Khartoum — The draft annual budget for 2018 for Sudan allocates a high percentage of revenue to the army, security service and paramilitary forces similarly to in 2017. Just three per cent of the budget is allocated to education.
The draft budget which the Ministry of Finance submitted to the national parliament amounts to SDG 173.1 billion. About SDG 23.888 billion ($3.393 billion, nearly 14 per cent) would be allocated to the national security service and the defence sector.
In comparison SDG 5.326 billion, or three per cent is allocated to the education sector and SDG 2.942 billion to the health sector. Officially basic education is free in Sudan, however, the Sudanese government spends little of its annual budget on education and health and more on the army and the security.
Regarding the planned spending on military and security activities next year, SDG 11.507 billion has been allocated to the Ministry of Defence. The National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) receives SDG 4.654 billion (including more than SDG 135 million on the NISS training institutions) and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces* have been allocated SDG 4.170 billion.
Experts and economists strongly criticised the new budget. They pointed out that the citizens of Sudan will bear the increased prices which will increase by 155 per cent, according to economic analyst Sidig Kabelo.
"The way in which the budget was drawn out and its timing show the government's great deal of disregard for its organs, as it was released on December 24 to take effect from January 1," Kabelo told Radio Dabanga. "It will be discussed and approved by the Legislative Council in only a week."
The new budget is similar to the previous ones in terms of features, as it relies on direct and indirect taxes and to cover its deficit. Kabelo said that seen the draft budget, there is a significant increase in spending overall, compared to the previous year. "The spending on the Ministry of the Interior and the services it provides such as security and licenses constitutes four per cent of the budget."
"Planned taxes are not feasible because many incomes are listed below the minimum wage level ." - Dr Sidig Kabelo
Regarding the government's imposition of taxes, Kabelo said that it the planned taxes are not feasible because the incomes of these groups (such as tea sellers, food vendors, cart owners and shoe-polishers) are listed below the minimum wage level. "The government should impose taxes on those who make big incomes and do not pay tax.
"The government's plan to support vulnerable groups must be concrete and include education and health services. These are basic services recommended in support of agreements reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."
Kabelo said that the increase in the national gross domestic product (GDP) of Sudan the government has predicted, is "unrealistic". "The national agricultural and industrial production have not improved and there is a trend to increase the electricity tariff on these sectors."
"There is a smuggling problem that hinders Sudan's gold production to contribute to the economy. About three quarters of the produced gold is sold or smuggled abroad."
The draft budget plans to reduce the inflation rate from 34 per cent to 19 per cent, which Kabelo considers impossible. "There is a lack of goods and currencies for Sudanese people that leads to a rise of prices."
Past annual budgets for Sudan also received criticism from economists. Economic analyst Abdelhadi Ibrahim commented on the 2016 budget that 70 per cent of the budget was allocated to the army and the security apparatus, "while education and health are almost ignored".
Meanwhile the national chamber of importers cleared itself of any possible price increases and confirmed that any increase will be paid by the Sudanese people. It described the government's intention to approve any price increases as "shocking".
The head of the national chamber of importers, Malik Jaafar, said in a press statement that prices will increase by 155 per cent, and any commodity will increase by 36 per cent. "A kilo lentils will increase by 225 per cent and a kilo of rice by 169 per cent. "Importers will not be affected by the recent increases while the people are directly affected."
* One year ago, the Sudanese Parliament passed a draft of the Rapid Support Forces Act that has given the President the power to appoint its commander and merge it with the national army as and when required. The RSF now belongs to the Ministry of Defence and operates under the direct command of the Commander-in-Chief of the Sudanese army, which is the President of Sudan. Earlier, the RSF were under the command of the NISS, which is also accountable to President Field Marshal Omar Al Bashir.