The falling prices of oil and the desperate need for development in South Sudan: How will the government juggle them?

Manyok Biar is a regular NSV contributor
(Texas, USA) - The Minister of Finance in the Government of South Sudan has recently been saying repeatedly that the government will cut the budgets for its ministries next year because of the dropping prices of oil worldwide. This is a major concern. The question everybody can ask is what plans the government of South Sudan has for its functioning in the future if the prices of oil continue to fall?

One of the major consumers of oil, The United States of America, is thinking about developing different technologies that will reduce its dependence on foreign oil. This is among the main agenda for presidential campaign this year in America. There is a clear indication that the United States will stop buying foreign oil within twenty years or less from now. According to Time article entitled “What's Behind (and Ahead for) the Plunging Price of Oil,” published by Vivienne Walt / Paris Friday, Oct. 24, 2008, "Oil demand in the U.S. has dropped 10% in the few weeks, continuing a year long trend." The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that “Americans drove 15 billion fewer miles in August, or 5.6% less than they did the year before.”

American people are capable of changing their behaviors according to the situation. If the research shows that some changes are taking place, Americans listen carefully and they follow recommendations from researchers. Americans are now changing according to the situation because of the recent past high prices of oil and the current credit crunch. For example, the Time reported that “Americans have driven 78 billion fewer miles than they did in the same 10 months the previous year.” The change of behavior for American people is a matter of life and death. Change cannot wait for tomorrow. Americans believe that there is no problem that cannot be solved. Many people now in America have stopped the buying of “big gas-guzzling vehicles.”

Before scientists develop the technology that would free America from depending on foreign oil, American people are now aiming at forcing the prices of oil from $4 per a gallon to a reasonable price that will let them save money for other use. According to the report, “If gasoline drops $1.50 the $900 that Joe Average Driver saves would amount to a big stimulus package.”

If the oil producing countries cut the barrels of oil they produce a day to raise the price of oil again, then Americans will speed up technology that will completely stop them from depending on oil. What will the countries that depend on oil alone, like South Sudan, do if Americans develop a technology that will let America stop buying oil, given the fact that America is the major buyer of oil in the world? That means countries that depend on oil alone will go bankrupt. What are the strategies that South Sudan currently has to prepare for the worst? Can the people in South Sudan change their attitudes the same way the people in the United States can? The question of technology is not part of this article. It is just a question of the change of attitudes. What are some of the things that South Sudanese can do to develop other ways of survival apart from oil?

The answer, to me, is investment in agriculture. One does not need super scientists to develop plans that would lead to massive production in agriculture. What the government needs is to take agriculture to communities. This is one way that decentralization that President Kiir talks about will work well for South Sudanese. The government needs to put aside some money and buy some tractors and other agricultural tools. Then it should be made a demand that every community identify many hectares of fertile land and turn them into agricultural areas. This is another way of job creation. The government can pay the workers in those community farms with a condition that they pay government’s money back when their agricultural products are sold. Countries that can now go to Moon had initially started with agriculture.

The United States, for example, depended on agriculture from 1700s to late 1800s. The American people on those days used to farm and export their agricultural products to Europe before towns occupied American lands.

Today, agriculture is still one of the major areas of American economy.

South Africa and Egypt still depend on Agriculture and they are among the leading countries in Africa. There is no room for looking down on the importance of agriculture. Americans will stop buying oil in the near future and their demand for food will increase. There is a shortage of food now all over the world. America will soon stop oil-based friendship and it will start the food-based friendship. Currently, there is no enough land in America that will let America be food-independent soon. If South Sudan invests in agriculture, it will be one of the major food producers in the world because of the vast fertile land that we have. South Sudan can be a food supplier to many countries in Africa, too.

The change of attitudes for South Sudanese will soon be a matter of life and death if it is not yet there. The good way that the government will take care of its citizens in the near future when Americans stopped buying foreign oil is to be creative and explore all the options it has to stop depending on oil alone. Agriculture is one of the options. This agriculture must be taken down to community level so that development starts from the bottom-up instead of from the top-down.

*The writer of this article is a Graduate Student at Abilene Christian University, Texas, USA. He can be reached at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.