Sudan: Khartoum and the Peripheries (where the money goes—and where it doesn’t go)
A series of recent dispatches from Sudan Tribune and Radio Dabanga make painfully clear the consequences of gross mismanagement of the Sudanese economy by the National Islamic Front/National Congress Party regime, which retains its monopolistic hold on national wealth and power despite the absurdly factitious “new government” announced by President (and indicted génocidaire) Omar al-Bashir. The grotesque misdirection and illegal appropriation of national wealth increasingly takes a large toll on the people of Sudan, with widespread suffering in the form of acute shortages, medical crises, and the continuing deterioration of meaningful existence for the people of Darfur, especially those facing the prospect of displaced persons camp closings. The regime consistently refuses to accept the economic reality of losing large oil revenues with the secession of South Sudan, and has failed to invest in critical sectors of the economy or to commit to equally critical elements of the decaying national infrastructure. Health and medical care are deteriorating in conspicuous ways throughout Sudan. This was true even during the years 1999 – 2011 when the regime was flush with petro-dollars.
The aggregate effects of this economic mismanagement, while clear to the people of Sudan who bear their terrible burden, are ignored by those who have thrown their support to this genocidal junta: the Europeans, the Gulf Arab States, the African Union, and the United States, as well as traditional supporters Russia and China. The general pretense is that the economy has struggled because of causes that cannot be traced back to the regime’s mismanagement. This is convenient but is finally an immensely destructive lie.
Just how destructive are the economic policies of the regime? So immensely that I will be writing a series of articles tracing out in detail what
The devastating consequences of economic mismanagement and gross self-enrichment affect the health, livelihoods, and lives of many millions of people across Sudan. Here the destruction of Zimbabwe under the thuggish and long-ruling Robert Mugabe offers a number of suggestive comparative points, however different the two countries may be and the nature of the two authoritarian leaderships (on Zimbabwe, see “How to Kill a Country,” Samantha Power, The Atlantic, December 2003 | https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2003/12/how-to-kill-a-country/302845/ ).
On virtually ever point of economic health and development, Sudan deserves a failing mark, despite lies of the sort increasingly promulgated by European countries eager to partner with the Khartoum regime and corrupt international actors such as the International Monetary Fund. In an October 2013 “IMF News Release,” Edward Gemayel, the IMF's Mission Chief for Sudan, declared that: "Sudan has a long track record of implementing sustainable economic policies” (http://www.4-traders.com/news/IMF-International-Monetary-Fund-Press-Release-Sudan-Meeting-of-the-Technical-Working-Group-on-E--17345158/). This claim by Gemayel is so preposterous, so completely at odds with the economic policies of the current regime both prior to and subsequent to Gemayel’s remarks of 2013, that one must assume a perverse, finally immoral agenda guiding them.
We might well wish to ask Gemayel what he makes of the Khartoum regime’s spending priorities for the country and how they contribute to “sustainable economic policies”:
Sudan allocates $1,8 billion for defense in 2017 Sudan tribune | December 23, 2016 (KHARTOUM) - Sudan has appropriated more than 29 billion pounds (SDG) (about $1,8 billion) to defense and security which represents the largest single spending item in the 2017 budget. According to Sudan’s 2017 budgetary estimates seen by Sudan Tribune, 5bn pounds have been allocated to the sovereign sector while 2,3bn was appropriated for agriculture and forests spending…
Sudan’s security apparatus has expanded vastly and military expenditure continued to rise as the government relies increasingly on militias such as the Popular Defense Forces (PDF) and the Rapid Support Forces (SRF) in military operations. Last year, Sudan’s President Omer al-Bashir said “If 100% of the state’s budget was allocated to the army to secure the country, then that is still not enough.”
Does Gemayel think that this grotesque overspending on the military and security services has nothing to do with the immensely destructive rate of inflation that is crushing so many Sudanese seeking to purchase the most essential commodities, including food, medicine, and cooking fuel? The regime’s Central Bureau of Statistics recently put the official inflation rate at 32.9 percent; but the CBS is little more than an extension of Khartoum’s propaganda apparatus and those who follow the Sudanese economy consistently put the inflation rate at over 50 percent—a rate that threatens to become hyper-inflation of the sort that completely destroyed Zimbabwe’s currency.
There is virtually no foreign exchange currency (Forex) in the Central Bank of Sudan, which makes many imports impossible, certainly in adequate quantities. Many critical medicines are available only to the very rich. Flour and bread shortages are reported with increasing frequency, driving up prices ferociously. There are also shortages of refined petroleum products, since the “sustainable economic policies” Gemayel speaks of did not include building an adequate domestic petroleum refining capacity: diesel fuel and cooking oil must be imported as a consequence. Transportation costs are skyrocketing, which has particularly serious effects for the peripheral regions of Sudan, including Darfur, where inflation is being felt particularly acutely. Food prices in much of South Kordofan are increasingly beyond the means of many Sudanese. And the value of the Sudanese pound against hard currencies continues is precipitous decline, making imports even more expensive for the average Sudanese civilian.
The examples—and effects—of the shortages could be multiplied endlessly, even in Khartoum and Omdurman. The following are all from Radio Dabanga:
Bread shortage as Khartoum bakeries shut-down | February 26, 2017 | KHARTOUM
Acute shortage of bread in Sudan | January 9, 2017 | KHARTOUM / EL OBEID / EL GEZIRA
‘Children in Sudan dying from lack of clean drinking water’ | November 1, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Sudanese MPs: People dying of thirst in Red Sea and Blue Nile | November 9, 2016 | RED SEA / BLUE NILE
Shortage of petrol in Khartoum and other Sudanese towns | February 14, 2017 | KHARTOUM / EN NAHUD
Bus fares soar in eastern Sudan | November 9, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Transport crisis developing in Sudan capital | December 5, 2016 | KHARTOUM
Power cuts disturb life in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref | February 20, 2017 | EL GEDAREF
Sudan: Pharmacies swept up in high drug prices | November 22, 2016 | KHARTOUM
34 patients lose eyesight completely, Khartoum eye centre closed | February 24, 2017 | KHARTOUM
Failure to invest in critical infrastructure projects is also taking a heavy toll, making further nonsense of Gemayel’s claim about the regime’s “sustainable economic policies.” There are increasingly serious and numerous water shortages, and this is the major reason behind the vast outbreak of cholera in many regions of Sudan in recent months—an outbreak the regime refused to acknowledge, even as the laboratory evidence was conclusive. See:
“What the Cholera Epidemic in Sudan Tells Us About the Absurdity of Lifting U.S. Sanctions on Khartoum” | January 25, 2017 | http://wp.me/p45rOG-20U (Sudan Tribune | http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article61489 )
Why does the IMF offer no substantial correction to the outrageous, mendacious, and destructive pronouncements of Gemayel? In fact, the IMF says nothing even in the face of such vast economic self-destruction.
As subsequent analyses will show in detail, the economy continues to function as a kleptocracy. And self-enrichment by the regime that takes increasingly desperate form as financial and economic pressures continue to increase at terrifying rates. The future of Sudan, and Darfur in particular, is unspeakably grim; and yet international actors of consequence simply ignore the catastrophic policies of the Khartoum regime.