File photo of motorcycle taxi riders in Juba. Some of them are civil servants seeking more money to keep their families running.

South Sudanese Civil Servants Prefer Odd Jobs To Endure Economic Crisis

By Okech Francis  

As a non-commissioned officer in the South Sudan People’s Defense Force, a salary of 1200 South Sudanese Pounds is the monthly take home, and can buy only a plate of beans on the streets of the capital Juba.

Such meager pay has left many of the officers having no option but to turn to odd jobs to sustain their families.

“Riding a boda boda for money is the only choice I could take in order to cater for my family,” a 35 year old man told Juba Echo in Juba.

While he chose to toil for a living outside his conventional work, it hasn’t been so for other mates who would use their guns to loot the public, and deepening insecurity.

South Sudan has codenamed robbers and murderers in the country “unknown gunmen.”

Government workers from all sectors have run out of financial steam as the crisis eroded the purchasing power of the SSP.

It currently trades at 334 SSP for $1 at the central bank meaning an NCO’s salary is just about $3.6.

It’s a situation that leaves the security of the country vulnerable in the hands of such underpaid officers tasked with protection of the people, Professor Abraham Kuol Nyuon, the Dean of the School of Social and Economic Studies at The University of Juba, told Juba Echo.

The problem is sweeping across the country, a source of rampant insecurity and has stalled development, Nyoun said by phone in Juba.

“Guns have been given to these people to protect the country and with them suffering, those guns are likely to be used to terrorize the very same people they are meant to protect,” he said.

Doubling Salaries

President Salva Kiir unveiled a plan this month, to double salaries but that would still end up in paltry pay.

He directed that 5000 barrels of crude be put aside everyday to go towards his plan.

This means of 1200 SSP, a soldiers salary would be increased to 2400, two plates of beans.

“What the President said was in good faith for the people, a 100 percent increase but with the situation on the ground, it creates no impact,” Nyuon said.

“Somebody did not advise him correctly on this,” he said.

 “What the president should have done was to ask the ministry of finance and other agencies on how alignment should have been done before he could finally come with the best solution.”

Most civil servants including police and ministry employees are also among those who have abandoned their post and sought money in the transport, construction or other sectors for extra cash.

“Relying solely on that money is suicide,” an employee-turned-porter told Juba Echo from a construction site in Juba.

“It just goes nowhere to resolving hunger in the family and then when sickness strikes you just run crazy.”

Struggling Economy

Getting back the economy on its feet remains a huge task for a country which is struggling with funding a huge government set up to include former rebels, as part of a solution to crisis in the country.

The government is to be funded by oil proceeds which has lowered in production and is facing a big price slump on the world market.

The conflict, which began in December 2013 has also left 400,000 people dead and displaced four million others.

President Kiir’s new salary scheme will be included in the 2021/2022 fiscal year budget, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Agok Makur, told Juba Echo.

The plan is already discussed and just needs incorporation into the system, he said.

“It’s still not going anywhere near relieving the heavy toll on civil servants with huge financial obligations,” the ex-soldier-turned Boda Boda said as he waited for customers in downtown Juba.

“I just can’t see how would help the suffering people.”

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