Developing southern Sudan's economic programs (Part 2)

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Majority of southern Sudanese live in the countryside, and Prof. Yongo-Bure argues the Government of Southern Sudan should implement the late SPLM leader, Dr. John Garang's 'taking towns to villages' policy articulation.

"Right now, [the Government of Southern Sudan] should embark on short-term and long-term programs that bring hope to the majority of the Southern Sudanese,” writes Prof. Yongo-Bure, a southern Sudanese developmental economist, in this second installment of “Developing southern Sudan’s economic programs” series.

(Flint, Michigan USA) - The Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) was established during the last months of 2005. Unlike other governments of post-war territories, GOSS had neither physical nor social infrastructure to inherit. The structures established in the bushes of Southern Sudan, during the war, were very thin and did not cover all the territory of Southern Sudan. Whatever had been started from the 1990s was at an embryonic state. Moreover, GOSS had to merge the SPLM’s civil structure with that of the pre-peace Government of Sudan (GOS) Southern employees.  There were no office buildings, furniture, factories, banks, health facilities, school buildings. Whatever structures that existed were dilapidated. Towns were not linked to the rural areas. There were no exports except for oil that had and has been firmly under Khartoum’s grip. GOSS had to grapple with establishing all the necessary structures of government as well as maintaining all the employees of the Sudan Government, many of whom were included in the government payroll during the war for political, social, and survival purposes.

While GOSS could have done better than it has since 2005, most of its critics have tended to highlight its shortcomings only without appreciating the huge problems it inherited. Those who can comprehend the magnitude of the problems GOSS faced since its set up in late 2005 will tend to congratulate GOSS for overcoming the major challenges it has encountered since then, without at the same time failing to point out where it needs to greatly improve.

Five years after peace, most towns in the Southern Sudan are now linked to the countryside with some kind of road. Primary school enrollment has risen from about 750, 000 to 1.6 million. Secondary and university education has expanded, although a great deal needs to be done. But given the low base from where things started, what has been achieved is a reasonable performance. Moreover, given the dearth of educated and trained human resources, whatever has been achieved is commendable.  Road reconstruction was delayed because land-mines had to be cleared before any work on roads could be undertaken. Banks have been established in many major towns. Many officials now have their salaries deposited direct to their bank accounts instead of being carried in brief cases by officials, many of whom proved to be unreliable.

Prioritize post-referendum actions, policies, and programs

The widespread hope of Southern Sudanese for separate nationhood and for “at last being free from Khartoum’s dreaded rule” has been the major factor holding Southern Sudanese together since the signing of the CPA. This has minimized opposition to whatever many perceive as the failure of GOSS. Most Southern Sudanese strongly believe that President Salva Kiir will lead them to the “Promised Land”. However, after the “Promised Land” is reached, what will sustain the solidarity of the new country?  This is the question most Southern Sudanese leaders, both in and outside government, should be addressing from different perspectives, instead of quarreling and whining on the internet most of the time.

Of course, Khartoum could continue to unify Southerners through resisting the results of the referendum vote or by choosing to go to war with the new country. But even such actions by Khartoum will not be durable unifying factors. Concrete socio-economic development, that creates optimism about the future, will have the most enduring impact on the stability and viability of the to-be-new country.

Right now, GOSS should embark on short-term and long-term programs that bring hope to the majority of the Southern Sudanese. Most of the population should be engaged in various productive activities that brightens their future. Among the quick-impact public sector activities are: timely payment of salaries, redeployment and compensation of untrainable civil servants and their substitution with trained and trainable ones, rural public works, crop marketing, water supply, construction of education and health facilities.

Simultaneously with the implementation of the quick-impact projects should be the initiation of medium and long-term projects with wider impacts on the future development of the new country. Such projects include the building of oil refineries and the oil-pipeline to the Kenyan port of Lamu, speeding up of large scale gold exploitation, the construction of major hydro-electric projects, the establishment of the three major Southern universities, and the construction of modern secondary schools, teachers training colleges, and modern referral and research hospitals. Serious initiation of some of these projects under a five-ten year program will give the citizens an optimistic view of the future as they will have something to hope for. Many of these activities need to be planned and started right now. They should be sequenced appropriately so that they are not just meant for political appeasement of the population. The political leadership, at all levels of government, must continuously explain to the people what is being done, and why things may not be happening as expected.

Short-run and medium-run programs

A growth strategy that is aimed at reaching the bulk of the population is essential for improving the living conditions of the majority and giving them a hopeful future. Given that the majority of the Southern Sudanese live in rural areas, rural development and decentralized administration should be the basis of such a strategy. With lack of so much pre-requisite physical and social infrastructure and limited agricultural production, little manufacturing industry should be expected in Southern Sudan in the next few years. Hence, absorbing the urban population in gainful employment will be a daunting problem in the near future. However, creating of many productive activities in the rural areas will slow the rate of urbanization. Therefore, we should properly comprehend Garang’s strategy of “taking the towns to the people instead of the people coming to the towns.” Such a strategy will put emphasis on rural infrastructure, peasant agricultural production, crop marketing (cash payments and storage facilities), development of education, health, and water supply in the counties, payams, and bomas.

 *Dr. Yongo-Bure is associate professor of Social Science at Kettering University, USA. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 


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