Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Can you believe it? Sudan is better than America | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page

In a recent statement, Sudanese Minister of Finance Ali Mahmoud said that the Sudanese economy is in a better position than that of the United States. This is to say that for the first time, without any indications, the Sudanese economy – walking on a crutch ever since it separated from the South which claimed three fourths of the country’s oil – is now in a condition better than that of the world’s largest economy.

In order not to disrupt global stock exchange markets, the minister hastened to clarify his statement by saying that the US threatens to run up debts that exceed its GNP, and that it is heading towards bankruptcy, “a stage we have not reached yet.” The minister opted not to choose Japan as an example to compare with the Sudanese economy, perhaps because it has fallen to third place behind China, which is now the world’s second-largest economy after the US. The minister also opted not to compare Sudan’s economy to that of Italy, which ranks 10th internationally. Perhaps, he chose to compare the Sudanese economy with America in an attempt to score political points, because relations between the two countries are poor, or perhaps because the comparison is clearest when drawn with the largest international economy.

In fact, two months before the Sudanese minister issued such a statement, the situation in the US had exceeded earlier fears when the public debt increased to 102 percent of the GNP, as a result of the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008. This was not the only time that the US economic debt has exceeded the GNP rate, as this happened immediately after World War II when public debts reached 120 per cent of the GNP. Nevertheless, the US economy recovered and continued to grow and thrive, and the US has remained ahead of all other world economies until today. Most likely it will not be usurped from this position in the foreseeable future, because its economy is triple the size of that of the Chinese dragon, which continues to grow amazingly.

Returning to the Sudanese Minister of Finance’s statements, one cannot only classify them as political exaggerations. In any case, the comparison is an unfitting one if it is meant to reassure the Sudanese people and suggest that their economic crisis is not that severe. The Sudanese economy cannot be compared to the American economy; in fact it cannot even be compared with that of Costa Rica or Pakistan. What the minister also failed to point out is that Sudan now ranks 14th internationally in the list of countries with the highest volume of debt in comparison with their GNP. On top of this list is Zimbabwe, which is suffering from the worst economic problems, alongside other countries with large economies such as Japan, which is ranked second internationally due to its public debts that equal 198 per cent of its GNP, as a result of the global financial crisis and the consequences of the recent earthquake there. It should be noted that this list is not to be used as an indicator of the strength or international classification of a certain economy; rather it is serves as a measurement of only one negative aspect of economic performance.

The Sudanese economy is going through a crisis that will not be remedied by exaggerated or fantasy statements. The Minister of Finance is not the only official to have resorted to such measures, as President al-Bashir himself is no stranger to such exaggeration. In his address last month, al-Bashir said that his government would overcome the economic challenges which the country is facing, indicating that the socialist system has collapsed previously, and now the capitalist one has failed and collapsed ever since 2008. He added that “We are not children, we have the minds to solve Sudan’s economy, and we can even find solutions to what is happening now in the wider world, given its failures.” Here, al-Bashir does not only seek to solve Sudan’s problems, but he also claims to be able to solve the problems of entire global economies, after the collapse of socialism and the failure of capitalism!

The economy is not a joke, and its problems cannot be solved by flexing muscles or hollow statements. Perhaps, because the Sudanese people have been severely hit by the crisis and do not hear any realistic solutions, they have begun to tell jokes mocking the economic situation and the widespread corruption that has contributed significantly to the deteriorating conditions, and the squander of many resources provided by short-lived oil boom in the country. The Sudanese people are suffering the crisis day by day; they can feel it affecting their lives, whilst official statements are following a completely different direction, offering mere rhetoric rather than solutions. This Eid, many Sudanese people refrained from offering sacrifices, for they could not afford to buy their customary sheep or cattle. This is in a country known for exporting meat; a country whose president used to offer cattle as a token of friendship to neighbouring countries. The crisis is not limited to the purchase of meat products, but inflation has now reached all basic commodities, and prices are soaring on a daily basis in some cases.

Whilst the Sudanese people’s suffering increases, a group of the regime’s loyalists and relatives of state officials are becoming even wealthier and their businesses are expanding, to the extent that they are about to monopolize the economy. Hence, stories of corruption have become widespread among the Sudanese, now being the most prominent accusation launched against a regime that has carried Islamic slogans ever since its first day in power. The National Islamic Front, the religious body that first plotted and carried out the presidential coup [in1989], has placed itself amongst despotic circles and other movements that do not believe in democracy, or the peaceful exchange of power. Many people believe that the combination of the economic crisis, rampant corruption and wars will all undermine a regime that has clung on to power for 22 years, using repression, intimidation and force to quell whatever challenges it faced. Today the regime is facing the consequences of its policies that have caused the separation of the South, and the eruption of new wars in the North, South Kordofan and the Blue Nile, in addition to Darfur.

The regime can feel the crisis, yet it still commits mistakes when it comes to remedying the situation. It compounds its errors by using rhetoric which the Sudanese people cannot believe nor tolerate. The Sudanese people’s pride has been trampled upon with economic burdens and stories of corruption.