South Africa

Sudan hands out cash to ease economic crunch

Sudan hands out cash to ease economic crunch

Sudan has officially registered more than 10,000 cases of coronavirus and around 650 deaths. AFP/File/ASHRAF SHAZLY

Sudan has begun distributing cash handouts under an internationally backed plan to help millions cope with an economic crisis aggravated by the coronavirus pandemic, recipients and the authorities said.

The stimulus is funded from $1.8 billion pledged by 40 countries at a conference last month in Germany as the African nation transitions from three decades of rule under now-ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

“The programme is based on supporting 80 percent of the country’s population with direct cash support from the state,” Essam Abbas, director of the finance ministry’s digital transformation agency, told AFP.

“It’s a project that aims to help this segment of the population in facing the economic reforms head-on,” he said in an interview days after the scheme was launched nationwide.

Yasser Mohamed al-Nour is among those who have benefited from the handouts, part of an economic reform agreement the government reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) last month.

“I have a family of 11 and I work in a tailor’s shop. I receive 2,500 pounds (about $21) from the finance ministry monthly,” he said.

The help is much needed but not enough to deal with the rising cost of living, said Nour, who lives in the working class suburb of al-Khadra about 25 kilometres from the capital Khartoum.

Sudanese authorities hiked bread prices earlier this year and many people still queue for hours to buy staple foods or fill their car with petrol.

Anti-Bashir protests that erupted in late 2018 were originally sparked by a government decision to triple bread prices before morphing into broader calls for political change.

Sudan’s annual inflation rate topped the 114 percent mark in May, compounding the country’s acute economic crisis.

“Life is very stressful for me. I live with my family in a two-bedroom home and I have to pay for transport to and from my workplace,” Nour told AFP.

Sudan’s economic woes have been further compounded by the coronavirus outbreak which pushed authorities to impose a lockdown on Khartoum state, including the capital, that was loosened last week.

The country has officially registered more than 10,000 cases of the illness and around 650 deaths.

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