July 29, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – The Sudanese government has decided to suspend increases in the price of electricity “pending further consultations,” state media reported on Sunday, one week after their introduction stoked public discontent.
Sudanese People were unpleasantly surprised last week when they discovered that the government had hiked the price of electricity by over 150 percent without prior announcement. Officials later acknowledged the increase but said it only applies to those who consume more than 600 kilowatts a month.
The move coincided with rising public discontent and concomitant protests since the government partially ended fuel subsidies in mid-June as part of wider austerity measures officials say are necessary to cover a budget deficit of 2.4 billion US dollars resulting from the loss of three quarters of the country’s oil wealth due to the secession of South Sudan.
Sudan’s official news agency, SUNA, said that a government committee tasked with monitoring the implementation of the austerity measures held a meeting on Sunday chaired by First Vice-President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha, and decided to suspend the increases in electricity prices in residential areas.
The meeting concluded that the new decision will come into effect as of 1 August and until further studies are conducted on whether the commodity should be subject to the austerity plan.
Taha told SUNA that the meeting had listened to a briefing from the minister of water resources and electricity on the reasons for the new increases. He went on to explain that the electricity-generating sector was greatly affected by the ending of fuel subsidies which led the ministry to hike the charges.
However, he added that, despite the decision to suspend them, the committee had reaffirmed the correctness of the austerity measures and the necessity of applying a gradual lifting of subsidies while protecting poor pockets of society in order to return to economic growth.
“The decision to end subsidies is technically correct but it needs comprehensive review and careful consideration of the economic situation of citizens” he stated.
This week the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave a seal of approval to Sudan’s austerity measures, calling them “difficult but important” while urging the country to pay “particular attention” to vulnerable sectors of society.