Many citizens and the general public remain perplexed by the inconsistent conduct of the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning (Dr. Bak Barnaba Chol). Only critical thinkers and analysts can understand the fact from the inference that the minister must have a mission to accomplish or is acting under the instructions of an undisclosed principal.
I repeat the minister has a mission that the National Security Service (NSS) supports or fears to tackle due to some considerations. The NSS has to protect the integrity of the system and fight against any person whose actions affect the system. However, one wonders why the security sector is silent about the current induced sufferings of the citizens.
As I stated in the opening paragraph, there must be a group behind the minister who have identified and appointed him to implement their agenda because of his eloquence in public speaking. The group that lobbied for his appointment must have an agenda and the minister is the perfect candidate to implement that agenda through smoothing the public into silence with nice public speaking. The minister is wrong as he should not take the people for granted and play with their psychology.
It is wrong for the finance minister to preach and promise the public something that does not exist. At least, the minister, as a representative of the government, must be honest to maintain the trust of the public in the system. Empty promises erode the public confidence in the system as the operation of the system is affected when the public does not trust it.
The minister does not have excuses not to pay government employees in all sectors a living wage and on time. As we all know, the issue of South Sudan is not a lack of resources as it has been marked as one of the richest countries in the world in terms of natural resources. The riches of South Sudan are seen in the influx and the presence of foreigners in this country who become rich within the blink of an eye.
The only problem as we can see and now understand why South Sudan is being ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world is the action of some of its government officials. Government officials like Finance Minister Barnaba do not support local investment in the people and small businesses. This is why poverty keeps on growing in the country. How will the country develop if resources are misallocated?
The resources of South Sudan are not allocated according to priorities. The priorities of any government are salaries and other benefits of employees, services or operational costs of the government, and capital for development for five sectors namely; physical infrastructure, agriculture, education, and the health sectors. The security sector is not listed here because it is the heart of the government that takes precedence and it does not need to be listed as an automatic need that cannot be compromised.
However, as the facts indicate, the budget for operations is now prioritized over salaries and capital expenditure for development. This affects effective service delivery. Due to the lack of effective services, insecurity that needs government intervention is not able to be controlled because of the lack of enough resources. The Ministry of Finance and Planning which is at the heart of government fails to pay according to the budget lines to other Government Spending agencies, which affects their effectiveness and production in the country.
The lack of production results from the failure to invest in strategic economic sectors besides the failure to improve working conditions for civil servants, public officials, and members of organized forces. Poor payments in the public sector have created extremely poor working conditions for the government workforce and it has also become a major source of corruption.
This affects the ability of the system to operate efficiently. It may not be an exaggeration to say that in South Sudan, working for the government makes people poorer than those who are just sitting under trees while making shadow deals with their connections inside the government. The government is supposed to give priority to the welfare of its citizens by paying them under regional standards.
As is a fact in South Sudan, not only are government officials, civil servants, and members of organized forces paid poorly but they are also paid meager salaries and in arrears. Failure to pay the government workforce a living wage, and on time, is not acceptable because it is killing the government without the government knowing it. From the informal research I made across South Sudan, all states are now going to six months without being paid while the government workforce in Juba is going to five months.
Despite the failure to pay and improve the conditions of the workforce, the minister of finance keeps on giving false promises that create fake hopes in the workforce. The question is; what is the problem or why is the government not able to pay a living wage to its workforce on time? The answer to this question, though it is obvious, may not be answered by many of us openly because of fear of reprisal from the beneficiaries of the system.
The beneficiaries of the system of government in South Sudan have firm control over all resources and the people. They do not care about the welfare of citizens or the government workforce and the development of this country. What they only care about is what to get out of the system despite the cost it can inflict on the public. They have established firm control to the extent that other government officials who are less connected are not able to complain and talk loudly against the vices that deny them their rights because of fear.
As a result, the system is being run on rumors. The government is being criticized behind closed doors while at the same time, those criticizing it are looking out for opportunities to enter and cheat the system. It is very unfortunate that the way the system has shaped our ideology it will take time for this country to be righted. It needs all of us to constantly struggle as we confront the system.
The worst part of our system is that it has killed patriotism as the country is being run on the wishes of the strong lobby groups that emerge in major towns across South Sudan. Currently, individuals lobby for the replacement of those in the system with their trusted relatives or friends who in turn have to compensate them with resources per the lobby agreement. It is not therefore a surprise that it becomes a crime to talk openly against malpractices.
For one to talk against the failures of and malpractices in the government, one has to find a secure or exclusive place while on guard against the agents or informants of beneficiaries of the system who employ them to look out for those who complain about the violations of their rights.
From the above discussion, we can see that failure to pay civil servants, government officials, and the members of organized forces living wages and on time across South Sudan is a deliberate move from the beneficiaries of the system to harm the government. The move is being implemented by their agents in the government such as the finance minister who has now proved to be a forerunner in creating false hopes in the general public.
The minister of finance always says one thing publicly and does a completely different thing. This is why it is not hard to conclude that the minister is implementing the agenda of not paying government employees to destroy the system. It is good that the minister cannot tell us that the country does not have resources unless he accounts for the whereabouts of our national income from the sources under Article 177 (2) of the Transitional Constitution, 2011 as amended.
Article 177 (2) provides that the National Government shall legislate to raise revenue or collect taxes from (a) oil and mineral revenue; (b) national personal income tax; (c) corporate and business profit tax; (d) customs duties and import taxes; (e) airports and river transport revenue; (f) service charges, fees and fines; (g) national government enterprises and projects; (h) value added tax or general sales tax on goods and services; (i) excise duties; (j) loans and borrowing from the Bank of South Sudan and the public; (k) grants-in-aid and foreign financial assistance; (l) fees from nationality, passports, immigration and visas; (m) royalties; and (n) any other tax or revenue as may be determined by law.
The National Parliament enacted the National Revenue Authority Act which established the National Revenue Authority some years back and it has been in charge of collecting national revenues in coordination with State Revenue Authorities. Hence, for the minister to convince us and to stop us from blaming him for deliberately failing to pay the workforce as part of a hidden agenda, he must publicly present the audited report that will explain the total revenues collected from the sources of our national income as provided for under Article 177 (2) of the Transitional Constitution.
Without doing what I have recommended above, but keeping on promising but delivering nothing, amounts to a breach of the doctrine of legitimate expectation under the law. The doctrine of legitimate expectation was first developed in English Law as a ground of judicial review in administrative law to protect a procedural or substantive interest when a public authority rescinds a representation made to a person.
The finance minister is therefore acting inappropriately by failing to uphold, not only the trust the public has in him but also his profession as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) holder who can teach at a public university like the University of Juba. The minister’s inconsistencies are morally wrong and he should just resign to save his academic values and image.
Moreover, he is acting in violation of the rights of the citizens as he has taken the public for granted. Our right as citizens is to condemn such moral ambiguity as it is destroying the only government we have. It is eroding our trust in the minister and above all in the system. We must call a spade a spade but not a big spoon. As we go on shying away from telling the truth to find the solution on how to deal with issues concerning the bad economic conditions in this country, and how to concretely agree on how to improve the economic system and the welfare of our people, we can let the country into the bleak future of our national economy.
As citizens, we must protect the system and the Constitution. No one will come from outside this country to improve our welfare by solving the economic crises except us by taking courage and going the Hon. Aleu Ayieny Aleu’s way of calling it black if it is. Truth-telling and concrete actions can save the government and the system from violent collapse under the heavy weight of economic crises.
The economic crises in South Sudan are not external but rather behavioral. They are a product of human activities in satisfying personal interests at the expense of the nation and because of that, they need human solutions. For instance, failure to pay civil servants, members of organized forces, and government officials, failure to pay security personnel to control rampant insecurity in many areas of South Sudan caused by intra and inter-communal violence, cattle raids and theft are all human behavior that need both force and a moral approach.
As the country is bleeding from induced failure by the government to pay its workers that renders the system incapable of performing, some individuals and government officials in the heart of the system are getting paid huge amounts of money in a day for the work that they have not done yet that money can pay South Sudan’s workforce for more than a year. Criminal acts are legalized as some government officials and their friends register and own fictitious companies that are purposely registered to defraud the government.
The national budget that is supposed to guide and control the expenditures of the government is not adhered to and the rules of procurement that are there purposely to ensure that there is value for money are deliberately ignored and only twisted to cheat the government through sham processes to the detriment of the workforce and general public. All these show that the economic crises we are facing in the country are deliberately induced rather than out of honest errors or being used by individuals as tools to weaken and destroy the government.
We must therefore watch out and monitor the conduct of individuals in government who are taking advantage of the economic crises caused by the lack of improving economic conditions of the people. If we critically study and analyze what is happening in South Sudan currently such as rampant corruption protected by security apparatuses, support to intra and inter-communal violence, scarcity or hoarding of hard currency, the existence of illegal groups called Toronto Boys that snatch phones and other valuable assets from the innocent members of the public and South Sudanese citizens, unreasonable delay of payment of salaries of civil servants and members of the organized forces, we can conclude that they are part of the insurgent techniques intended to provoke the anger and uprising by the public against the government.
The question is what is insurgency in the context of South Sudan as we see at play currently? According to the U.S CIA Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency, insurgency is a protracted political-military activity directed toward completely or partially controlling the resources of a country through the use of irregular military forces and illegal political organizations and activities such as guerrilla warfare, terrorism, and political mobilization and propaganda, recruitment, front and covert party organization, and international activity.
In other words, as the Joint Publication 3-24 on Counterinsurgency published on 25 April 2018 and validated on 30 April 2021 by the United States of America Department of the Navy defines it, insurgency is the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region or the whole country. The success of insurgency is to understand the perceptions and behavior of the relevant populations that can substantially help or hinder the success of a campaign, operation, or tactical action by the insurgents.
The major goal of insurgent activities is to create the atmosphere for change in the system by weakening the government control and legitimacy while increasing insurgent control and legitimacy by certain leaders behind the insurgent activities who portray themselves as the political Messiahs while they are the ones behind all the crises. The common denominator of most insurgent goals is the desire to spread desperation among the population so that it blindly supports any change in the system.
The ultimate political objectives of insurgent groups through their subversion activities are essential to limit the ability of the government and enhance their capability in providing public services; obtain the support of the majority or neutrality of critical segments of the population that can protect the system; isolate the government from international diplomatic and material support while increasing their international support; increase domestic and international legitimacy of the insurgent organization at the expense of the government; destroy the self-confidence of government leaders and cadres, causing their abdication or withdrawal; reduce and; if possible, neutralize government coercive power while strengthening insurgent coercive capabilities.
In summary, the finance minister’s failure to pay civil servants, public officials, and members of organized forces on time without clear reasons is sabotage against the government. If the minister believes in his integrity, then he has to resign or improve his style of management and begin paying government employees.
The writer is a member of the National Parliament (TNLA) representing Cueibet County in Lakes State on the ticket of the SPLM-IO. He is lawyer constitutional and human rights lawyer and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org