South Sudan's economy seeks diversification amid oil blockade

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JUBA, March 28 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan is working to diversify its economy following the oil blockade on the Red Sea, which has cut off oil revenue flows that finance 95 percent of the nation's fiscal budget, a senior official said Thursday.

"The most important thing is that we are taking action toward trying to diversify our economy through other activities like agriculture, livestock, fisheries and the rest. We are also trying to open up some corridors that will help us encourage our people to work because through production we can sustain our economy," said Awow Daniel Chuang, minister of finance and planning, during a press conference in Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

From November 2023 to January 2024, South Sudan exported about 150,000 barrels per day of crude oil to international markets. Its oil exports, however, have been disrupted due to a blockade imposed on the Red Sea by Houthi militants, who have been attacking cargo ships since January.

"The pound (local currency) is losing value. We know South Sudan's economy depends on oil, and for us to depend on oil for a long time will not help us," Chuang said. He made these remarks after arriving in the country from overseas with a high-level delegation, including the central bank governor, the head of the South Sudan National Revenue Authority, and the minister of petroleum.

The delegation traveled to secure loans from international partners to help stabilize the ailing economy. Chuang said they have secured some funds to help pay the salaries of civil servants who have gone for over six months without pay amid the prevailing economic hardship.

"People have not been receiving salaries for six months now, and the market has gone very high, so it is very difficult for us," Chuang added. The South Sudanese pound is currently exchanged at 230 units to the U.S. dollar, compared to 120 South Sudanese pounds in December 2023.

The situation has forced traders to hike prices of essential commodities such as food and other basic needs, leaving the majority of the population angered.

Chuang said his ministry is working collectively with the central bank to reverse the situation before it worsens. Enditem

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