South Sudan needs quality, not quantity: The reason for smaller government


(Madison, Wisconsin) - More than 300 years ago, many societies used to capitalize on quantity more than they did on quality. For individual families, it was for economic production purposes; and for governments, it was to cope with wars and imperial expansions. While it could still be maintained today that many ancient governments have increased over the centuries, the increase is mostly in spending, not in the actual number of government’s representative departments. For instance, with over 300 million people, the United States of America operates only under mere 15 departments, but its military budgets have increased significantly over the periods.


This expansion in public spending, which is reasonable in societies with relatively large populations with more tax payers, is then inextricably linked to defense or security threats. But justified or not, tax payers and the governed still find such spending expansions disconcerting, with many good reasons supplied in support of their entreaty. I do not reference any of these reasons given the limited scope of the analysis.


For South Sudan, a nascent state with only about 15 million people, large public expenditures for specific sections like defense are coupled with increased spending associated with a relatively large number of government’s departments or ministries. In particular, South Sudan’s government has more than doubled the number of departments in the United States. It has 32 ministries, not to mention the numerous commissions enlisted only to operate in convergence with the ministries. Even more nerve enfeebling is the fact that the South has a ministry that is absolutely task free; it is called the ‘ministry without portfolio’, with a fully paid, no-duties minister, too. But what is so compelling or even unsettling about the size of the government in South Sudan? Put yet another way, what economic implications does the relatively large size of government have on South Sudan’s progress as a society?  For simplicity, I have narrowed the scope of this exercise to the economic implications only.


Quite honestly, I think development economists would take a better stab at this one. But even though I’m not an expert in that field, I find it odd to remain a bystander just because of this limitation. So, here comes my rusty intuition as it pertains to the phenomenon, or plea rather. A rusty intuition feeds off of rusty evidence, though the general insight here is not absolutely far removed from the truth. This condition obviously lures us into thinking conjecturally than the object may truly present. Rumor has it that the South ministers are the polity’s second highest paid, next to anti-corruption commissioner. Assuming the compensation rate is generic across the board and from salary to allowances, each minister is said to pocket about $14,000 per month. That is $168,000 non-taxed annual income per minister or a total of $5.38 million for the 32 ministers.


Furthermore, take half of what the ministers make and multiply it by approximately 128 undersecretaries and directors.  Shown mathematically, we see that the public spends yet about $10.8 million in the undersecretaries and directors’ salaries per year, all of it not taxed. Altogether, we are looking at an enormous spending of $16 million annual pay for senior federal staff only. Just for the sake of illustration, I hold corruption at its minimum zero.


This expenditure might be a little too much for the public and the economic future of an oil-producing only society. More specifically, the enormous cost the public shoulders, it seems, relates more to the number of ministries enlisted and less to the underlying public needs. This is so because, by drawing upon the GoSS’ ministry database, one finds that many ministries share similar assignments, though under different names---the only things that literally set many apart.

By heeding to this discovery and objectively reorganizing the GoSS’ ministries, the list simply narrows down to a bitter sweet statistic of 14 ministries, discounting the original lengthy log by 18 ministries. Thus the suggested reorganization makes much better sense under the following ministerial restructuring. Note the arbitrary ministry enumerations are placed in the parentheses.


New Ministerial Structures


Charged with developing, discussing, and passing laws, the legislative assembly (1) should incorporate both the ministries of legal affairs and constitutional development and parliamentary affairs as supporting departments or directorates. The offices of the president and cabinet affairs should then follow suit by merging together to form the executive or cabinet affairs branch (2). Depending on the needs, the executive affairs ministry may also develop several departments or directorates to serve under a single minister, not two. Judiciary (3), headed by Chief Justice and sub-headed by the nation’s Attorney General, may serve on a stand-alone basis. But all justice and security related departments, including the courts, police or internal affairs, may as well be incorporated into this entity. However, I will keep the internal affairs independent for now.


Stand-alone ministries include the SPLA and veteran affairs (4), regional cooperation (5), internal affairs (6), health (7), and housing and physical planning (8). Labor and public service and human resource development ministries (9) are of the same nature and do not need to serve under independent ministries. Human resource should be a directorate under a director in the ministry of labor and public service. Same applies to the ministries of finance and economic planning, commerce and industry, investments, and energy and mining (10). They all have one thing in common: economies of the nation. This symbiotic relationship, in principle, puts all these ministries under one ministry and with perhaps a bunch of directorates or departments mothered in.

Agriculture and forestry, animal resource and fisheries, wildlife conservation, water resources and irrigations, and environment to an extent, all fall under natural resources (11) and should be singly treated as such. No compelling need for chopping here. But the rightful location of the environment sector perhaps lends good reasons for future debates. I build my case under the premise that the environment sector closely relates to agriculture and its facets more than to any other government sectors in the system.

Roads and transports, communications and postal services, and information (12) are all communication related ministries. Naturally, they are not meaningful apart. Education and higher education, science and technology (13) fall under education and need not be partitioned only under mere differential curricula. Call gender, social welfare and religious affairs, culture and heritage, youth, sports and recreation, and cooperatives and rural development ministries (14) the ministry of human services. They are serving arguably similar interests, in a way. The peace and CPA implementation affairs is a clearly no-good entity; it has got to go in the historic file only for future reference. Humanitarian affairs and disaster management is a job well suited for the police; universally, that is what we know; it too has got to go in the internal affairs under a director.

Economic Gains of Restructuring


The South gains economically through this suggested restructuring. But by merging some ministries, one endeavors to develop directorates or departments under a fewer ministerial headings as suggested elsewhere. Of course, doing so reduces the cost of maintaining a much greater number of ministries, such as 32 in our case. With now 14 ministers, 14 undersecretaries, and about 110 directors serving under a newly reorganized system, the current public spending in the South is significantly reduced. For the ministers alone the new spending is approximately $2.35 million, down from $5.38 million a year, a 56 percent reduction. And for the undersecretaries and directors, the public’s new spending is approximately $9.2 million, down from $10.8 million, about 14 percent cut. Together, the restructuring saves the federal government approximately $4.54 million in salary expenditure annually, enough to fund a 5-year scientific research at a university, or build a bunch of health clinics in rural vicinities.




This quasi analysis explores the size of the government of South Sudan from the standpoint of the country’s economies of scales. Findings based on anecdotal evidence illustrate that the current size of the government is not cost-effective for the polity. Because of the common relationship in the nature of what many ministries do, the extra spending the public suffers is only necessitated by the numerical inflation of ministries. Little does it correspond to true public needs or services.


The analyst therefore believes that deflating the government’s size from 32 to 14 ministries presents the optimal solution that can help downsize public spending that is linked to salaries. Mergers are suggested on the basis of the relative specializations of ministries---an objective rationale to invoke policy developments.The merger generally slashes down the spending originally allocated to high posts in the government as we have seen previously. Thus doing so saves the public $4.54 million annually by demoting 17 ministries and cutting one loose.


Finally, striving for quality provision of public services requires quality institutions, the central thrust of this analysis. Unfortunately, this is not reflected in the present structure of the Government of Southern Sudan in which so many ministries are instituted irrespective of projected public gains. To be sure, the current numerical inflation of ministries is benefiting  individual authorities while bankrupting the public.


The number should be reduced for quality control and objective or deserved public spending. After all, the South of 15 million people only does not need more departments than does the United States of over 300 million people. So, restructuring would definitely be cost-effective than if the polity were to hold on to its current approach. Ethically, the cut ultimately meets the needs of the governed, not individual authorities, a vital indicator of good governance.


Augustino Ting Mayai is a doctoral student of Demography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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