By Bonifacio Taban Kuich
October 4, 2012 (BENTIU) - Unity State civil servants are unhappy about the decision to cut 25% from their salaries for this month, as part of the austerities measures adopted by the young nation after it stopped oil production in January.
The oil shutdown, triggered by a transit fee dispute with neighbouring Sudan, meant that South Sudan’s government lost 98% of its income. Authorities in Unity State told Sudan Tribune on Thursday the reduction of salaries of government employees were part of nationwide austerity measures caused by the oil shut down.
South Sudan split from Sudan in July last year but many issues were left unresolved leading to the oil shutdown early this year. Civil servants in Unity State, say they were surprise when the state ministry of finance instructed ministries to cut the salaries of government employees.
State employees in Bentui are complaining against the 25% cut.
Mark Tap Diu works as radio presenter for the state-run Bentiu 99 FM. He says the recent decision by the state government is a threat to some employees who have low salaries.
South Sudan has been in an economic crisis since the shutdown with inflation significantly increasing the cost of living.
Diu said that staff had not been informed in advance about the 25 percent cut, which he described as a big blow to the Unity citizens. He said people were keep quiet about the decision as they fear openly opposing the authorities.
“Even if people can cry in their heart inside there, if somebody goes outside there he will face a big problem and that person will be arrested and then that is why people are just feared in their hearts, you cannot go outside even things are very expensive in the market and then people are just keeping quietly”, said Diu.
But Diu added that the Unity State government is struggling to adapt democratic to democracy in South Sudan, alleging that the state is the most corrupt of the young nation’s ten states.
"Unity is the top state in term of corruptions scandal, but no one caring about the huge money being misused by the Unity State government in the republic of South Sudan’, he said.
Unity States, Deputy Governor Michael Chiengjiek Geay told Sudan Tribune on Thursday that the decision taken by the council of ministers to cut off 25% of all civil servant salaries is part of austerities measures in South Sudan as the state needs to cut spending by 30-40%.
The deputy governor adding that the decision of cutting civil servant salaries will be change anytime when the country will resume oil production. Oil production is expected to resume in two to four months after a new deal with Khartoum was reached in Addis Ababa in September.
However Geay denied the allegation that Unity State was the most corrupt in South Sudan.
“You know sometime those who did not understand the dynamics of the situation they call this as the corruption but we have not touch any somebody salary, myself I’m like them, we all equal I should be paid 75 percent salary because of these austerity measures, and I have to bear with this, because I don’t have exception case that I should be paid 100 percent and other are paid in 75 percent”, added the deputy governor.
Despite the oil shutdown in January the state received 2 percent of oil revenue on top of national budgets for the last six years. However citizens complain that not enough has been spent on development and public services. Many people tell Sudan Tribune that they are threatened by officials not to speak out against Unity State’s problems.
Experts says South Sudan leads the world in terms of corruption. Earlier this year South Sudan’s president wrote to 75 top government officials asking them to return $4 billion of oil revenue.