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Outrage in South Sudan as MPs get loans for cars purchase

South Sudanese have expressed concerns after it emerged that the government has granted legislators a loan worth 16 million U. S. dollars for purchase of new cars even when the country is battling hunger amid an economic crisis.
According to sources in the South Sudan Parliament, each lawmaker in the 400-seater assembly will receive about 40,000 dollars to buy a new car.
“Yes we have received the money for buying cars. You know we were supposed to get new cars every two years and this money has been overdue,” said a lawmaker who asked to remain anonymous as he is not in the position to talk about the issue.
“The money we received is not enough because the average amount we are supposed to get to buy a car is supposed to be 65,000 dollars,” he said.
Reports of the car loans have been making rounds on social media in recent days, with many South Sudanese criticizing their representatives of not being considerate of their electorates who continue to suffer the brunt of the country’s four-year-old conflict.
Civil society activist James Kolok said the country is surprised to learn that the government has got money to be loaned to lawmakers when it struggled to pay civil servants and deliver services since the nation descended into civil war in late 2013.
“It is not appropriate for the government to give this money at a time when a country is actually crying because of a number of challenges that everyone including the children can see,” Jame said.
Women’s rights activist Susan Wasuk questioned how the government acquired the funds when they have been complaining of lack of money to run government affairs.
“I don’t know where this budget is coming from when people are going to the neighboring countries and civil servants have not got their salaries and MPs are already talking of money to buy cars,” Wasuk said.
According to the World Bank, South Sudan is the most oil-dependent nation in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports and around 60 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
But after the young nation descended into civil war in late 2013, oil production declined from 350,000 in 2011 to fewer than 130,000 barrels per day in 2014 amid soaring inflation.
The conflict has killed tens of thousands and created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.
Senior economist, Marial Yol said the loan would be costly for the world’s youngest nation as it will trigger series of demands for salary increase from other government employees, which the country cannot afford at this time.
He added that the lawmakers may not be able to repay the loans because of their low salaries.
“One would wonder as to how they would pay this money back to the government because the salary of an MP is around 9,000 South Sudan Pounds (about 40 dollars).
“How can somebody who gets a salary of 40 to 50 dollars per month pay a car loan of 40,000?” he asked.
There was no immediate comment from the chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Paul Bonju. (Xinhua/NAN)

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