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Sunday, 29 November 2020

Sudan foreign aid deal to give cash to poor families

AFP , Monday 28 Sep 2020
Internally displaced South Sudanese families sit outside a classroom as they shelter from flood wate
Internally displaced South Sudanese families sit outside a classroom as they shelter from flood water from the broken dykes on Nile river, in Duk padiet county of Jonglei State, in South Sudan September 24, 2020. REUTERS
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The EU, several member states and the World Bank have signed a deal for almost $190 million in direct financial aid to poor families in Sudan, official news agency SUNA said.

The Sudan Family Support Programme (SFSP) aims to give some 32 million people, or around 80 percent of the population, 500 Sudanese pounds (nine dollars at the official rate, or just over two dollars on the black market) per person per month for a year, according to the World Bank.

Direct aid payments to half a million people across several of Sudan's states will start in October, SUNA said, and the program will be gradually expanded over two years, for a total cost of $1.9 billion.

EU-World Bank financing announced Sunday accounts for $110 million, while contributions from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden amount to a total of $78.2 million, according to an EU statement.

The deal was signed in Khartoum in the presence of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Acting finance minister Heba Mohamed Ali Ahmed called the SFSP "an important part of the transitional government's reform agenda."

"It will alleviate some of the economic challenges currently facing Sudanese throughout the country, including in rural areas, especially women and the most vulnerable," she said, according to the EU statement.

Experts say the move aims to ease the impact on the population as the government progressively cuts fuel subsidies in response to a huge budget deficit and an economic crisis aggravated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sudan declared a state of economic emergency earlier this month to avert a downturn due to the dramatic fall of its local currency against the US dollar and soaring inflation.

In July, Sudan recorded a year-on-year inflation rate of almost 150 percent, according to the central bank.

Economic hardship, which triggered protests in December 2018 that led to the ouster of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir, remains a pressing challenge in Sudan.

Hamdok has said his government needs $8 billion to rescue the ailing economy, while in June, international donors pledged just $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan's transitional authorities.

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