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NCP says confident people will understand austerity measures, challenges opposition

June 14, 2012 (KHARTOUM) – Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party (NCP) held a lengthy meeting chaired by president Omer Al-Bashir in the capital Khartoum on Thursday and expressed confidence afterward that the public will “understand” the necessity of the austerity measures that the government intends to apply.

FILE - Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (R) with his advisor Nafie Ali Nafie in Khartoum on Nov. 24, 2011 (REUTERSMohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
FILE – Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir (R) with his advisor Nafie Ali Nafie in Khartoum on Nov. 24, 2011 (REUTERSMohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
The NCP-dominated government in Sudan is planning to terminate fuel subsidies as part of what officials say are drastic austerity measures required to make up for a budget deficit of 2.4 billion USD which resulted from the country’s loss of 75 percent of oil revenues following the secession of South Sudan last year.

According to government officials, ending fuel subsidies will save the country 2 billion USD annually.

The NCP’s leadership council headed by the party’s chairman and the country’s president, Omer Al-Bashir, on Thursday’s evening held a meeting that lasted until the morning hours of Friday, according to Sudan’s official news agency SUNA.

The leadership council is composed of the 46 members of the NCP’s leadership bureaus as well as heads of the party’s branches in all states.

Speaking to reporters afterward, NCP’s Vice-chairman Nafie Ali Nafie said that the meeting had reviewed the situation in the domestic political arena focusing on plans by the opposition coalition to mobilize the public to protest against the lifting of fuel subsidies when it comes into effect.

Mainstream opposition parties allied under the umbrella of the National Consensus Forces (NCF) vowed this week to resist the planned ending of fuel subsidies, saying it will lead to further inflation and worsening of the economic situation.

Nafie acknowledged that the opposition has found a rare opportunity to push its agendas of regime change through a popular uprising.

However, Nafie said that the outcome of the meeting was a sense of confidence that Sudanese people would “understand” the necessity of the upcoming economic “reforms” and not allow the opposition to exploit them.

Sudan has been grappling with rising inflation and a depreciating currency since losing oil, the lifeblood of the economy. Inflation hit 30 percent in May, mainly on food prices, as the Sudanese pound’s exchange rate against the dollars shot up to more than 5 in recent weeks.

Nafie pointed out that the meeting had listened to a briefing from the head of the party’s economic sector, Sabir Mohamed Al-Hassan, on the economic situation and ways of improving it.

According to Nafie, the meeting also received a report from the country’s minister of finance, Ali Mahmoud, on the practicalities of executing the economic “reforms” including coverage of the deficit through increasing revenues and decreasing expenses.

Some even within the NCP predict that the ending of fuel subsidies will spark popular protests. The decision to lift fuel subsidies faces opposition from a number of the NCP’s parliamentarians who will have to approve the resolution when it reaches the parliament in few weeks time.

(ST)

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