War-torn South Sudan passes budget despite lacking funds

Juba - South Sudan's parliament has passed a $300m budget despite the war-torn country's government conceding it lacked the funds to pay for it.

Nearly four years of civil war, as well as inadequate and decrepit infrastructure, have left the country with few sources of revenue, with oil fields that used to account for 90% of government income producing at very low levels and other businesses struggling.

Wani Buyu Dyori, undersecretary for economic planning at the finance ministry, said the government can raise around two-thirds of the 46 billion South Sudanese pounds needed for the budget, which was passed on Monday.

"The funding comes from oil revenues and non-oil revenues and the development partners - they always give us some resources for our people," he said.

But Buyu admitted there would be "challenges" in raising sufficient money.

"The business community are not going to get goods in and whom do we tax if they are not coming?" Buyu said, adding that the world's youngest country is also losing the support of traditional donors.

Despite South Sudan being cash-strapped, the 2017/18 budget is 50% more than the previous year's budget of 30 billion South Sudanese pounds, although it is less in dollar terms as the national currency has continued to collapse.

Around 40% of the new budget is earmarked for security.

Fuel and food shortages are routine while civil servants, nurses and teachers can go for months without being paid.

Corruption and mismanagement are rife in South Sudan but lawmakers, in passing the budget, called for transparency and accountability.

Marial Awou, head of economic studies at Juba University, said the government must "maintain discipline" if it is to emerge from the current conflict-induced economic crisis.

But, he added, an end to the war and the restoration of "peace and stability" is the primary solution.

The civil war has killed tens of thousands of people and forced more than three million from their homes since December 2013.

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