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Sudan discussing cash transfers to poor as part of food subsidies plan

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok told Reuters cash transfers were one scenario discussed to offset a cut in food and other subsidies.

Abdallah Hamdok, speaks after being sworn in as Sudan's interim prime minister in the capital Khartoum on 21 August 2019. Picture: AFP

EL-FASHER – Sudan is discussing several scenarios such as cash transfers for poor people to accompany planned subsidies for food and other basic goods, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok said on Monday.

Shortages of bread, fuel and medicine coupled with hefty price rises brought people out in protest and led to the toppling of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April.

The economy has remained in turmoil as politicians negotiated a three-year power-sharing deal between the military and civilians.

Hamdok told Reuters cash transfers were one scenario discussed to offset a cut in food and other subsidies.

Bashir’s government ran up enormous budget deficits by subsidizing fuel, bread and other products.

Hamdok gave no details but he said the plan included subsidies for drugs, medical services and education.

“The issue of subsidies is one of the most important and biggest challenges,” he said during a visit to the western region of Darfur where poverty is especially high after more than 15 years of conflict and violence.

In September, Hamdok’s government announced a nine-month economic rescue plan aimed at curbing rampant inflation while ensuring supplies of basic goods. The plan would keep bread and petroleum subsidies in place until at least June 2020.

Hamdok, a technocrat and economist, also said Sudan was still in talks with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund about the 2020 budget year.

In August, Hamdok said Sudan needed $8 billion in foreign aid over the next two years to cover its import bill and help rebuild its economy.

The transitional government has been working on removing Sudan from the U.S. sponsors of terrorism list to potentially open the door for investment. Its inclusion on the list makes it ineligible for debt relief and financing from lenders such as the IMF.

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