More on the Protests in Khartoum

Protests have continued in Khartoum, Sudan, over the government’s austerity package. Demonstrations by students and others began Saturday, and protesters clashed with police Monday, Tuesday, and today.

Today also brought more details regarding the austerity measures:

Speaking in parliament, Finance Minister Ali Mahmud al-Rasul said fuel prices will rise by between 12.5 and 60 percent, as the government moves to scrap subsidies it can no longer afford.
Taxes on bank profits will also jump, from 15 to 30 percent, and VAT will rise from 15 to 17 percent, he added, while the administrative expenses of the government are to be cut by 25 percent.
In another key measure aimed at tackling Sudan’s financial woes, the government will devalue the local currency, from 2.7 Sudanese pound (SDP) to the dollar to 4.4 SDP, closer to the black market rate of around 5.5 SDP.

Last-minute amendments to the budget by the cabinet yesterday attempted to limit the harm to ordinary people, but the package as a whole still threatens to increase inflation and make everyday life harder for many.

The goal of the measures is to reduce government expenditures and reduce the deficit. Sudan’s government lost major revenues with the secession of oil-rich South Sudan last year. As negotiations with South Sudan over oil transport fees drag on, and the two sides have clashed along the new border, Sudan has taken further financial hits.

As several news outlets have noted, previous demonstrations have not acquired “momentum” or seriously threatened the regime of President Omar al Bashir. On the other hand, the economy has been in crisis for some time, and that could hurt Bashir’s popularity. The situation now is a far cry from that of April 2010, when the New York Times reported that many Northern Sudanese, happy with the economic “expansion” that had taken place during Bashir’s rule, were keen to re-elect him. Bashir has stated that he will retire when his current term ends, but the country may well see more unrest before that time.

Follow James Copnall of the BBC for updates.

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