South Sudan forced US Dollar to drop but prices are skyrocketing

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 In the wake of an announcement that crippled the South Sudanese pound overnight, the Sudan government began to enforce a far-fetched military grounded policy that saw the currency appreciating within less than 48 hours following president Salva Kiir’s emergency meeting with the cabinet on Wednesday.

The South Sudanese pound which depreciated from 510 SSP per dollar on Friday last week to 870 SSP per dollar on Wednesday this week bounced back upto 320 SSP in the black market today following rampant change of events in the black market within the last three days.

“Everybody wants to buy a lot of dollars to keep in their houses,” said Denis Amoko, an informal-market trader. “They fear if the currency is changed, it will affect their money.”

The events that freaked out the dollar, and might not be sustainable, began on Wednesday when President Salva Kiir denied an announcement by the Minister of Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services, Hon. Michael Makuei Lueth, which propagated that the South Sudan cabinet had approved a plan to change the currency and that citizens should return any money they are keeping at home to the bank or otherwise they would lose it.

The president went on to promise to inject hard currency into the market through the central and commercial banks.

The president also instructed the Minister of Trade to engage business community and investors to see their greviences and what needs to be improved.

These policies, among others, were expected to curve the inflation in the short to medium run; however, the government used its police force to destablize the parallel market.

From Wednesday, the police stormed the customs, Konyokonyo and any other local markets where currency would be exchanged, and beat up those who were believed to be operating illegally and closed down shops where such operations were conducted.

These events extremely cut down the supply chain and those who continued to operate under strict government measures had to lower their prices per US dollar.

“As of today we are trading at 320 SSP per 1 dollar. Given how high it was two days ago those of us who are still here are taking risk of losing a lot of money if we continue to trade at this low rate” Said Alfred James who runs a licensed exchange bureau in Customs.

“We have no choice, we have to cooperate with the government. The police are chasing us around, so we have to do what we have to do.” Alfred continued.

Despite the temporary appreciation of the SSP, the general prices of basic goods remain very high.

At the time of this writing, a KG of Sugar sells at 800 South Sudanese pounds and one litter of oil, which was being sold at 700 South Sudanese pounds last week, now sells at 1, 500 South Sudanese pounds.

Many local businesses have closed down either because of strict government measures or due to lack of customers.

“I have doubled my prices but consumers are not willing to pay for a doubled price in retail so my option is to close shop,” Mangwi Daniel, a trader in Nimule, a small town near the southern border, said by phone.

On the other hand, the government calls on traders and business people to open their shops and continue serving the public.

“After a thorough deliberation, the cabinet decided to appeal to those business people and those traders who have closed their shops to open them for the public,” Michael Makuei Lueth said.

To further enforce these policies, the State of Central Equatoria has outlawed all illegal currency exchange to target the black market and warned that those who will violate the order will be punished.

To boost confidence, President Salva Kiir’s office is using its capacity to continue addressing this issue.

On Thursday president Kiir and some ministers met the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission and the Head of AU Mission in Juba, Ambassador Joram M. Biswaro, and strongly emphasized that South Sudan is not changing its currency.

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