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Economist on current S. Sudan economic status

“The over right picture of South Sudan economic situation remains so challenging, but the economy is regrouping, the economy is coming back”Dr. Abraham Maliet Mamer, economist disclosed in an exclusive interview with Juba Monitor about current South Sudan economic situation.

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Bullen,It is my pleasure to have you as one of the South Sudan’s economist.

Dr. Abraham,Thank you comrade Bullen for the good job you are doing and I also thank Juba Monitor for keeping very close watch on economic situation in our country. I know the rest write about our economic status but I think Juba Monitor seems to be doing better and specialized or got specialized interest on the subject matter so I must appreciate the efforts that you guys are doing and keeping in touch with economic situation in the country.

Bullen, Thank you Dr. Abraham for always keeping in touch with us and being ready to us whenever we need information. On behave of Juba Monitor I would say we are committed in keeping our public informed.

Dr. Abraham, definitely you guys are doing good job and I will only encourage you to continue with the spirit, no doubt Bullen, Juba Monitor you are doing great.

Bullen, thanks for your word of encouragement but now Dr. Abraham as one of the economist and Undersecretary of the Ministry of Investment can you tell us the current status of South Sudan economy.

Dr. Abraham, The over right picture of our economic situation now, it is so challenging still, but we are not an island we are part of big picture of the world so all the challenges that facing the world as we speak also affects us, only that every world have got its peculiarities so we here in South Sudan we are effected almost severe because we did not diversify our economy at first. We had all been contrasting on our cash currency which is oil and that actual have not make us to think outside the box to diversify our income so when the oil prices drops due to COVID-19 we have not anticipated that, the oil drops and then the corona came in and made it worse so you can understand those who are depending on one single source of income would have been severeknockout and it was sock to the world because we were not prepared as part of glob, we were not prepared and we are heated seriously in the first six months alongside with rest of the world.

But after that and because of the experience all of us begins to work things out how we can actuallyreorganize ourselves and how we can look into other ways, so one thing that we really thought was the way out was to at other alternatives sources of income we work hard enough to make sure our tax system and revenue system is much updated and is much looked at as the other way we look for money as a country because in the neighborhood here very much of them they do not have resources that we have but yet they are able to pay their bills simply because they actually developed tax system that is able to give what I call win-win situation to the investors, tax payer and also to government. So now is the one of the achievement we have made during this period. So we have got National revenue office that I believe they are really delivering.

During this time we have attracted the investors to this country then we believe the investment also will open up employment opportunities and when we have employment opportunities we will be able to pay personal tax and that actually goes to our economy so what I can say now is that “Our economy is coming back” we are recovering, also this pandemic period we also learned few things that we did not have before, you know we learn how to work remotely yet we are producing but now I can see a lot of people can now work from home, can work on zoom to make things worked very well.

This also, since oil is the function of manufacturing is a function of agriculture all these we called them hard work to go to farming or to go and manufacturing this is actually hard work, but there is third layer of economy that is services economy, these I mean our country is now beginning embark in service economy and you can see it in Juba there is so much night light, there is so much cafes coming in time these things people think that something simple but they are the pillars of economy in every country, service economy is always number one. For instance countries like India, Sri-Lanka, Syria, South Korea and the rest of the world they shifted yet they still control the manufacturing and agriculture but hitherto they move further to service economy.

So here in South Sudan we are also thinking and we are actually thawing that line of developing the services economy like now in the country there are a lot of internet companies they are soft but they serve the purpose and in Juba when you move around I can see so many clinics, I can see so much pharmacies that sells the drugs, we also see numbers of lawyers all these are service economies that provides infrastructures for the bigger one so now if we can take these line we would be able to shift quickly we will be able to provide the services to people that were thinking of agriculture, manufacturing because they may wonder how those who do not have something can do it but they move faster toward the service economy so in South Sudan we have that ability, we have that opportunity and that is why I am saying our economy is now regrouping.

The third element that I am seeing, the young entrepreneurs not the retailers though they are there but the young people with the entrepreneurs ideas who has aggressive approach to life, they are now coming up like I have seen a lot of businesses here including cafes that are run by young people that itself to me once you involve young people they may be able to produce, meaning that our young people are taking the lead and I can say in the big picture our economy the way we are traveling is optimistic. I believe in next six months things will improve a lot and whatever we wanted to achieve we will realize because we have understood that there is market in South Sudan so I can say we are now on better leg and we are doing best in this country though many people are not seeing it.

Bullen,like you said “now we are on better leg” and again from your own word you said “I am optimistic in next six months things will improve because young people are taking lead in business yet last time the government spokesperson and Minister of Information Michael Makuei keep on saying young people in the country are lazy they do not want to work, how sure are you that in the next six months things will improve?

Dr. Abraham,I am not denying the fact that there are a little abit caps here and there but we have to understand that it is a system. System its self-will feel up all the negatives to go out. There is thinking that our people are lazy yes, it is fine that we can say that people are laze, but laziness you cannot addressed it by say someone is laze you addressed it by actual opening up something that can make one not to be laze; for example set up many places so that young people can open up then others can join them because when they see others busy doing something big they may be able to join them in doing positive thing.

The government only provides the real platform so that people can compete, so I want to encourage our young people to take up the jobs whatever job it is whether in agriculture, business or whatever the job,so I have a feeling that we are doing better than before.

The good thing is that corona has taught us a lesson that we cannot forget, you can see some of the products that we have in South Sudan no one ever has it and no one ever thought about them. Do you know in South Sudan we are able to grow some harps which we never thought of like zezebil which is thought be a medicine? You can see we do not like these green lemon but during corona it has become the medicine and our people do not like fruits but now they know the use of fruits in the body because along the road sides you can see a lot of fruits being sold. So I was saying those are the things that we are supposed to do before than waiting up to now, but it is good always to start from the hard lessons.

Now you have seen the economic cluster which is being headed by Prof. Dr. James Wani Igga and he is really developing it in a better way in terms of experiences and references whatever is being done in other countries he give us lectures so that we can take part of it and make ourselves better, I am very optimistic for our future.

Bullen, apart from corona and conflicts, what are the other challenges hindering the process of economic reforms in the country?

Dr. Abraham,You know these conflicts that people keep on referring to always, I personally I do not want people to believe that conflict is the main reason why we are not working, no that is not the reason why we are not working, it is because we are not guided. There is no clear economic policy that was made available for us to follow, the tax system was not clear to guide people on their investing or their working. I do not called it a corruption because corruption altimeter word you do not use it but I will say there was a little abit malpractices and anti-trust people do not do things in a trustful manner but now the system is pickup on those things once those holes closed there is going to be what we call confident in the market like when I sell something at 5pounds or 5 dollars than I am going to pay tax on these 5pounds or dollars only, so once there is justification in our tax regime than now everyone who want do business will have confident.

So the challenges are; no economic policies made available, the tax system was not clear, malpractices by the officials, no trust or confident between the tax payers and tax collectors and unless these are addressed we will be able to realize better economic growth in the country.

Bullen, Dr. Abraham you said something that I believe many people will not agree with you including me, you talked of having now clear tax system in the country which system are you really talking about, yes there are taxes being collected but we do not know where it is going and if I am correct, I think many civil servants now as gone more than five months without receiving their salaries?

Dr. Abraham,you know comrade Bullen one thing that we South Sudanese need to understand is that when you talk of fixing the system or putting system in place, we are not talk of today, it always take some time to be a complete system as I said we are making things to happen and I am assuring you once again that slowly by slowly we are going to be better as things are moving like the way I am seeing. 

What is important is that we should promote the positivity of what we are doing the more we promote negative things the more it become negative and vicevaster for example when the conflict was there the media have been reporting only about killing forgetting about other positive issues but those positive things were there like trading in all the parts of the country, like in the country now as we speak there are business of gold mining in Lobonoko area, Gorom, in Kapeata, in Pibor areas but only few people know about it because media is not reporting about it  and it becomes useless yet there are a lot of many in the business and if only people becomes aware, I think all the guns will go silent because no one is going to fight since you are getting what you want.

What will silence the guns bring, it is development without development we are not going to silence guns because if I have big factory here in South Sudan many people will be working in it even if I am not there still they will protect it, anybody trying to destroy the factory will find it very difficultbecause ofresistance, it is a source of their income, so I am saying let us promote the positive ideas, the positive news about what we are doing than the challenges of guns, wars will all go away.

The major challenge facing us have been our attitudes towards the war, attitudes to promote negative that has been the big problem not war itself. 

Bullen, ok apart from that Dr. Abraham, now we have 1,000 banknote been introduced by Central Bank how important does that mean to the country’s economy?

Dr. Abraham, yes I am aware of the 1000 banknote, yes of course according to our financial act of South Sudan bank the governor and the minister of finance from time to time they can review our banknotes and also the function of inflation they want to reduce the number of notes in the market, and this is the only maybe the positive part so that you do not move with bulk note to the market. Just something we call to pull all together and maybe I can say is a fashion because in the region here apart from Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda are all dealing in thousands notes maybe but having big notes does not mean anything. 

Bullen, what are the negative impacts of it to the economy?

Dr. Abraham, of course the negative of these 1000 are many but I will only talk of few things that I see are very important, one of it is that notes like 5 pounds 10, 20, 25 and even 50 pounds have already loosed their values meaning we are not going to have small notes what does that mean now? We are going to witness continuous price increases of commodities since we are not going to have small notes in the market. Another thing is that it is going to encourage hoarding, people are not going to keep money in the bank meaning once money is released from the bank it will never go back to bank which is bad to the country as I said the introduction of 1000 will not change anything in the country’s economy.

Bullen, as one of the economist in the country, what can be done to address the issues of inflation in the country?

Dr. Abraham, There are so many things that we can do in order to address the issue of inflation in the country, one reason why inflation is high is that the cash in the people’s hand is too much now banks do not have money but individuals are holding the cash at home so if you have the cash in your hand you raised the prices. So the only way is to control the cash at hand and discourage keeping money at homes, second thing when the money is in the bank the banks should make use of the central bank should sit down and begin to introduce what we call interest rate so that money in the bank should have a value because anyone want to have investment should have to go to bank and borrow money with a very reasonable interest rates.

I really call on the leaders of central bank please call the economists and bankers let them sit down with you and developed new banking policy and new momentary policy so that our money should not remain papers, they should have a value. Regulation is very important let the system be set and regulate it.

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