February 26, 2013 (JUBA) - The deputy speaker of South Sudan’s parliament has backed calls for the young nation to adopt a leaner more efficient government that is better able to provide the services needed by the population.
- Daniel Awet Akot, who is both the deputy speaker of South Sudan’s parliament and the Lakes state’s SPLM chairperson (ST)
In an interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday, Daniel Awet Akot said South Sudan had one of the largest governments in the world, compared to the size of its population, and needed to adjust due to austerity measures enforced by the year-long oil shutdown caused by disputes with neighbouring Sudan.
Akot’s comments appear to endorse a proposal drafted in August last year by a committee tasked by South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, to suggest how South Sudan’s large and often ineffective bureaucracy can be streamlined to produce better results.
The report, which calls for the formation of a lean and technocratic cabinet in order to save financial resources for development projects, has not been met with approval from those who stand to lose their jobs in the anticipated reshuffle.
LACK OF JOBS
According to a series of interviews conducted by Sudan Tribune in the country’s capital Juba, the main issues currently facing the young nation include lack of jobs, insecurity and how to promote peaceful coexistence among diverse ethnic groups, so as to strengthen social ties and harmony.
In order to better address these issues, Akot said he supported the findings of the report and called for a “drastic change” in the way the government manages the affairs of the new nation in order to provide basic services to the rural poor majority, as well as promote peace and stability.
The deputy speaker said he agreed with the findings from Sudan Tribune’s interviews with Juba residents and acknowledged that the lack of jobs available to young people partly accounted for the high levels of crime in many areas of South Sudan.
“They [local residents] are correct, and this is what we in the parliament have been saying that we need to change our strategies. We need to put more focus and design strategic plans based on the needs of our people. We therefore need you people in the media to be out there and [to] conduct formal surveys and bring them forward for public debates”, he said.
Akot said that “huge government means huge spending” and this meant there were less funds available for investment in development projects and other capital spending.
“We have the largest government in the whole of [the] East African region. The parliament is huge. The cabinet is huge. Yet we are the new nation with resources being oil. Our budget depended largely on oil revenues but now that it is no longer there, [this] means that we must change the way we used to do things. The austerity measures which the government introduced last year must remain enforced,” he added.
South Sudan’s “parliament will continue to support it and any other similar economic policies with an ambition aiming at improving the lives of our people and the general economy of this country”.
Referring to reservations by some members of the government who stand to lose their position, he added that “there should no fear and panic to reduce government.”
Juba resident Laku Peter said his own home area of Tali, located in the Terekeka county of Central Equatoria State near the border with Lakes State, had not seen even the slightest change since the civil war ended in 2005 or after South gained independence in 2011.
“We see changes here in Juba and other places because in Juba here, I can get a transport to visit a friend, relatives, colleagues and even go to Kenya or Uganda the same day if I can afford but in [Tali], especially where I was born and grew up, it takes one to two days to reach where you can get transport which are very expensive”, he explained.
Peter said citizens in his home area continue to run away from their villages because of fears of being attacked by members of rival communities, just like it used to be during the war era.
“Our people until now continue to run away from attacks. They live in constant fear. They do not enjoy complete sleep. They sleep with conscious minds because they believe that some people will come and launch [an] attack on the village to kill and take away their belongings, especially cows which are the only sources of living. Security there is never stable. It is always very bad”, he said
MORE STRATEGIES NEEDED
James Kuol, a native of Abyei currently working in the private sector in Juba, told Sudan Tribune that there is a need for the government to encourage self-employment, tradesman and entrepreneurs by opening more technical schools in the major urban towns.
“It is true most of our young people are not employed. They are out on the streets looking for jobs but what these people want now is for the government to develop strategies which should be looking at how it should encourage people to create jobs for themselves instead of being created some jobs. I mean there is a need for our government to open more technical schools. There is a need to open plumbing, electrical, mansion, catering and hotel management institutes”, he said.
Kuol observed that job creation initiatives and projects demanded a prudent monetary policy. However, he expressed doubts about whether the government was in a strong enough financial position to support such efforts since the government’s debts are rising alarmingly.
When oil production was stopped in January last year, South Sudan’s government lost 98% of its revenue.
“We need to think out of the box to see where we can raise more money without constraining economic activity. One of the options is to reduce the size of the government and propose introducing capital gains tax on land and property. This will also enable a future government to target and help fund the training of the skills we will need”, he said.
Kuol said that reducing the size of the government was necessary.
“I have been around and what I have observed are two things: One, the formal sector job market is growing at a snail’s pace and secondly, many of those in informal job opportunities are not necessarily full-time or remunerative. If not addressed, these unemployed youth will create a big problem to the existence of this government. Designing projects to create jobs on a sustainable basis will be the real test for the next government. Many promises put forward are no more than vague proposals to throw money at this or that with the hope that jobs will follow”, he said.
He further added that a lot of the projects which the government introduced in the past to create jobs and employ youth were started but not completed or are no longer viable. Other projects were shelved due to lack of funds and this is one of the strictures likely to face the government after the expected restructuring of the government.
“What needs to be addressed is how and what must be done to create an overall environment that will increase demand for more jobs. We have the supply of raw labour. We need to address increasing demand for it and facilitating of that labour into skills needed by the market. A number of related basics have to be working well in order for the economic and commercial environment to prosper, which in turn will result in demand for more jobs”, he said.
“How do we get economic growth? That means looking at the job demand side in specific areas in a multi-pronged approach but in a holistic framework. Several agricultural sectors that could literally employ millions of people are still drawing no attention of the government. They are not even priorities of the government. The current priorities of the government appear to be oil pipeline construction. They do not think that oil can finish. It is important the government pay attention to other sectors. They should use oil revenues to support income generating projects”, he added.