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Gov’t can’t stop currency from depreciating — trade minister

Author: Jale Richard | Published: Sunday, September 13, 2020

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Kuol Athian, addresses parliamentary committee on Thursday, Sept 10, 2020 | Credit | Emmanuel Akile/Eye Radio

The minister of trade and industry has said there is nothing the government can do to stop the local currency from losing value.

The South Sudanese Pounds has been depreciating drastically following the drop of the country’s oil revenues and irregularities in the collection of non-oil revenue.

Last week, 1 US dollar sold at about 430 South Sudanese Pounds in the black market, while at the Central Bank, a hundred dollars sells at 160 pounds.

Consumers have complained of a sharp rise in the prices of basic commodities while traders have also raised concerns over their inability to access hard currency for importing goods.

Last month, the second deputy governor of the Bank of South Sudan, Daniel Kech Pouch said the Bank of South Sudan had run out of foreign reserves.

This compelled President Salva Kiir to form an economic crisis management committee to devise ways of revitalizing the economy.

The yet-to-be reconstituted parliament also summoned senior officials including finance minister Salvatore Garang, Central Bank Governor Jamal Wani, and trade minister Kuol Athian to explain how the government is managing the economic situation.

However, appearing before the parliamentary Assembly Business Committee on Thursday, trade minister Athian said there is nothing the government can do to control the market.

“Currently, we are not able now to control the market. We are completely powerless. We cannot regulate the market to solve this problem,” Kuol Athian told the parliamentarians.

But he says the government is encouraging corporate companies to buy local products for the country to retain its hard currency.

“We want to encourage corporate societies to control the black market, we want to encourage them to buy local products because there are so many local products in South Sudan needed in other countries.”

Athian explains that the country could earn money from selling local products such as gum arabic, groundnuts and honey.

“The Japanese ambassador came to us and said they need a big quantity of honey. There is another company in Juba producing honey. We want to encourage them to buy big quantities of honey. If this corona stops, the business people will come and buy honey. Honey will bring hard currency which will come through the central bank.”

The trade minister also said the Bank of South Sudan is unable to regulate operations of commercial banks because of a huge debt it owes them.

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