Sudan’s economy slumps as post-coup leaders seek support By Reuters


By Khalid Abdelaziz and Mohamed Nureldin Abdalla

Khartoum (Reuters) – An accelerated breakdown of services, including water and electricity supplies, has left Sudanese citizens counting the cost of political stalemate following a military coup last October.

The decline in living conditions comes after the coup triggered the suspension of billions of dollars in international funding, and at a time when the war in Ukraine has driven up the cost of key imports.

It has fueled anti-military protests held at least once a week for the past eight months, while increasing pressure on military and civilian groups to reach a political agreement.

No prime minister has been appointed since the coup, ministers serve in an interim capacity, and attempts at mediation by the United Nations and the African Union have yet to produce results.

Authorities say they are pushing ahead with economic reforms that a civilian-led government launched under International Monetary Fund (IMF) watch in 2020, aimed at cutting subsidies seen as inflationary, but government spending has soared .

“We are continuing with the economic reform program and gradually reducing subsidies in a way that citizens can manage,” Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim told Reuters in an interview.

The government has refrained from printing money to fund the deficit, and monthly state revenues have risen by two-thirds in the past six months to 150 billion Sudanese pounds ($264 million) , did he declare.

Sudan recently signed an agreement with the United Arab Emirates for a port and agricultural project, he said, which could lead to increased revenues.

But inflation means spending has grown even faster. The monthly bill for public sector wages alone was £180billion, up from £54billion year-to-date, on top of rising costs for fuel, wheat and other imports, it said. he added.

WATER CUTS

In al-Shigla, across the White Nile from the capital Khartoum, residents crowding around private tankers selling water said their local water supply had run dry for weeks.

“Since April, water has not flowed through my kitchen pipes and the Nile is only a kilometer away,” said housewife Zahra Sharif.

The neighborhood’s roads were strewn with green, stagnant puddles and uncollected trash. Several residents described their life as hellish.

“We can’t buy water because it’s too expensive,” said Ayoub Siddig, a 36-year-old bakery worker.

Inflation has fallen slightly but remains at 192%, according to official figures. Last week, the World Food Program warned that 15 million people, or about a third of the population, face acute food insecurity.

In Khartoum, major intersections are often blocked as traffic lights lose power.

Khartoum water authority officials blame the lack of government funding to maintain water stations or water pipes for a growing population. Frequent power outages disable water pumps, they said.

The government subsidizes electricity, but there is a supply gap that authorities hope to fill with foreign investment and renewable energy, Ibrahim said.

“What happened in October had a significant impact on the economy,” he said, citing the suspension of about $4 billion in Western aid expected for 2022-23.

“We had big electricity, irrigation and rural development projects, and everything stopped.”

MEETINGS WITH GENERALS

Former rebel group leader Ibrahim backed the takeover, which military leaders said was necessary due to the political paralysis of the transition following the 2019 overthrow of longtime autocratic leader Omar al-Bashir .

Western donors say the suspended economic aid will not return until a credible civilian government is appointed. Analysts say that even if this condition were met, it would be more difficult than before for Sudan to mobilize support after the coup derailed engagement with international lenders.

This month, the civilian coalition that shared power with the military before the coup began meeting with generals in a bid to break the political deadlock, in an effort backed by states United States and Saudi Arabia.

But the protest leaders still refuse to negotiate with the army and many demonstrators blame the armed forces for their economic difficulties.

“In Sudan, we have always been governed by army men. What do they know about economics? said a 20-year-old student protesting in Khartoum.

($1 = 568.0002 Sudanese Pounds)

(Additional writing and reporting by Nafisa Eltahir; Editing by Aidan Lewis and Frank Jack Daniel)

Comments are closed.