Many Sudanese are complaining after the government’s sharp devaluation of the pound Sunday, cutting its official value almost in half, as an already serious economic crisis plagues the country.
The end of long-standing U.S. economic sanctions in 2017 has not produced a hoped-for economic revival, and Sudan remains on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Housewives shop at a vegetable market in the Sudanese capital Khartoum, following the official government devaluation of the Sudanese pound Sunday from 28 to 47.5 to the dollar. Prices of staples are going up and inflation has hit nearly 70 percent since the start of the year.
Outside investment needed
One consumer in Khartoum tells Al Hurra TV that rising prices are scaring everyone.
He said prices are very, very high for everything and it is hard to afford food, drink and medical care.
A middle-aged worker told Al Hurra TV money is tight … and his salary does not cover half of his monthly expenses.
Sudan’s recently-appointed Prime Minister Moataz Moussa told parliament Monday, the government will allow the Sudanese pound to float freely.
Moussa said it is not entirely clear what allowing the Sudanese pound to trade freely against the U.S. dollar will do to the value of the pound.
Sudanese economist Issam Ismail told Al Hurra TV it will encourage badly-needed outside investment by making the exchange rate clear to everyone.
Ismail said the Sudanese central bank and commercial banks will publicize rates in hard currency for investors and exporters to go by so they will receive their money at a known value.
The IMF has long urged the Sudanese government to have a unified exchange rate for its currency, but many observers think the economy is troubled by shortage of foreign currency.
Withdrawal has side-effects
Egyptian political sociologist Said Sadek tells VOA that the Sudanese economy is suffering from the side-effects of the withdrawal of its army from Yemen and the loss of hard currency it was receiving in exchange for its participation in the Saudi-led coalition.
Sudan, Sadek said, “had been dependent on money coming from the Gulf in return for sending troops to fight in Yemen.” When Sudan was forced to withdraw its troops earlier this year, due to heavy casualties, Sadek notes “(Khartoum) lost a lot of money from the Gulf States, so the economy began to have (serious) problems.” “Today, the (Sudanese) economy does not have big international support,” he points out, “so nobody is saving them and they are in free fall.”
Many Sudanese economists were optimistic the economy would improve after the United States ended 20 year-old economic sanctions on Khartoum a year ago, but the move did little to spur outside investment or increase trade with the West.
Some observers think investors will avoid the country until Sudan is removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. Normalization of ties with the United States are also dependent on Khartoum easing religious discrimination.