to budget integrity, including constraining expenditures to enable paying civil servants, bringing oil proceeds back to the budget process, and limiting the urge to depend on deficit financing from the bank of South Sudan,” the finance minister explained.
A trader in Custom market who declined to be named said the government was smart for cracking down the money dealers after the rampant increase of the USD every day.
“If the government continues to stop the black market dealers from exchanging on the street, then dollar will come to at least two thousand South Sudanese Pounds,” he said.
He urged the government to at least look at the “economic war” referring to the dollar.
“If you compare to day and previous days then you think of not buying something in the market,” he said.