Source: The Nation, Nairobi
Mr Kuol Athain, South Sudan's Minister of Finance and Economic Planning swivels in a leather chair behind a shiny mahogany desk, in an air-conditioned office that has taken the government three years to renovate, and answers why the Government of Southern Sudan won't construct housing estates to solve a housing crisis "The private sector will do that," he says.Southern Sudan is one of the most expensive places in Africa.
What if they don't come?, I ask.
"They will come," he says. "We are now working on investment laws to ensure that they come."
But Southern Sudan is not short of investors.
The scent of oil has brought with it murky investors out for a killing, exploiting the absence of systems.
Consider the $25 million (Sh1.5 billion) hospital built in a jungle without people, using prefabs with a two-three year warranty. Or consider the $76 million (Sh4.7 billion) spent on 153 vehicles, mostly Land Cruisers, according to lawmakers.
Despite billions in contracts, the region is not short of misery. Misery is in schools, and it's in rundown hospitals. It manifests itself in the infrastructure, and it's right behind Mr Athain's office.
Here, heavy four-wheel-drive cars strive for parking space next to dingy, makeshift eateries at the edge of a dusty road across a spiralling three-year-old internally displaced people's camp.
"We are beginning from zero," Regional Cooperation Minister Barnaba Marial Benjamin says. The health infrastructure is a mess. At Juba Teaching Hospital, the region's elite health institution, patients wait days on the verandah for treatment. Appalling health indicators include having the world's highest maternal mortality rate.
Education is bad too. Schools are crumbling, such that even low earners send relatives to study in Uganda and Kenya. Education indicators are the world's lowest: one per cent girls and two per cent boys complete primary school.
Civil service is pathetic
And, by the Public Service Minister Awut Deng's own account, the civil service is pathetic.
"You have extremely weak capacity after the war," says Mr Laurence Clarke, the Southern Sudan World Bank Manager. "Some of killed in the war, some are displaced by war, while others flee.
That's not something you underestimate." To Mr Luka Monoja, Southern Sudan's Cabinet Affairs Minister, the civil service problem dates back to the 1940s in Gondokoro. In East Africa, for instance, the Kaisers of Germany sought treaties with local chiefs in Tanganyika, Rwanda and Burundi, forcing Britain, which had only dealt with the Sultans, to seek similar treaties with the indigenous local chiefs. Likewise, power-sharing in Sudan was limited to the Arabs.
"Even when the indigenous populations were hostile, some form of agreement was reached," Mr Monoja says of other areas were the colonising authorities sought to transfer skills to the local people.
"In southern Sudan, nobody wanted to deal with them (the local people)," Mr Monoja says.
It's in view of these challenges that the Finance Minister says he needs $11.55 billion from the international community.
"We are asking our friends in the international community to help us raise this money," Mr Athain says. Indeed, for south Sudan, an outpouring of international goodwill exists. South Africa and Kenya have helped train the civil service; Ethiopia has provided 400 scholarships to Southern Sudanese while Uganda is charging southern Sudanese local rates at its universities.
Gabon is offering oil-drilling technical help, and international donors have given $231 million for reconstruction in the past three years, besides funding humanitarian issues such as emergency disease outbreaks and floods. What would more money do? Mr Athain cites resettlement of people and rebuilding of infrastructure, for instance.
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