by Hervé Pugi.
Sanctions, negotiations, institutions… We take a quick look at some of the hot topics currently being tackled by the Minister of Finance and the National Economy, Badreldin Mahmoud Abbas.
Scribouille: How are economic sanctions affecting the country’s economy?
Badreldin Mahmoud Abbas (B. M. A.): These sanctions are affecting our economy in many ways. We cannot make use of the medium-term programmes offered by international financial institutions, nor of their soft loans. Our access to the finance world is extremely limited. It all comes at a very high price, even posing a threat to the very sovereignty of our country. It poses a hurdle to our attempts to reduce the poverty rate or access new technologies. The private sector is especially affected: you can’t imagine the difficulties that are encountered to simply transfer money. In the end, it is those with the lowest incomes who are the most affected. We are navigating through all these sanctions, and have met with a few successes despite the odds. Our growth has improved, as has our GDP which appears to be improving over the long term. It would of course be easier without the embargo, but given the situation, we’re doing everything we can to optimize our economy and our relationship with our trading partners. And all of this has only strengthened our desire to develop our country.
Scribouille: The matter of the Zero Option Agreement is still on the table. What exactly is its current status?
B. M. A.: We reached an agreement. The plan was that we would take on the external liabilities of South Sudan in return for debt relief from the international community. The commitment was made, and it was to be executed over two years. But once again, it was thwarted by certain political agendas. The United States decided to turn their backs on the two countries, not just Sudan. Now we’re still in the same place, having wasted two years followed by two more. This is why we asked the World Bank for technical assistance and recommendations, because we are currently waiting for debt relief that isn’t coming! This matter must be resolved.
Scribouille: Another matter is Sudan’s eligibility for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. Do you believe that the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund will grant your request?
B. M. A.: It’s very simple: we are in the right because we are members of these institutions. Yet they haven’t granted us any significant financial assistance. We only wish for these institutions to treat us fairly, as they would do with any other member.
Scribouille: On another level, Sudan was removed by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) from the list of countries at high risk for money laundering or the financing of terrorism. What is your opinion?
B. M. A.: It makes sense. Sudan has fully adopted the standards set by the FATF. We have taken the bull by the horns by passing a law, by establishing a monitoring body, a supervisory committee and an intelligence unit dedicated to this issue. A whole set of mechanisms to detect even the smallest of suspicious transactions. We also share information with other countries. Just ask the United States! They can tell you we’ve been working with them, helping them and cooperating fully, on the matter of terrorist financing. It’s not a secret, nor is it a new development…
Scribouille: Do you believe that this decision might help you emerge from your isolation?
B. M. A.: In part. At the very least, it’s one less thing they can attack us for! But otherwise, the problem remains unchanged. If the international political community is not truly willing to normalize relations with Sudan, the situation will stay as it is. It’s a real shame.
Scribouille: What do you think of the US Department of State’s statement on its website that Sudan “seems to be an attractive market” for American companies licenced by OFAC, and that the country “is a market with enormous potential”?
B. M. A.: It’s positive, but it’s also simply the truth! Sudan is rich in natural resources. In fact, it’s one of the richest countries in Africa, with high agricultural potential, minerals, oil, and many other things. It is not to be underestimated! We have already attracted many foreign businesses. For example, we have strong partnerships with China and other Asian countries. European companies also want to do business in Sudan, but they are “discouraged”. This is unfortunate for us, of course, but it also leaves openings for other players to come in and profit from their presence in Sudan despite the difficulties.
Scribouille: In your opinion, what effects might the lifting of American economic sanctions have on Sudan?
B. M. A.: The lifting of the sanctions would allow our economy to flourish, and the revenue from this development would benefit all of us. The poverty rate would be expected to plummet. But the impact would not only be seen in Sudan. Neighbouring countries would also benefit, not to mention the thousands of refugees who arrive every day from all over, even from as far away as Syria. We could also be a key player in the establishment of a large regional common market. And, I would like to believe, the international community itself would benefit as well.