Khartoum — Yesterday, the Council of Ministers, headed by Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok, approved the 2021 budget, with a total deficit of 1.4 per cent, and a reduction in government spending by 24 per cent.
The Finance Ministry will submit the 2021 budget at a joint meeting of the Sovereign Council and the Council of Ministers on January 10 "for final approval".
Information Minister and Government Spokesperson Feisal Mohamed Saleh explained in a press conference that the budget has been subjected to many adjustments, after receiving comments from many parties, including the Economic Committee of the Forces for Freedom and Change and the parties to the peace process.
He said that the budget's "numbers and details will become law after they are approved in a joint meeting of the Sovereign Council and the Cabinet".
Finance Minister Heba Mohamed stated that the budget has been subject to wide consultations for six months. She attributed this delay to the volume of widespread consultation.
The budget allocates estimated amounts for people's "social protection", including pensions and cash support for poor families at an amount of SDG 260 billion*, or 24 per cent of the budget estimates. In addition, the budget retains subsidies for wheat, medicine, cooking gas, and electricity, and financial support for the 'My Commodities' programme, the youth employment project, and the rehabilitation of the transportation sector.
The Finance Minister explained that 12.5 per cent of the budget is reserved for education. The amount exceeds the education budget of last year by an estimated SDG 137 billion, an increase of 170 per cent compared to last year. The budget for higher education and scientific research has been tripled with the increase in spending on scientific research on increasing production and productivity in the country.
The budget was in general very responsive to the peace requirements, she explained. About SDG 54.1 billion has been allocated for the implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, signed by the Sudanese government and the Sudan Revolutionary Front rebel alliance in the South Sudanese capital on October 3 last year.
The amount includes SDG 21.5 billion for the continuation of former projects in conflict and war zones, indicating that most of them stopped due to the insecurity in those areas.
Mohamed further reported that the amounts allocated to the Peacebuilding Fund are estimated at about SDG 13.3 billion, in addition to the US grant of SDG 19.3 billion to support peace programmes.
Dr Hasan Bashir, Professor of Economics at El Nilein University in Khartoum, told Radio Dabanga last week that he expects that many Sudanese will continue to live in dire conditions in 2021.
Based on the leaked contents of the 2021 National Budget, which showed that the budget for the security and defence sector will reach SDG 201.5 billion, equivalent to one-third of all public revenues, he said that "the budget shows an imbalance in the expenditure." Specifically, there will be an increase in expenses for the ministries of Defence and Interior Affairs, as well as for the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
* USD 1 = SDG 55 at the time of posting, according to the daily middle US Dollar rate quoted by the CBoS. Effective foreign exchange rates however can vary widely on Sudan's parallel market, where the greenback sold yesterday for SDG 260.
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