South Sudan’s Finance minister Salvatore Garang Mabior on Tuesday 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 Voice Of America (VOA) that 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 am 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 programme.
"Health sector lacks medical personnel, modern healthcare equipment and it is difficult to access the existing health facilities in many parts of the country, ” she added.
Boda boda business
Juma Abdullah works as a boda boda to supplement his meager earnings as a government employee.
“Our salaries are off and on and life keeps on becoming hard each. 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.
Mr 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.
He 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.
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 Mr Mabior.