Khartoum — The Sudanese government announced the liberalisation of fuel prices and an increase in electricity tariffs on Thursday. The measures took effect the next day.
In a press conference in Khartoum on Thursday evening, Minister of Finance Badreldin Mahmoud also announced that salaries and allowances of government employees would be raised with 20 per cent.
He said that the measures are part of the economic reform programme that will reduce government expenditures and save hard currency reserves. Any reform has its price, he said. The Minister strongly denied that the new measures were directed by the World Bank.
The Minister said that subsidies for electricity would continue for families with limited income, and for mosques, schools, and the agricultural and industrial sectors.
The new policies also ban the import of some commodities, including meats, fish, artificial flowers, and animals, he added.
In late September, the Sudanese government agreed to a package of measures proposed by the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Sudan to curb the fast rise of the US Dollar on the black market during the past five months. On 1 October, the Finance Minister said in a press statement that the measures also banned the import of certain types of consumer goods, "in order to reduce the importation bill". He announced as well that it was decided that the Finance Ministry would refrain from intervening in the exchange rate of the Sudanese Pound against the foreign currency.
Early last week, President Omar Al Bashir addressed the Shura Council of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP), and informed the Council members about the government's intention to liberalise the prices of fuel, flour, and all other basic consumer goods.
On Friday, the price of a gallon of petrol rose from SDG21 ($3.30) to SDG27 ($4.20), and a gallon of diesel from SDG14 ($2.20) to SDG18 ($2.80). The bus tariffs jumped from SDG3 ($0.50) to SDG5 ($0.80), a number of people told Radio Dabanga from Khartoum and Omdurman.
"The money saved by the measures will not be spent on services to the people, but on the security apparatus, defence, and members of the National Congress Party."
The price of electricity above 400 kilowatt increased by 50 per cent.
Sudan's Police Chief Babakar Mustafa has ordered all police units to stand by, in anticipation of mass protests against the price rises. In September 2013, the government took similar measures, after which spontaneous demonstrations broke out in most Sudanese towns. The authorities reportedly deployed militiamen to halt the protests. According to medical sources, at least 200 people were killed in Khartoum.
The new measures sparked outrage and indignation among the opposition parties and public.
Sudanese economist Dr Siddig Cabello commented to Radio Dabanga that "The measures will reflect directly on the livelihoods and health of the people. This will lead to increased impoverishment and suffering."
He considers the measures "a result of the intellectual and economic bankruptcy of the Khartoum regime."The money saved by the measures will not be spent on services to the people, but on the security apparatus, defence, and members of the National Congress Party," he told Radio Dabanga.
According to Yousef Siddig, prominent member of the Communist Party, most Sudanese will now be forced to reduce their two daily meals, which are already poor, to one meal a day. He described the new situation as "dangerous because it threatens the lives of the people. The only solution is to remove this parasitic regime, which is based on speculation and lives on taxes and levies stolen from the poor".
The National Umma Party (NUP) described the price increases as "war against the Sudanese citizen". The opposition party said in a statement on Friday that "More Sudanese people will die soon, either from hunger and diseases, or by the regime's bullets".
The NUP called on the Sudanese to protest the price increases with strikes and sit-ins.
"More Sudanese people will die soon, either from hunger and diseases, or by the regime's bullets".
The leftist Sudanese Congress Party as well as the rightist Reform Now Movement led by Ghazi Salaheldin Atabani strongly condemned the measures. Atabani demanded them "to be cancelled immediately". Both parties urged the people to take to the streets and protest the price increases.
The largest partner in Sudan's government, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) led by Mohamed Osman El Mirghani, also condemned the fuel and electricity price increases.
The party's Leading Commission has formed a five-member committee that will "seek to convince the NCP to reverse its decision," Sudan Tribune reported this (Sunday) morning.
"If they refuse to undo their decision, then we will decide our next move," DUP leader Ali Ahmed El Sayed told the news agency.
The NCP did not consult the other political parties in the government. "Our ministers were caught by surprise ... the decision was made by the ruling party," he said.
The DUP official described the economic measures as "the first nail in the coffin of the National Dialogue and its outcomes."
The Central Bank of Sudan already liberalised the exchange rate of the US Dollar for the import of medicines, remittances of expatriates, and flights of foreign companies.
Economic analyst Kamal Karrar confirmed that the decisions will lead to a rise in prices of imported goods, and an acute worsening of the economic crisis.
He accused the government of not being serious and responsible in addressing the problem facing the citizens, and pointed out that the decisions came in response to the dictates of the World Bank terms and conditions.
The Sudanese Committee of Pharmacists described the decision as "a catastrophic crime against the citizen who has been paying the bill of treatment out of his own pocket." The Committee warned that the decision "will seriously affect the health of citizens".
Nasir Morgos, Chairman of the Pharmacies' Department Consumer Protection Association, said that the decision will affect poor patients in need for medication, "some of whom will inevitably die because they cannot afford medicines".