Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Call for a Marshall Plan for South Sudan (Part 2 of 2)

By John A. Akec
"A pound improvement in governance leads to a tenfold increase in prosperity" – Author's personal conviction

This is the second and final part of the article which I published recently under the same title. The central theme of the first part of the article was proposing a South Sudan Marshall Plan to be funded by US, Britain, and Norway in partnership with countries that have interest in strengthening peace and political stability in South Sudan through extending line of credit on favourable terms to the government of South Sudan and, where appropriate, providing financial assistance in areas of strategic importance to the new nation.
After publishing part one of the article, numerous comments were made on different discussion fora that ranged from encouraging, to lukewarm, to pessimistic. Prominent among these comments is the perceived institutional fragility of South Sudan, high level of official corruption, and increasing crime and insecurity in the country; all of which many of my discussants believe will put off potential lenders, investors, and donors.

While acknowledging that these are genuine concerns, I am of the view that equitable socioeconomic development is an indispensable vehicle for achieving peace and political stability in any country - a satisfied citizen is a happy and peaceful citizen. I also acknowledge that institutional reforms and improvements in governance are vital if such a plan is to succeed. We will need to convince the lenders to part with their money by giving them confidence that the funds will be effectively used to achieve the intended goals.

Moreover, once funds start flowing in, success must be maintained in order to guarantee further funding.
This article outlines a number of institutional reforms and a sample of project priorities from a personal perspective without confessing to 'knowing it all', and without being presumptuous as to think that my noises as a blogger will ever ruffle the feathers of the establishment. And notwithstanding, I want to share my thoughts on the above issues as a global citizen and local member of this society called South Sudan. To that end I want to 'do it anyway' as Mother Teresa would advise us.

This is a challenge for which there is no quick fix, apart from continuous monitoring, evaluation, and change so that current institutions are seen fit for the purpose. For starters, there must be legislation in place to define the purpose and mandate of institutions in unambiguous terms. The legislation must define accountability hierarchy and lines of command. Right persons with right skills and experience must be chosen to lead the right institutions. There must be a yardstick for measuring institutional effectiveness and mechanism for monitoring performance. In other words, to operate the government in closed-loop mode as opposed to open-loop fashion in which we seem to fire into the dark without bothering to count the number of hits or misses.

National Legislative Assembly needs to be more effective in both its legislative and supervisory role than it currently is. There is concern that our law makers are too reluctant to raise motions on anything that will challenge or bring a member of executive wing (president, minister, governor, or commission chairs) under spotlight. This needs to change even if it means the President calling an earlier election or do something to wake everyone up in the legislative wing.

Presidential Advisors
 Good advisors are the eyes and the ears of a president. There should be presidential advisors on all things that matter to a nation. Advisors do not necessarily need to be on full-time terms of duty. The current range of presidential advisors is limited and needs expanding. Areas for advisors' appointments, beside political affairs, decentralization,  religion, and gender; should also include foreign affairs, education, health, science and technology, agriculture, trade and industry, environment, media, aviation, transport, and so on. In terms of priority, advisors on economy, education, health, agriculture, and science and technology should come prominently high on the top list in addition to security and defense (already well catered for).

Establishing Institutions for Strategic Planning
Every country must have strategic goals that define where the nation wants to be in the next 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 years and beyond. What we do at present will bear fruits in the distant future. What we do not do at present can be a missed opportunity tomorrow. Hence, South Sudan can do better with a little more strategic thinking and less with groping in the dark.

For example, where South Sudan finds itself today in terms of shortage and high fuel prices is hardly an accidental misfortune, but rather the ultimate prize for not thinking and acting strategically five or seven years ago. It is a living proof of the cliché: failing to plan [strategically] is planning to fail [strategically].

Institutions for strategic planning are vital for the survival and future prosperity of any country. All forward-looking nations must have institutions that specialize in scanning the horizons for risks, threats, and opportunities; then prod the governments to plan and act well ahead of time upon the findings in order to minimize risks, reduce threats, and exploit opportunities. The government of South Sudan must set up a council for strategic planning that consults and works with academic and research institutions, think-tanks, and civil society groups to conduct policy analysis and compile reports that inform government strategic policy design and long-term development plans.

That also means the government should avail funds for think-tanks, research and academic institutions, and civil society groups to build up their capacity to play their role in socioeconomic development. And more important still, the government must act upon their analysis and findings.

The designated institution(s) for strategic planning should monitor how developmental projects are faring and frequently publishes reports (internal and public), meets with the legislators and executive branch of the government to discuss the status of progress of major projects and performance of the economy; thus enabling the executive branch to take informed actions and corrective measures in good time. The institution(s) of strategic planning need to have specialized committees or department within it dealing with specific issues and ministries. Its membership should include heads of specialized committees in the legislative assembly, among others.

 South Sudan Economic Council
A multi-disciplinary body with secretariat hosted in the Presidency and works closely with the Council for Strategic Planning and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Academia and Civil Society to make informed decisions that affect the economy in the short and medium term.

Financial Allocation, Monitoring and Evaluation Authority
This works closely with Council for Strategic Planning, South Sudan Economic Council, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, specialized committees in the national legislative assembly, anti-corruption commission, office of auditor general, statistics commission etc. It should report and publish allocations and use of funds at least once or twice a year.

Education Sector Reforms
For start, every state should have a university, a technical and community college, a multi-skill vocational training centre, girls' academy, and agriculture extension training institute. Higher education and general education must be brought under one roof to stop them growing apart. An independent Curriculum Development, Skills Audit, Qualification and Accreditation Authority should be established in addition to the existing Higher Education Council as policy-making body and Education Commission as education research wing. Within the Ministry of Education there should be departments for higher education, general education, early education, community and adult education, vocational education, philanthropic and private education. Government needs to improve salaries to be high enough to attract foreign academics and teachers and agree policy for employing foreign academics and teachers while retaining nationals.

Improving Transparency, Accountability, and Sustainability in Infrastructural Projects
Government should publish white papers and consult with academia, civil society, and affected communities before giving a go ahead to major infrastructural projects. Environmental impact assessment should also be part of project proposal prior to its approval, funding, and execution.

 Empowerment of Women 
The government should eliminate all barriers that hinder women development and effective participation in the governance. Girl's education should be made compulsory or free or subsidized where there are fees. Legal age of marriage should be raised and girl should at least complete secondary education before being legally married. Forced marriages and traditions that oppress women must be combated through law such as girls' circumcision and other culturally damaging practices that harm young women wherever they might be found.
While encouraging competition amongst women in employment, affirmative action should apply at all time at all institutions and levels in both public and private sector. Workplace design should be such that it is made safe and free from fear of harassment for women. Incentives must be provided to encourage women to break into male-dominated industries wherever they exist. And in everything we do, we must consider how it can be made to impact on women most positively.

Labour Laws and Regulation of Employment of Foreign Workers
Apart from employing academics, teachers, doctors and nurses, petroleum engineers, pharmacists, dentists, lab technicians, and rare technical specialisations, any other employment of foreigners should be regarded as loss to the nation that must be recouped by training nationals to take up the jobs held by foreign nationals. Too much dependence on foreign consultants in sensitive positions must also be reviewed and minimized. Foreign businesses investing in South Sudan must be encouraged by special regulation to employ nationals or make plans to replace foreign employees with nationals according to a time plan.

Control of Development and Humanitarian Assistance
Development aid needs to be regulated and controlled by the government through the relevant line ministries. There are at least three reasons for regulating development assistance and humanitarian assistance: to ensure relevance, efficiency, and equity.

Currently, no one can be certain that all the development aid being channelled into South Sudan is what South Sudan needs, that it is delivering acceptable results quantitatively and qualitatively, and that all parts of the South Sudan are receiving their fair share of development assistance. Left unchecked, unregulated development assistance and aid can exacerbate social and economic inequalities amongst social groups and could reinforce pre-conflict causes of war as development partners randomly pick and chose whom to assist or where to pitch their tents while other regions or social groups are left completely dry.

Involvement of South Sudan Diaspora
South Sudan Diaspora with exposure should be allowed to assist in advice and consultancy in all aspects of planning, procurement, and projects execution. This will be better than relying on 'foreign experts' to design solutions for environments of which they scarcely have any knowledge.

South Sudan needs to make development priorities.  Top on the list are the following:

Provision of Health Services
South Sudan should have at least one well equipped and well staff teaching hospital in every state capital in the next 5 years to 10 years. There must be at least one children hospital in each state. Each state hospital must have advanced medical diagnosis equipment such as computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance investigation (MRI) scans, among others. Moreover, South Sudan must establish hospitals specializing in treatment of heart-diseases and diagnosis and treatment of cancers. There must be plans to increase the number of doctors and nurses per 1000 of population to the levels approved by World Health Organisation (WHO) within a reasonable time scale. The government can also enact regulation allowing private sector to contribute to provision of health services.

Railway Connection to East African Coast 
South Sudan needs to conduct serious feasibility studies that would lead to securing funding for construction of a railway line to east African Coast via Kenya or Djibouti. If Nile has been the backbone of Sudan and Egyptian economies, railway from South Sudan to East African coast (not the pipeline) is the lifeline and backbone of South Sudan economy. Apart from environmental benefits, railway line will create jobs for South Sudanese; reduce the cost of imports and exports, integrate South Sudan into East African Community, and can be used to transport oil. Long after oil has been exhausted, the railway will continue to serve South Sudan economy to generations eternal.

Development of Agriculture
South Sudan must come up with a well reasoned strategy to develop its huge agriculture potential. The first phase is to achieve self-sufficiency and later for export to international markets in form of value-added products. To do this, it is not going to be enough to tell small-holder farmers to "work harder" nor rushing to give them farm machinery and improved seeds and then hope for the best! It needs to be complete package that supports the entire agriculture value chain that ranges from provision of lands to soil studies, to giving improved seeds and application of safe fertilisers, to use of biotechnologies for improved yield, to provision of scientific advice and extension services, to transportation, and access to markets and export facilities. Think-tanks and research institutions can help the government develop a good agriculture development strategy.

Electrification and Water Supply Projects
Availability of cheap and affordable electricity can be a great boost to economy. And without availability of abundant cheap electricity supply, no nation can realistically pursue industrialization. Thus, South Sudan needs to come up with strategies and plans for electrification of cities and country-side using a mix of hydroelectric, fossil fuel, and green energy sources such as biomass, solar, and wind. The plan should aim to provide electricity to at least 80 percent of population in the next 10 to 15 years. Furthermore, along with electrification programmes is provision of safe drinking water for the 10 million South Sudanese population. Electrification and provision of drinking water are candidates for foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as public private partnerships (PPP).

Development of Telecommunications Industry
Availability of telecommunication services and cheap but fasts internet connectivity can reduce the cost of doing business in a country and attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

South Sudan can do well by developing its ICT and telecommunication infrastructure by connecting to East Africa optical submarine cable. The country also needs to set up its own national telecommunication company.

Quality of housing is a significant factor in quality of life and life expectancy. The government should work out a strategy for provision of affordable housing to the population. Again, housing is a candidate for foreign direct investment (FDI) and public private partnership (PPP). Because of poor provision of housing in the capital city Juba, huge sums from public coffers have been spent on the hotel accommodation of government officials in Juba in the last 7 years.

Support to Small Firms and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
"Small businesses are the very embodiment of a free society - the mechanism by which the individuals can turn his leadership and talents to the benefit of both himself and the nation. The freer the society, the more small businesses there will be. And the more small business there are, the freer and more enterprising that society is bound to be" – this was Margaret Thatcher, for Prime Minister of Great Britain speaking on importance of small businesses.

SMEs tend to be privately owned businesses that employ between 0 and 250 people. They are normally independently managed by the owner (or the entrepreneur), unlike large publicly quoted companies with more than 250 employees, and run by management boards on behalf of the owners (the shareholders). In European Union alone, small firms account for nearly 98% of 25 million registered businesses, employ 66% of the total work force, generating 60% of turnover (income), and contributing about 90% of all exports income from the Euro Zone. Frequently, small firms struggle with cash flow problems at the start. This is because of their high-risk nature that does not encourage the banks to lend money to them before their profitability is proven.

Recognising the role that SMEs play in an economy in terms of jobs creation, contribution to corporation tax, and the export income generation (which can lead to improvement in the balance of payment), South Sudan needs to devise means and ways to support SME's specially at startup-phase where entrepreneurs struggle with cash-flows and lack of banks' credit. It also needs to establish institutions offering micro-credit.

This article is far from comprehensive and much remains to be said about the proposed Marshal Plan for South Sudan including empowerment of young people and provision of more services for pre-school age children. Thus tremendous gaps remain to be filled through discussion and further research and analysis. A South Sudan Development Conference may be a first step to kick-start the debate. What the article does, however, is to wet our appetite and  expose the kind of thinking we should be engaged in; while embarking on the next phase of our socioeconomic development.

It is also worth pointing out that South Sudan is not applying for foreign aid as many are led to think, but we will be asking for loans and financial assistance to solve specific development problems that are identified by South Sudan, as opposed to donor-identified problems and donor-prescribed solutions that hardly satisfy our development needs. A thousand steps begin with that first step. So let us stop arguing, get away from sloganeering, roll up our sleeves, and get stuck in. We want to figure out our path to development, peace, and prosperity and need not be told by the International NGOs (INGOS) or friendly governments what we should have or should not have.

Our development challenges are clear, and the path to peace and prosperity is plain; why not walk in it? The opportunities have never been so great, why not grab them?

Starting with ourselves let's see who among our friends would want to be counted count in, and who would prefer to be counted out?

Useful Reading for those interested on impact of aid on development of receiving countries
Mary B. Anderson, Dyana Brown, and Isabela Jean (2012). Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid, Publication of CDA Collaborative Learning Project, Cambridge, MA, USA.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Call for a Marshall Plan for South Sudan (Part 1 of 2)

By John A. Akec
"There is no shortage of funding in the world, only shortage of fund-able plans"- Author's personal conviction

Background Introduction

South Sudan obtained its independence from Sudan in July 2011, six months after voting overwhelmingly to secede from the country in a referendum conducted on 9th January 2011.

The baseline on which the government of the independent South Sudan had launched its developmental effort was grim, even by African standards. With a population of 8.26 million, as per World Bank's December 2010 census, about 90 percent lived on less than one dollar per day and 33 percent were classified as chronically hungry. Only six percent had access to improved sanitation, 85 percent of adults were recorded illiterate, and there was only one teacher for every 1,000 students. Moreover, one in six mothers dies during childbirth, and 135 out of 1,000 children die before the age of five.

The region’s infrastructure—roads, bridges, and electricity—is poor or non-existent. Other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, are under-developed. Landlocked and with no productive industries of its own, South Sudan imported everything from Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda, while exporting nothing in return.
To fund development effort, South Sudan relied heavily on oil revenues which formed 98 percent of the government of income from the sale of the crude in international markets. Unfortunately, barely six months into independence, the government's oil revenues dried up, following the shut-down of oil production in January 2012, a consequence of a dispute with Sudan over the level of transit fees.

A World Bank brief about the possible adverse impacts of oil shut-down on South Sudan's economy in June 2012, predicted a jump in the number of people living under poverty line (or those spending less than USD 1.2 per day) from 51 percent in 2012 to 83 percent in 2013; infant mortality rates for under 5s to double from 10 percent in 2012 to 20 percent in 2013; school enrolment was predicted to drop from 50 percent in 2012 to 20 percent in 2013 (the level it was some eight years ago). With continuing disagreement over outstanding issues with Sudan, and with no sources to fund development effort, the future of the nascent country looks unsettling.

Most recently, the United Nations added South Sudan to the list of the world's poorest 46 countries.

The Challenge of Triple Traps
Mirroring the diagnosis provided by economist Paul Collier in his book, the Bottom Billion (Collier, 2007), South Sudan appears to be suffering from at least three structural ailments or traps: abundant natural resource trap (resource curse); a land-locked nation with bad and  powerful neighbours (Sudan); and being a relatively new and small country facing governance challenges, as reflected by 7-year long liaises-fair rule by Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) that is still carrying on unabated.

And as one South Sudanese academic commented (Blackings, 2012), the SPLM nationalist leaders [like other Africa anti-colonial leaders before them] were clearer on what they wanted to end, than on what they wanted to put in place to replace it (quoting Ajayi, 1982).  

What's more, hopes were raised that the signing of Addis Ababa Agreement between South Sudan and Sudan on 27 September 2012 would resolve outstanding issues between the two countries, remove the ghost of a renewed war, prevent the collapse of the economies of two Sudans, and allow South Sudan to focus on affecting a resemblance of socio-economic development for its citizens. But regrettably, nothing of this sort is forthcoming as the government of Sudan began to attach an ever increasing list of impossible preconditions before it would allow South Sudan oil to flow through its territory.

It is worth pointing out that one of the most serious obstacles to normalizing relationships between South Sudan and Sudan is the continuing accusation by Sudan that the former provides moral, material, and logistical support to Sudan's armed dissidents, precisely the SPLM-North which is waging war in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and Revolutionary Front fighting in Darfur, despite denial by South Sudan. And rather than pressurizing the government of Sudan to negotiate peace with SPLM-North, the international community persistently pressurizes South Sudan to normalize relationship with Sudan, a great irony of our time.

No Good Crying Over Spilt Milk
And even if oil money were to flow again into South Sudan's government coffers, and without well reasoned economic vision backed by commitment and credible action plans, many analysts expect that it is going to be business as usual in Juba, with hundreds of millions of petro-dollars coming in every month, and with no impact whatsoever on provision of badly needed services such as health, education, and critical infrastructure development; or possible diversification of the oil dominated economy.  

That said, enough criticism has been labelled against South Sudan ruling party, SPLM. And if criticism would kill anything, SPLM would have long been dead, as once noted by Ambassador Sabit Alley currently South Sudan ambassador to UK, in defence of SPLM, many years ago on an internet discussion forum. It would therefore be more instructive for South Sudanese (be they in the government or outside the government) to brainstorm in order to come up with ideas that would help the nation find its path out of current stagnation and despair into a bright and prosperous future. Some indigenous think-tanks as well as individuals using social media are already debating this issue, but more of such a debate is needed.

The author believes this article is a small contribution towards this debate, hopes that it is going to stimulate further discussion, and in due time, leads to crystallization of a shared vision which we could all embrace and execute with determination, honesty, and commitment.

While embarking on this debate, we must keep an open mind. We should also forget about what is generally perceived as mediocre failure of our government. We have come a long way since our ancestors rebelled in Torit in August 1955 and we should be proud of what has already been achieved, realizing that in any worthwhile project, failure is part of the game.

And yet, as the saying goes, failure is not so much about falling down, but rather it is more about failing to rise up again. And for us in South Sudan, rising up against all forces of gravity is not an option, but national duty. So rise we must.

A Marshall Plan for South Sudan
For those unfamiliar with the term, it was at the end of World War II that the government of United States came out with a plan that extended credit and financial assistance to many European countries to accelerate the revival of their war-ravaged economies. The plan's official name was European Recovery Program (ERP), but became historically more popular as the Marshall Plan after the US Secretary of State George Marshall, who revealed the plan for the first time in a speech he delivered to graduate students at Harvard University on 5th June 1947. The essence of the Marshall's speech was captured in the following lines, and I quote (Marshall Plan, Wikipedia):

 "The modern system of the division of labor upon which the exchange of products is based is in danger of breaking down…It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health to the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace…[the Plan] purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist." Unquote.

Looking back to over half a century when this speech was made and the Plan subsequently launched (1948-1952), one cannot help but admire how far-sighted and ahead of its time the Marshall Plan was, and that the leaders of United States who conceived the Plan had already realised the economic and political interdependence of the countries of the world, now christened as Globalization.

Given the leading role the United States, Norway, and Britain had played in the birth of South Sudan as world's newest nation, it is morally right that these countries and many others with good will and self-interest extend such assistance to South Sudan, irrespective of whether or not oil export resumes sooner or later. No conditionalities should be attached to granting favourable credit terms or extending financial assistance save that the plans which would be prepared and presented by South Sudan for funding be credible, realistic, and well designed. Otherwise, the goals for a Marshall Plan for South Sudanare are in essence not much different from those that inspired the original Marshall Plan – the advancement of world's political stability and peace.

The experience of Multi-donor Trust Fund in South Sudan has left much to be desired. Therefore, this time around, the proposed Marshall Plan for South Sudan should put the government and people of South Sudan in the driving seat (foreign consultants, need not apply, must be its good-faith empowering philosophy!).
Priorities should be made and programs designed by the government of South Sudan with participation and consultation of wide sector of South Sudan society including South Sudan Diaspora. Funding would be composed of a combination of grants and loans from Marshall Plan Fund, negotiated and supported by the Obama Administration in partnership with Norway, Great Britain, Germany, France, Japan, Canada, Australia, Denmark, China, amongst others. The Plan should last 10 years from the date of its launch.

The South Sudan Marshall Plan's strategic goals should be to enhance South Sudan's social, economic, and natural capitals. The Plan would do so by aiming to enhance social justice and improve the quality of life for great lot of society, achieve economic growth that would raise living standards, and sustain global and regional environmental quality (Elkington, 1989; Maathai, 2009).

Exact details of the programs could be worked out and it suffices to say that the programs should include among others the promotion of trade and long-term economic integration of South Sudan into East African Community (Beny, 2012), provision of sufficient education and health services; provision of clean drinking water; achieving food security; implementation of electrification program for towns and country-side; building of communications and ICT infrastructure; development of country-side; building of efficient transport infrastructure that links South Sudan states and links South Sudan to the East African coast by  high-speed railway line to Djibouti or Kenya (Reeves, 2012); funding of socio-economic research, and transfer of science and technology; building value-added industries; increasing non-oil exports; harnessing the country's tourism potential; promotion of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This list is not all-inclusive.

Making it Work this Time!
In order to succeed, institutional reforms would be necessary. Laws and regulations would have to be enacted in order to create an enabling environment for opening new business and attracting foreign direct investment. South Sudanese must be trained to acquire employable skills through the widening opportunities in higher education, technical vocational and second chance programmes. Women and girls must be empowered through education and elimination of cultures that oppress them in order to achieve women's potential and garner their effective contribution to the well being of South Sudanese society. My next article will shed more light on some of these proposals.

Before ending the article, I must borrow a powerful phrase from British Liberal Party's pamphlet that was published at the end of 1929 (Clarke, 2009) and apply it in the context of our nation:

SPLM has successfully mobilized its people for war. It MUST now mobilize South Sudanese people for peace and prosperity.

Finally, President Salva, once again our pleas that you lead the marsh to the promised land... Our support and our sweat guaranteed.

Recommended Readings that inspired and lend support to many ideas in this article:
Ajayi, Ade (1982). Expectations of Independence. Daedalus. Quoted in Blackings, Mari John (2012), South Sudan, One Year On: From World's Newest State, to Another African Story, Paper presented at Sudanese Programme Conference, St. Antony's College University of Oxford. June 23, 2012.
Beny, Laura Nyantung, and Matthew Synder (2012). South Sudan and East African Community, Pros and Cons and Strategic Considerations, Report, University of Michigan Law School.
Blackings, Mari John (2012). South Sudan, One Year On: From World's Newest State, to Another African Story, Paper presented at Sudanese Programme Conference, St. Antony's College University of Oxford. June 23, 2012.
Clarke, Peter (2009). Keynes: The Rise, Fall, and Return of the 20th Century's Most Influential Economist, Bloomsbury Press. New York. 
Elkington, John (1989). Cannibals and Forks, referenced in Richard C. Dorf (2001), Technology, Humans, and Society: Towards a Sustainable World, Academic Press, Sandiego, CA.
Collier, Paul (2007). The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About IT, Oxford University Press.
Maathai, Wangari (2009). The Challenge for Africa. Arrow Books, London.