Sudan Opposition Figure Expects Government to Cut Fuel Subsidies Further

Khartoum — The leader of Sudan's mainstream opposition coalition National Consensus Forces (NCF), Farouq Abu Issa, has said that the government will likely find itself with no option but to implement recommendations put forward by the International Monetary Fund to introduce further cuts on fuel subsidies.

In an interview published on Saturday, 10 November, by the bi-weekly Sudanese newspaper AL-Maydan, the NCF chairman dismissed the government's claim that it is not going to abide by the recommendations contained in an IMF report last week to cut fuel subsidies further in order to curb the widening budget deficit which resulted from losing oil as the main economic lifeline in the wake of South Sudan independence in July 2011.

Sudan already cut subsidies on petroleum products and sugar in June as part of an austerity program that included reducing government's ministries and officials' perks. But the measures and the concomitant price increases led to the outbreak of two months of small protests against which the government used excessive force and mass arrests of activists.

Abu Issa warned that the "state of weakness" in the government renders it likely to respond to the IMF recommendations. He added that even with the revenues expected to be generated when the deal signed with South Sudan last month to resume oil exports comes into effect, the government will still have no adequate resources to plug the budget gap in light of the need to cover the expenses of the ongoing war in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile.

"The people are at risk of another round of price increases" he said.

The opposition official also directed a barrage of criticism against the government's foreign and domestic policy. He criticized what he described as the government's obstinacy in opposing negotiations with the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N) despite instructions to the contrary by the UN Security Council (UNSC). He also accused the government of re-igniting tribal and ethnic hostilities in Darfur as evidenced by the resurgence of mass killings by pro-government militias.

Abu Issa said that the government has to go after it failed to protect the country from the alleged Israeli airstrike that hit Al-Yarmook military factory in Khartoum last month. He wondered where did the 70 percent of the national budget that is spent on security and defense go if the government is not even able to purchase radars to detect violations of airspace.

He also criticized the regime for aligning with a power like Iran, saying that such alliance is beyond the country's capabilities. Abu Issa moved on to complain about the restrictions the regime imposes on the activities of opposition parties by monitoring its offices, arresting and expelling their members.

Abu Issa affirmed that opposition parties are united in their pursuit of a peaceful regime change.

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