By Beny Gideon Mabor
August 18, 2012— There are two main reasons why it is imperative and support the statement of the President Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit to reduce the national government now to a lean and effective government. First, it starts with our Transitional Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan Article 1 (4) that describes our system of governance as a decentralised democratic system, meaning that it is purely local government tier system and not otherwise. Our Constitution does not talk of federalism as the would-be understanding of many people including government stakeholders and this is where our government has terribly misused the term decentralized system.
However, after such interpretation of the supreme law of the land that defines our system of government; the legitimate question is what is our expectation following the respectful statement of the President and how do the general public aspire his action to be done? The popular answer is that the national government should have only institutions that are adequate for national task and not only by reducing the government to a fewest number of ministries and commissions as the jubilation of many people or so far assumed as the cause of corruption and underdevelopment.
The most important aspect of this austerity government is by appointing competent personnel to implement the task of nation building.
The Republic of South Sudan has many challenging tasks ahead to include but not limited to delivery of fundamental services to the people, protection of lives and properties, development and protection of territorial integrity and the list is long. These tasks will not be achieved in South Sudan unless there developed a strategic development plan by qualified people deployed to the respective institutions at all levels.
The tiresome language of no budget for implementing developmental tasks is not genuine excuse but first lay down a plan. Mr. President, the general public urges you to implement this bitter truth so that you convince the doubting Thomas including the authors who complains day and night that we should not hope for downsizing the government just because it is a political statement of intent and not real action.
The authors in consultation with voices of the street suggest that most of the services and few economic ministries should go to the State and amalgamate rest of the institutions at national level. In a decentralized system, the State fiscal budget should be calculated based on the needs of the people, population density and priorities of the state government. But now the formula is opposite. How can these statistical requirements of governance be the same from State to another when some States are bigger than others?
The current duplicated commissions should be restructured to at least very few and operational commissions that are part and parcel to the promise lean and effective government.
There is no reason now to have deputy ministers and ministerial advisors who contribute nothing but political accommodation, just because they were liberators or other options best known to the appointing authority. There may be only exception with sovereign ministries to retain Deputy Ministers based on the nature of their task such as defence, Justice and not more than five other. The time for accommodation and appeasement is over and if any fear of rebellion or joining the obvious enemy state still in mind; we are of the opinion that the said enemy state shall not and will never fund rebels any more to fight the Republic of South Sudan for many reasons. It is evident that there is no more unknown bushes for rebellion within the territory of our country because the gallant defence forces (SPLA) and the people will support and bring down such rebels. Anyway, it is up to individual risk if you cannot learn from previous mistakes.
To the people with conflicting interests or those to be affected by the long awaited change of the government, it is time to accept and swallow the bitter truth and enough is enough for what you have acquired on the expenses of the people since the beginning of the interim government up to date without accountability, transparency and good programme of action. This is noticeable reasons why there is no quality physical infrastructural development, no tarmac road connecting States with the national capital, no electricity supply throughout the States, no health services and no clean drinking water.
According to a research data released by Sudd Research Institute, a local think tank organization headed by Prof. Jok Madut, it is ridiculous that the national government spent 348 million South Sudan Pound annually that constitute 84 % of the national fiscal budget in Juba alone leaving ten States with only 970 million South Sudan pound divided equally at an average of SSP 97 million per State that generally constitute only 16 % and expect such services to be there again.
The authors Mr. President are afraid that our civil population may lose confidence in your leadership why there is Government at all level with all her natural wealth and again your people are suffering without different with time when there was no government. If a sick person for example, in Pibor County of Jonglei State cannot get antimalarial tablet in the county and there is no road to be urgently taken to Bor State Hospital which also unfortunately lack adequate medical facilities, while there is no total hope for Juba Teaching Hospital in the national capital which again has no different with a drug shop in Gogrial County of Warrap State where a lay person sold medicines; then it does not meet the objective reasons why we took up arms and fought for independence.
The second reason for supporting the President in trimming the government is austerity measures. Our budget is now experiencing cut of 98 % of its total revenue as the economy of the Republic of South Sudan is a single source commodity that is oil, which was shut down without securing any alternative source of money. The government is now shivering with the World Bank Report 2012 about financial crisis incurred as a result of oil shut down.
The described arbitral executive decision to shut down oil production according to the World Bank and local analyst will have two serious implications namely economic and social impact on the life of our people, and if allow to continue for quite longer may degenerate into real threat of economic collapse and finally a fail state. The economic impact has visible subsiding of gross domestic product; massive deprecation of local currency against US Dollar; exponential rise in inflation and much worriedly depletion of our reserves as all expenditures are calculated against the reserves fund. The social impact will definitely be increase in poverty; higher child mortality rate as health services will deteriorate and generally deepening food insecurity.
With this austerity measures, our country is lucky to have abundant natural wealth ranging from agriculture, minerals and animals’ resources but unfortunately the government and the relevant institutions in particular has wrong priorities to operationalize them.
However, not only relevant institutions responsible for this natural wealth have wrong priorities but many ministers and other constitutional post holders do know their responsibilities and the reason why they are ministers or constitutional post holders respectively. We have the notion that everything including administrative performances or decisions will come from the above or as manna from unknown direction. We must teach ourselves how to take decisions whether such decisions are bad or good is considered a different thing.
Last but not least, is the salary structure of both constitutional and civil servant officials with this austerity budget? The government shut down the oil production without restructuring the salaries and other uncontrollable expenditures. The Government of South Sudan has been described so far by the observers as only government of paying salaries and no other business. Up now it is observed that work force is substantial and opposed to the allocated budget. There is also urgent need for civil service reform at all levels. Why the government does employed redundant employees who have no clear job description and above all lack relevant qualifications? Let not forget that the price for this nation was human bloodshed which is above any interest. The forthcoming austerity government must redouble her effort with business of nation building.
Beny Gideon Mabor is an independent writer and analyst. He lives in Juba and writes on politics and governance. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org