President Kiir’s Performance Function (plotted in a time-series) from 1983 to 2020 based on loyalty to the Movement, efforts exerted during the war, steadiness to the war effort, and overall leadership strategy including failures, such as the dismantling of the SPLM structures, killing off civil voices, zero investments in infrastructure, zero investment in healthcare, zero investment in schools, rampant corruption, targeting of voices of reason including falsifying moves against such people as ”national security” issues, and the introduction of Awan-Chan clan into the political space, and whose members, incredibly unrestrained, including juveniles, became attack dogs and operate with impunity.
The early years of the Movement were Kiir’s best years. But he was not in command, so it can be argued that he is best as a regimental commanding officer rather than a visionary leader. After taking over, 2011 was one of his highest as C-in-C after overseeing the Referendum, and 2015 his lowest, dipping below zero at -30%, after the massacre of South Sudanese citizens.
Between 2016 and 2020, there has been a rise out of the negative zone, catapulted by his ‘benevolence’ in preaching peace as well as the release of Kerubino Wol Agok and Peter Biar Ajak, with the curve threatening to shift back into the red zone in the wake of the Sherikat Incident.
Overview of the economy
The peace agreement signed in September 2018 should restore social peace and economic stability. The economy contracted by -5.5% in 2017, shrank by -1.1% in 2018 and rebounded by 11.3% in 2019.
The rebound in growth was mainly caused by the reopening of specific oil fields, the resumption of production, as well as by the peace agreement signed in September 2018 (ADB). According to the IMF’s updated forecast of April 14, 2020, due to the appearance of COVID-19 and the drop in oil prices, GDP growth should slow to 4.9% in 2020 and to 3.2% in 2021. Indeed, the oil sector remains the main engine of the economy, followed by farming.
The drop in world oil prices plunged the country into a deep economic crisis, but since the Agreement signed in September 2018, the outlook seems to be improving. Inflation, which had peaked at 550% in September 2016, has reduced to 51.2% in 2019 and should continue to fall in 2020 (8.1%) and rise again in 2021 (24.5%). In 2019 the budget deficit was 2.5% of GDP (compared to 6.1% in 2018), and the reforms should allow it to drop to 1.3% before turning into a surplus of 0, 5% in 2021.
The IMF is more pessimistic, forecasting a budget deficit of 1 to 2% of GDP in the medium term on the condition of a robust recovery in oil production, an increase in capital spending, an improvement in the political and security situation, robust economic reforms, budgetary discipline and better management of oil revenues.
The central bank affirmed its commitment to reduce the monetization of the budget deficit and the resulting inflation. The budget deficit is mainly financed by loans, which has reduced debt sustainability. Although declining, it reached 34.4% of GDP in 2019 (compared to 63.2% in 2017) and should continue to decrease, reaching 27.4% of GDP in 2020 and 26.6% of GDP. In 2021 (IMF). The country is in over-indebtedness, due to high and extra-budgetary spending. As the IMF has pointed out, policy adjustments are needed to restore the country’s economic credibility. The country must restore budgetary discipline, strengthening oil management and transparency, applying strict spending priorities and normalizing the foreign exchange market are the main priorities.
The opening of four border crossing points with Sudan is a vital opportunity for the revival of an economy that is not yet well organized and mostly dependent on Sudan. The country still has few paved roads and limited access to electricity and drinking water. The main problems concern peace and security, ongoing conflicts with rebels groups, weak human and institutional capacities, dependence on petroleum, underdeveloped industries, and infrastructure, vulnerability to climate change, and widespread poverty.
The economic crisis has led to a severe deterioration of the humanitarian situation. It is estimated that half of the country’s population is facing food insecurity and that more than 4 million people have been displaced (IMF). Real disposable income is estimated to have decreased by around 70% since independence. The country is a victim of massive deforestation caused by the increase in illegal and lucrative timber collection. The absence of a central electricity supply network makes the fight against deforestation particularly tricky. The country has one of the lowest adult literacy rates in the world (28%) and, according to the World Bank, the unemployment rate reached 12.2% of the working population in 2019 (ILO estimate ).
Real GDP growth was estimated at 5.8% in 2019, up sharply from 0.5% in 2018. This rebound in 2019 was mainly caused by the reopening of individual oil deposits, including those of the ‘State of Upper Nile, resumption of production, as well as by the peace agreement signed in September 2018. The oil sector remains the main engine of the economy, followed by services and agriculture.
Inflation fell to 24.5% in 2019, from 83.5% in 2018, thanks to the reduction in monetary financing of the budget deficit. The central bank will maintain its commitments to reduce the monetization of the budget deficit, and the resulting inflation should fall further to 16.9% in 2020 and 9.7% in 2021. The state budget was estimated at $1.3 billion in 2019, an increase of 155% compared to 2018. Non-oil revenues increased by about 19% in 2019.
The two priority spending items are infrastructure (54%) and law enforcement, including the military, police, the prison system, and firefighting (14%). The experts estimated budget deficit was 2.5% of GDP in 2019, compared to 6.1% in 2018. Reforms are expected to move from the budget deficit, which is likely to decline to 1.3% of GDP in 2020, to a budget surplus of 0.5% in 2021.
The state budget was estimated at $ 1.3 billion in 2019, an increase of 155% compared to 2018. Non-oil revenues increased by about 19% in 2019. The two priority spending items are infrastructure (54%) and law enforcement, including the military, police, the prison system and firefighting (14%).
Oil exports are expected to reach 180,000 barrels per day, which will boost foreign exchange reserves, currently equivalent to 0.2 months of imports. At the same time, the manufacturing sector should benefit from a better supply of electricity. Education, mobile banking and water infrastructure are also expected to improve. If peace lasts, this progress could give confidence to private investors. Foreign investment is expected to reach $30 million in 2020.
The government plans to increase non-oil tax revenue through the single treasury account it created for tax administration. The report has improved transparency, established a baseline for forecasting future income, and in the first six months has raised approximately $ 36 million. The government is planning several additional reforms to increase revenue collection.
A proposal to increase personal income tax by 5% and an average corporate income tax of 22% is also expected to boost revenue. The structural challenges facing South Sudan’s economic transformation and sustainable development include, among others, lack of economic diversification, high public debt, weak institutions and considerable political uncertainty. Fluctuations in world oil prices pose a significant risk to the country. The will to respect the peace agreement remains fundamental for the stability of oil production, private investment, the contribution of foreign exchange and public investment in the essential sectors of health, education and ‘Agriculture.
Education should receive only 6% of the budget, and health, 1%. Social and humanitarian affairs will only affect 2% of the budget. By putting social spending aside, South Sudan risks seeing its social indicators erode, and this could worsen the country’s difficulties in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The expected average economic growth of 6.4% for 2019–2021 is unlikely to be inclusive, as it will be supported by oil rather than agriculture, which is the sector employing most South Sudanese. Youth unemployment (estimated at 19.5% in 2017) threatens peace and social stability.
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