JUBA – There are fears months of delayed salary payments could spark unrest among South Sudanese army (SPLA) soldiers and other security organs in the world’s youngest nation.
In recent months, the government has been making several attempts to solicit financial help from the donor community and other financial institutions in the wake of the economic crisis.
The young nation, its finance minister admitted on Thursday, is currently facing a serious financial meltdown with the country’s economy showing no sign of a positive outlook.
“I would like to announce that we are working on paying one month salaries. It will be paid in three to four days”, said Stephen Dhieu Dau.
The prevailing situation appears to have affected the security forces with some threatening to stage protests in what could represent a threat to an already fragile peace and stability in the country.
Delays in salary payments, the minister explained, could largely be attributed to the conflict that has affected the country since 2013.
“That’s why we have arrears in the national government, the state governments and our embassies abroad”, further stressed Dau.
A military officer told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the military would no longer accept delays due to the unbearable situations they face within the institution.
He faulted the finance ministry of allegedly failing to fulfill increments.
“What is happening is beyond tolerance. They are not feeling anything because they are eating, traveling in and out of the country. When a minister or a general is sick, they travel out and come at will, but when a soldier is sick, no attention is paid. Salaries are not paid on time,” said the officer, who preferred anonymity.
“Like now it is going to three months without payment. What kind of government is this?” asked the officer.
He also wondered why the government under President Salva Kiir had failed to fulfill promises made to raise the pay for junior officers.
“They promised a salary increment and now they are backtracking and not only from their promises but even giving us the meagre salaries which we have always been paid. Now they are talking of something else. They think people are fools”, stressed the officer.
South Sudan has suffered political instability and external shocks over the last two and a half years.
Observers, however, say despite being oil-rich, the young nation was likely to record negative gross domestic product growth in 2016 after growing by 30.7% two years ago, largely due its conflict, decline in oil production and global fall in oil prices.
Last year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned of further in South Sudan’s economic situation, unless quick economic reform policies were adopted and political environment eased.
Although potentially rich, South Sudan is ranked one of the poorest in Africa and the world at large, with the worst indicators of health, education and underdevelopment.