South Sudan is counting on its citizens to help fix the struggling economy, the Minister of Information Micheal Makuei said.
“It is true that the economic situation in South Sudan is biting. Citizens should not just be sitting and waiting for the government to resolve issues for them,” the Minister said. He is encouraging citizens to engage in agriculture and other income generating activities to revamp the economy.
“There is a lot of construction work; there is a lot of work all over Juba town. Those who are working all over now are not South Sudanese because everybody wants a white-collar job, not knowing that there is no money in the white-collar job,” he was quoted as saying by local Eye Radio.
The government of President Salva Kiir is struggling to revive the economy currently hit by runaway inflation as the first step in turning around a country shattered by conflict since it seceded from Sudan in 2011 and, more recently, the Coronavirus pandemic.
Crude oil production, South Sudan’s main export, has dropped to 170,000 barrels a day, less than half the output just before war broke out in 2013. Attempts to revive output have been curtailed by low international prices, while lockdowns to control the virus have delayed the movement of equipment and materials.
Oil is the country’s biggest source of income and the lower prices have battered its reserves and revenue, fueling inflation that reached 37.2% in April, according to the last data released by the central bank.
The South Sudanese pound fell to as low as 870 per dollar on the parallel market last week, compared with the official central bank rate of 167 as residents hoarded the U.S. currency fearing a further decline.
In September, the Minister of Trade and Industry said there is nothing the government can do to stop the local currency from losing value.
Last week, Makuei told reporters that the country will push dollars into the economy to cushion the plunge in the local currency which has led to a surge in prices and shops to close across major towns.
“The government is planning to inject into the market through the central bank and other commercial banks a lump sum that will enable us to control the economy,” Makuei said.
The government agreed last week to change the East African nation’s currency. Ahead of the decision, the currency was trading at 510 to the dollar on the parallel market.
“Everybody wants to buy a lot of dollars to keep in their houses,” Denis Amoko, an informal-market trader was quoted as saying by finance news terminal Bloomberg. “They fear if the currency is changed, it will affect their money,” he added.
The recommendation was put forward to stop citizens hoarding cash and encourage them to enter the banking system, similar to the move in neighboring Ethiopia.
“The issue of the change has come up in the cabinet meeting and there is a committee formed to study and come up with a report to the council of ministers,” Deputy Finance Minister Agok Makur said by phone on Friday. “Yes the issue of change is there, but it is still not a decision taken.”
Sugar prices have doubled to 800 South Sudanese pounds a kilogram and a liter of cooking oil has risen from 700 South Sudanese pounds to 1,500 pounds.