John A. Akec
is no question, the sacking by President Salva Kiir Mayardit of his cabinet
last July 2013, and swearing in of new government, was received in the streets
of Juba and across the cities of the nation with great jubilation and optimism.
The move has raised hopes that the President has finally resolved to lead
from the front as opposed to leading from the rear, a style the President has
adopted since coming to power in 2005.
his predecessor, Dr. John Garang De Mabior, President Salva Kiir Mayardit is
known for his delegatory and consensual approach to leadership. He allows plenty
of space for national ministers to craft and implement their own policies with
little or no intervention. Dr. John Garang, in contrast, led from the front and
was a micro-manager who left nothing to chance. While many may miss Garang's leadership
style, a significant opinion amongst the citizens admire Kiir's delegatory
approach as more democratic; given the potential of empowering his officials to
be autonomous, creative, and innovative.
Still some view this as weakness and lack of confidence to give clear
directive to ministers and to follow through with implementation; although
these are in minority. The majority of citizens I have spoken to insist that it
is a sign of self-confidence and secure leadership. All the same, the jury is
said, leading from the hind might have caused President Kiir's government more
pains than gains. It has rarely worked as might have been expected. Take as an
example how his cabinet voted unanimously to shut down oil production in
January 2012, following the dispute with Sudan over the amount of fees to be
paid for export of South Sudan oil. The decision stunned the citizens, friends,
and even foes in equal measure. Few could comprehend how a nation that depends
on oil revenue to fund 98% of its programmes could allow such a decision to
Some rumors had it that the President was opposed to shutdown, but relented to the
decision of majority in the cabinet. The President could have simply overruled the
cabinet with his veto powers. For example, the US President Abraham Lincoln was
once said to have overrule his cabinet saying: "I count one yes and six no.
The yes wins!"
that decision, austerity measures had to be imposed on all government spending.
These measures came to be known as Kosterity measures after Kosti Manibu, the
then Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
if it was not bad enough, after shutdown of oil production, months of
negotiations passed without any hope of agreement being reached with Sudan over
oil transit fees. Thanks to President Kiir's delegatory leadership that allowed
the now suspended SPLM Secretary General, Pagan Amum, to drag the negotiations
on indefinitely with no sign of comprise, while the austerity measures continued
to bite the nation harder and harder, and the relationship with the neighbouring
Sudan continued to go from bad to worst.
It was that kind of indecision that prompted
Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to pressurize Juba saying: "Percentage
of something is better than percentage of nothing."
it was after President Kiir Mayardit personal intervention that things began to
look up again. Following Kiir-Bashir summit, a cooperation agreement with Sudan
was struck in Addis Ababa in September 2012, and as a consequence, production
of oil from South Sudan oil fields resumed in April 2013.
more, President Kiir moved quickly and (rightly so) to repair relations with Sudan
so that trading and flights could resume between the two countries by reaching an
understanding with President Bashir on measures that would reduce tensions,
such as relating to the trading of accusations of support of armed dissidents
from each country. It was completely results-based leadership: effective and
self-evident. It was also a testimony to the fact that when leaders ignore the
pleas for consensus in critical matters, and follow their guts, success can easily
come their way.
But sadly, President Kiir's pains are far from
over. No sooner has the President passed over one crisis – that of austerity, and
oil shutdown; has another crisis begun to peer out its ugly head. This is the
new crisis in the making, caused by none other than economic policies currently
being unveiled by the Ministry of Finance, under the leadership of Mr. Aggrey
Tisa Sabuni. This, we will call Tisaconomics.
to the policy adopted by Mr. Sabuni, austerity measures will continue until January
2014 when new and more generous supplementary budget will be submitted. In
October 2013, the Parliament passed an austerity budget of SSP 19.0 billion
with the plan of borrowing SSP 4.5 billion or USD 1.6 billion to bridge a gap in that
budget. Interestingly enough, this budget was three times higher than that
under Kosterity measures in July 2012, and the highest since the nation gained
its independence in July 2011.
in the past week or so, the Bank of South Sudan issued an order to raise the exchange
rate of dollar against South Sudan pound from SSP 2.93 (bank rate) to SSP 4.5
(the black or so called parallel market rate). The markets were shocked and the
rate of exchange of SSP in the black market jumped from SSP 4.5 to between SSP
5.00 and SSP 6.00. Fuel disappeared from petrol stations, and supermarkets and warehouses
for building materials closed their doors in panic, as traders tried to figure
out how to respond. This is because in South Sudan, majority of traders access dollar
through black markets as opposed to Central Bank.
that, the Parliament summoned the head of BoSS, Mr. Kornelio Koryom, the next
day, and ordered him to reverse the decision with immediate effect. And he did.
The rate of exchange of dollar went back to SSP 4.6 immediately which was slightly
higher but close to its pre-decision rate.
explanation provided by the Finance Ministry and the Central Bank was that the
government would like to raise an additional SSP 4.5 billion needed to finance the
hole in the approved budget in order to meet the budget shortage by devaluing
South Sudan pound by 38%, as opposed to borrowing externally, as was initially
decision was greeted with dismay nationwide, and Isaac Cuir Riak, Professor of
Economics at University of Bahr El Ghazal, reacted by describing it as "misplaced"
because, according to his analysis, the devaluation could lead to inflation in
prices of imported consumer goods, and could push more people below poverty
line. Many other commentators and economists also condemned the decision describing
it as abrupt and not well scrutinized.
as weeks and months passed since the Parliament approved the new budget, the
country is going for two months without paying the salaries of civil servants,
academics, doctors, nurses, and teachers. Ministries and government agencies have
not received any of their allocation for services and operation to up to the
time of this writing, thus risking bringing the country to near standstill. The
question that imposes itself is: Is it not truly ironic that the financial
situation in the country is deteriorating by the day at the time when
oil money is following into government's coffers?
one is bound to conclude that if Kosterity had weakened the government of South
Sudan ability to provide services the citizens need, Tisaconomics which appears
to lack direction and is incapable of taking prompt decisions is threatening the
country with social and political upheavals that could lead to igniting an African
Spring in form of mass action across the country.
eyes are again focused on President Kiir Mayardit to intervene and diffuse the situation
by directing the Finance Ministry to take immediate remedial action. These
times are critical times, and the President is more than able to rise to these challenges
at this juncture in the life of the nation.