26 February 2013

Sudan: S. Sudan Dep. Speaker Backs Calls for Leaner Government

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 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 government's in the world, compared to the size of the population, and needed to adjust due to austerity measure enforced by the year-long oil shutdown caused by disputes with neighbouring Sudan.

Akot's appear to endorse a proposal drafted in August 2012 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 calls for the formation of a lean and technocratic cabinet in order to save financial resources for development projects.

According to a series of interviews conducted by Sudan Tribune among residents of 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 to better address these issues Akot said he supported the findings of the report called for "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 and to promote peace and stability.

In the deputy speakers interview with Sudan Tribune on Tuesday, he agreed with the findings from the interviews with residents in Juba, acknowledging the that the lack of jobs available to young people accounted for the level of crime in the many areas of South Sudan.

Akot's comments He appears supportive of the proposal of the president Salva Kiir Mayardit which calls for formation of a lean and technocrat's cabinet in order to save financial resources for development projects.

"They 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 designs strategic plans based on the needs of our people. We therefore need you people in the media to be out there and 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 spending.

"We have a huge government in the whole of 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 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: "The 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. There should no fear and panic to reduce government."

Laku Peter, a resident of Juba said his own home area of Tali, located at the border with Lakes State, under Terekeka County, Central Equatoria State, has not seen even the slightest change since the civil war ended in 2005 or after South 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 my place, 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", Peter explains.

He said citizens in his home area continue to run away from their villages because of fear 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

Meanwhile James Kuol, native of Abyei currently in Juba but who works in the private sector said 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 wants 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 institute", he said.

Kuol observed that creating such initiatives and subsequent projects demanded for creating jobs requires a prudent monetary policy. However he expressed doubts about whether the government would be in a strong financial position to support such initiatives since the government's debts are rising alarmingly as spending demands increases.

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 explained.

Kuol explains that reducing the government is necessary because when one breaks down the statistics, the picture is even more disturbing. More than half of the population of the youth enters the job market each year chasing half a million job opportunities, but the problem is that only less than 10 per cent of those seeking jobs succeed through dubious means.

"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, this 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 past years as some of the attempts to create jobs and employ youth 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 next government and preclude most of those proposals.

"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 adds.

"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 explained

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