Wednesday April 27
Sudan has around 0, 5% of the world’s oil. And roughly 0, 5% of its reserves. Since 1999, when the oil started to flow, Sudan has increased its GDP five times, from 10 to 53 billion US$. GDP per capita has increased from 350 to 1.400 US$.
Everything seems cool, or? No, it is not, the uphill battle has hardly started. Southern Sudan starts from way behind most of its competitors. Look at these figures:
• 50% of the population is expected to eke out a living on less than 1 dollar a day
• Literacy has increased since the Peace Agreement in 2005. But only to reach 37% in the age bracket 15-24
• Girls enrolled in primary education can also record a sharp increase, but only to 27%
• There are only 10 midwifes in the whole country
• Around 45% of the women has been victims of Gender Based Violence
• Southern Sudan has only 100 km of tarmac road
Oil. Curse or blessing?
When I was working in Kenya and it became known that Kenya most likely had oil reserves (in the north, bordering Sudan), I made the comment, also publicly, that I hoped that the revenues would not start to flow in another 10 years, allowing time for proper control mechanisms and institutions to be put in place and established.
Sudan is much worse off also in this respect: 99% of the Governments revenue is oil money.
And Sudan ranks no 172 on Transparency International’s list on corruption. Out of 178.
The next years are planned to be a transition period, during which there will be a new constitution, a decision on a parliamentary or a presidential system, resolving the issue of decentralization- devolution of powers. All on top of the gargantuan task of creating security, unifying the country and start on the road to development.
What to do when and how?
I recall sitting in airplanes listing to the security advice: In case of an emergency an oxygen mask will drop. Put it on, and then assist children.
This is my rather crude instinct: Unless the Government puts its mask on and focus on its immediate tasks, which no doubt involves creating functioning state institutions, oil will do no good. Not for the country, nor for its children.