South Sudan’s finance minister said his ministry does not have the money to pay government workers their past due salaries, dismaying civil servants who have been waiting for their paychecks since April or May.
Government employees told VOA they are finding it more and more difficult to feed their families as their savings dwindle and commodity prices skyrocket.
Fifty-three-year-old civil servant Fouzia Lukadi, who resides in the Gudele neighborhood of Juba, wakes up at about 6 a.m. each day and heads to the customs market where she buys food, then resells it in front of her house to earn money to feed her children.
“We are suffering and trying our best to help our children. Surviving is really hard, but we are struggling. All of us are now selling things in the markets, selling small goods such as tomatoes, onions, and sweet potatoes to help the family,” Ludadi told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus program.
Juma Abdullah works as a boda-boda, or motorcycle taxi driver, to supplement his meager earnings as a government employee.
Abdullah told South Sudan in Focus many public servants like him have started working a second job to put food on the table.
“Our salaries are off and on and life keeps on becoming hard each and every day, so I have decided to buy a motorcycle so that I can work as a boda-boda man, just to provide for my family. People’s livelihood in Juba is really getting tough, especially for the civil servants,” said Abdullah.
Lukadi and Abdallah called on the finance ministry to pay their salaries in arrears.
Finance Minister Salvatore Garang Mabior appeared last week before the National Assembly’s business committee to explain why the government has not paid civil servant salaries for nearly five months.
Mabior told the panel that the COVID-19 lockdown has devastated the global economy, including crude oil prices and revenue from South Sudan’s oil production.
After the price of oil on international markets plummeted, South Sudan’s production level dropped from about 250,000 barrels a day to around 170,000 barrels per day in March, according to Mabior.
More than 19 South Sudanese institutions have yet to remit revenues to the
National Revenue authority, money the government relies on to pay civil servant salaries, according to Mabior.