Academic journal article Ahfad Journal

Economic Development in Sudan Talk Prepared for American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan Conference First Episcopal Church San Jose, CA February 17, 2006

Academic journal article Ahfad Journal

Economic Development in Sudan Talk Prepared for American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan Conference First Episcopal Church San Jose, CA February 17, 2006

Article excerpt


This paper summarizes five key concerns of the likely pattern of economic development in Sudan for the coming decade. The benefits of an oil economy to the marginalized, and especially women, are likely to be minimal or even negative. Rapid development, even egalitarian development in terms of equal social spending on girls education and health care, may result in a local culture of machismo, replacing one set of shackles (poverty and legal limitations) on the flourishing of women with another set of shackles (gender violence). The monetary policy of the Bank of Sudan will determine how easily credit is extended in southern Sudan and this will depend on the urban housing market in Khartoum rather than the development needs of southern Sudan. Major concentration of development funds on paved road development is an almost sure-fire way to undermine clean government and spend money ineffectively. Spending priorities should be shifted to cash transfers to the elderly and to families with school children, prioritizing women, and generating an "identity economy."



What I would like to do in this talk is be speculatively controversial. I would like to be deliberately provocative, and try to put before you five issues, and suggest to you ways of seeing economic development issues in the Sudanese context that you may not have seen before.

Let me say that one year ago I was very, very hopeful, even though a year earlier, in 2004, I wrote a very critical analysis of the wealth-sharing agreement. I found the various elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement to be almost scandalous in their ambiguity and margin for deliberate misinterpretation. I was assured by colleagues involved in the peace talks that a spirit of goodwill would prevail and the two sides would work as partners. When I saw a million people in Khartoum come out to greet Dr. John Garang, I was very, very hopeful. Dr. Garang was the kind of counterweight needed to General Omer Hassan al-Beshir and the military cabal that has run the government in Khartoum. But Dr. Garang's death in August 2005 was, it would seem, a major, major blow.

I am not sure whether the SPLA will be able to exercise the leverage that it was able to promise, because Saiva Kiir enjoys no popular base in northern Sudan. The regime, it seems to me, has little to fear from the SPLA, and the SPLA will only go back to the bush as a last resort. The shocking lack of progress in Darfur is more than sufficient to presage a bad half decade. So I think one should expect bad governance and limited development for the next five years. Then there will be the referendum. The conduct and outcome will depend on the vigilance of the international community and activists like you, and Sudanese studying here in the U.S. who will go back before 2011 to assume positions of responsibility. For those of you who think that nothing could possibly go wrong with the referendum, because the people of southern Sudan are nearly unanimous in their broad vision, let me counsel you to follow closely the events in Uganda and Kenya, two pseudo-democracies with very well-educated populations, and yet very significant difficulties in organizing real elections and fostering good governance.

So let me turn to economic issues, and begin with a very broad question: What will the oil wealth do to Sudan? I was last in Sudan in the early 1990s, in the western province of Kordofan. A man I worked with quite a lot was from a neighboring village close to the one where I did my research. This friend would always say, "When we start pumping the oil, we're going to be richer than America!" And I would always say, "God forbid." Not God forbid that Sudan would become richer than America; if Sudan were like Sweden that would be just fine with me. Rather, God forbid Sudan should start pumping oil. Because then, more likely than not the villagers whom I was living with, and his neighbors in his village, would become poorer. …

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