STATEMENT BY H.E. FESTUS G. MOGAE, CHAIRPERSON OF JMEC, TO THE INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT PEACE BUILDING FORUM
H.E. James Wani Igga, The Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan; Honorable Ministers; Honorable Ambassadors; Professor Nega Abraham, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
I want to commend the conveners of this workshop for bringing together H.E., the Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan, key Ministers, international partners and international academics to discuss the impact of peace on economic progress.
The theme of this workshop is what the comprehensive peace agreement is all about—building institutions for sustainable security in the country as well as building institutions for effective management of the economy and public finances.
South Sudan is in the throes of a deep economic crisis, the roots of which lie in a protracted war and previously poor fiscal and economic management. The economic situation interacts directly with the security situation. Security is a pre-requisite for a stable economy which in turn is a prerequisite for peace, development and prosperity. For any economic progress to occur, the security situation must be stabilized.
I will make my remarks here brief, but hope they will be taken up for discussion in the course of today’s workshop. There are three issues that need to be addressed in restarting the economic development in this country.
The first issue is: stabilizing the rural economy. Agriculture is undeniably the livelihood for most of the people of South Sudan. High levels of food insecurity now prevail due to low agricultural production as people continue to abandon the rural areas to flee violence. The violence and the economic crisis has created a downward spiral which needs to be arrested and reversed. The most immediate task the government must do is to ensure an uninterrupted flow of humanitarian aid to the rural populace to sustain them in the rural areas. This will bring peace to the countryside which will stabilize the rural economy. International experience shows that for virtually all countries, economic growth was built on a productive agricultural sector.
The second issue is: putting public finances in order. Without prudent public financial management there cannot be economic progress. Recent budgets including the draft budget for 2016/17 have been worrisome: they involve large deficits; inflationary financing; and, expenditures for social services well below expectations and need. Financial mismanagement disrupts the economy and along with continued widespread violence, drives international partners away from providing the development assistance so gravely needed. International experience clearly shows that countries develop only if government finances are sustainable. The government of South Sudan must live within its means.
The third issue is: a sustainable strategy of development. Once the rural economy is stabilized and government finances are in order, South Sudan can embark on a strategy of sustainable development. This strategy should diversify the economy so to reduce reliance on oil and build on a productive agriculture sector complemented by light industry. To jumpstart this path of sustainable development will require international assistance and regional cooperation.
To conclude, fully implementing the peace agreement is essential to restarting economic growth in South Sudan. I therefore urge the TGoNU to fullfil its commitment to the agreement.
I thank you and hope that this workshop will have time to discuss the three issues I have raised.