Economist reveals ‘costly error’ that may have sealed fates of Makur, Agak

Economist reveals ‘costly error’ that may have sealed fates of Makur, Agak
Minister of Finance and Planning, Agak Achuil Lual (photo credit: courtesy)

A brief presidential decree coming in the iconic evening hours sealed the fates of two key men in South Sudan’s economic sector—Agak Achuil Lual and Moses Makur Deng.

President Salva Kiir’s decree issued on Thursday meant that Agak would cease being the minister of finance and planning while Makur—famously referred to as the “son of the bank” — was on the exit door of the Bank of South Sudan – BOSS.

While no reasons were attached to the decree, which effected the dismissal of the duo, the events leading to their exit mirror a struggle to save an a sinking economic now at the risk of collapse. And according to experts in the economic field, playing a lone-ranger may have made the two state officials fall short of the expectations of the appointing authority, triggering the inevitable axe. 

A costly’mistake’

In an interview with a senior economist and advisor to the economic cluster yesterday, Abraham Maliet said the removal of the minister of finance and the governor of the Central Bank were an intervention from the president to address the volatile economic situation that had no sign of redemption. 

“This is one of the interventions that the president has to make simply because the policies they were implementing did not give us good results, so as the head of the state has interest, he has done it,” Maliet said. 

“Managing and implementing the policies is not a president’s job so he has to bring somebody who is going to manage and implement the right policies,” he added.

According to Maliet, the two leaders may have tripped when they stuck to tricks that failed to yield fruit. And this only means that their successors must now think outside the box. 

“So this new boss (officials) must act precisely to make this intervention sustainable and have to come up with new policies that are different from the previous administrators,” he reiterated. 

Maliet emphasised that steering institutions like the ministry of finance and the Central Bank requires a combined effort. Hence, the new administrators must consult with the experts where necessary to get concrete advice that can solve the current situation.

“To think in a wider term, to call for an economic reform policy development conference so that he brings people in the field to present their papers, then precisely comes up with a concrete recommendation that is implementable,” he said. 

“I think because the previous administrators acted…(without consultation), they have not coordinated with the rest of the government.’’

Appointments made

In November 2021, President Salva Kiir appointed Agak Achuil as Minister of Finance and Planning in place of Athian Diing Athian. Agak came into office at the time when the civil servants had forgotten when they last received their last salaries. 

It only took a month before the former governor of the Central Bank, Moses Makur Deng, was appointed in January 2022 by President Kiir, replacing Dier Tong Ngor—the newly appointed Minister of Finance and Planning.

Agak and Makur had put a smile on the faces of the civil servants through the payment of three months’ salary arrears, as they were determined to clear off the arrears in July. 

Nonetheless, there were expectations that the payment of salary arrears was a starting point from these financial administrators, with the hope that they were going to tackle the depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound against the US Dollar.

When being appointed, President Kiir instructed Agak to promptly pay the civil servants and ease the suffering under his predecessor. Makur, on the other hand, had a special assignment to give the local currency the facelift—a battle he fought till his exit. 

The two former state officials had an assignment each from their day of assuming office. 

On May 5, 2022, while addressing journalists in a joint press conference at the Central Bank of Agak, the ex-minister of finance reportedly said the country’s oil had been pre-sold up to 2027, and that he was looking at options to raise money and clear salary arrears. 

“Where am I going to get the money? If the oil has been sold in advance up to 2027, “that means I will go to 2028 to ask somebody to give me money such that by 2028 he will be given that oil,” he said.  

“By the time I am gone, somebody will come in my place and he will find out that all oil for 2028 has been sold, so he will have to go for 2029.”

“If I want to pay, I will have to borrow, and when I borrow, that means your oil is being sold in advance. So this is where your oil money is going, nobody is eating it,” he added. 

However, after he was summoned by the president, Agak he recanted these statements saying he was quoted out of context by the media.

Also, at the same press conference, Moses Makur Deng on his part alleged that every reform agenda they tried met resistance from some people he did not name. 

“There is resistance always in any reforms those who were enjoying the state of affairs would not like the change to happen again,” Makur said.

However, by the time of the sacking, the minister of finance had already announced payment of six month’s salary arrears in one month. The Central Bank also announced an increase of dollar auction to $20 million per week to strengthen the SSP. 

The changes came hours after the parties to the agreement signed a document that extended the lifespan of the agreement for more than two years. 

Dier Tong Ngor was appointed as Minister of Finance and Planning replacing Agak meanwhile the first Deputy Governor of Central, Bank Jonny Ohisa Damien has been directed to take charge of the Bank as the acting governor.