Parliament back as pound plunges

Parliament back as pound plunges

Parliament resumes at a time when the local currency is on a downward spiral against the US dollar while prices of basic commodities shoot to the roof, beyond reach for a common citizen.

A majority of Members of Parliament (MPs) in the Reconstituted Transitional National Legislature (RLNA) are expected to troop into Freedom Halls, one after another, when the House reconvenes today, clearly aware that a lot of pending and important tasks, that require their attention, are waiting on the table.

The House went on recess on December 15. By then, the pound was trading below SSP6,000 for a 100-dollar bill.

Today, when each of the MPs present shall have taken their seats, ready to listen to the speech by President Salva Kiir, when he officially opens the House, the pound is headed south—tumbling to the dungeon and the unscrupulous hands of traders in the black market.

This morning, a 100-dollar is trading slightly above SSP 90, 000 in the black market. Put another way, between December and March, the pound has lost almost 20 percent of its value. In other words, if you bought a bottle of soda for SSP300 in December 2022, today, you may spend in excess of at least SSP 60 pounds to get the same bottle.

The hyperinflation is just one of the many things that South Sudanese expect their representatives to address in the new parliament, at least according to House Deputy Speaker Oyet Nathaniel.

“The second session will be very easy, and we will move at a very fast pace,” Oyet said, adding that issues affecting citizens will be among the top agenda items for discussion in parliament once it resumes its sitting.

Insecurity, and climatic shocks, as well as the new salaries for city employees, members of the organized forces, and the army, are some of the other tasks that the House will give high priority.

Often, parliamentarians have been blamed for turning a blind eye to issues affecting ordinary citizens’ lives.

Oyet said, things must change.

“We must raise the pay of those who work in ministries, organized forces, and the army. We are working on all those. Nobody will be left behind. Lives should also change.”

Hyperinflation and the devaluation of the pound have sparked an outcry from a section of citizens chocking from the economic mess.

Teachers in Lake State, for example, went on strike last June after the government failed to settle their wages. Over 30 teachers were later detained by local officials.

According to the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2022 released by the U.S. Department of State on March 20, 2023, the majority of employees in South Sudan, including public school teachers, made less than the $2 per day World Bank global poverty income level.

Oyet says that MPs will have to address the disparities in civil servants’ pay including those of organized forces.

“Their salaries will be increased very soon so that we in parliament are not the reason for discrimination against others,” he added.

Significant human rights concerns, according to the report, included allegations of extrajudicial killings, kidnappings for ransom, torture, and instances of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by security forces, opposition forces, armed militias linked to the government and the opposition, as well as ethnically driven groups.

Since last year, there have been numerous intercommunal conflicts in South Sudan, primarily in Eastern Equatoria, Central Equatoria State, Warrap, the Lakes, Jonglei, Pibor, the Upper Nile, Unity, and the Abyei Administrative Area, where civilians are killing each other as a result of cattle raiding, retaliation attacks, road ambushes, and conflict between farmers and cattle herders.

Among the bills up for discussion in parliament are the Social Insurance Bill of 2022, the Public Health Bill of 2022, the Wildlife Conservation and Protected Areas Bill of 2022, the Disarmament of Civil Population Provisional Order of 2020, the Cybercrimes and Compute Misuse Provisional Order of 2021, the National Petroleum and Gas Corporation Act of 2019 (Amendment) Provisional Order of 2021, and the Audit Bill of 2021.

The National Achievements Bill, 2021, the Mine Action Bill, 2022, the Petroleum Act, 2012 Amendment Bill, 2022, the Petroleum Revenue Management Act, 2013, Amendment Bill, 2022, the Anti-Corrupt Practices Act, 2009 Amendment Bill, 2022, the Elections Act, 2012 Amendment Bill, 2022, and the National Achievements Bill are additional bills that will be introduced in parliament.

However, the Council of Ministers passed three additional bills, last week and referred them to the parliament for further review.

They are the National Security Act Amendment Bill, the Bank of South Sudan Act Amendment Bill, the Public Financial Management Act Amendment Bill, and its 2023 amendment.

All of these bills are awaiting consideration by the parliament, which must do so in order for the president to sign them off and address the concerns of the populace.

The National Assembly’s leadership reassured the public last week that the Assembly was committed to addressing all national problems, including legislation on laws and matters affecting the people.

They vowed the legislature would address related problems, including the new pay scale for the army and civil servants, at the top of their agenda.

Both the Speaker and the First Deputy Speaker have noted that the parliament has not been able to concentrate on problems affecting the people since 2021 because the house has been dealing with bills that were essential for the implementation of the peace agreement, most of which they were able to accomplish.

In order to deal with issues impacting citizens, they claimed that the legislative assembly would operate in high gear during this session.

Utilities

“Their salaries will be increased very soon so that we in parliament are not the reason for discrimination against others.” Oyet Nathaniel.

Urgent matters to be addressed by Parliament

High cost of living

Insecurity

Pending bills

MORE FROM NATIONAL