Oil will bring downfall of Sudan government: Turabi
KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan's loss of billions of dollars of oil revenues will bring down the government as inflation soars, the economy buckles and people grow hungrier, opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi said in an interview.
Oil once accounted for 90 percent of exports, but Sudan's economy took a beating when South Sudan gained independence in July and took away most of the known crude reserves.
Citizens have since had to cope with inflation at nearly 30 percent and a rapidly devaluing currency in a country where the economy is already reeling from U.S. trade sanctions and the cost of renewed conflict with South Sudan and rebels.
"Hatred for the regime is intensifying now in the country," Turabi, the leader of the opposition Popular Congress Party told Reuters in a recent interview in Khartoum.
"The economic crisis has intensified and this is very dangerous. If the hungry go out in a revolution, they will break and destroy ... I expect it won't take us long now," Turabi said.
Turabi was one of the most powerful figures in Sudanese politics in the 1980s and 1990s and his comments still attract widespread attention.
But the Islamist and former spiritual mentor to Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has seen his influence decline sharply since the two men fell out.
Sudan's government dismissed Turabi's statement, denying the economic situation was that gloomy.
"What Turabi says is not based on reality ... the economic situation is not as bad as Turabi is saying," said information ministry advisor Rabie Abdelatie, adding the situation was much worse in the 1980s.
"There was no infrastructure, no oil, no development, no electricity. There's a big difference."
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Recent data have painted a bleak picture of the Sudanese economy.
The loss of oil revenues has left the country with $2.4 billion gap in public finances as well as a trade deficit of $540 million at the end of this quarter, compared to a surplus of $1.7 billion in the same period last year.
The government has also raised custom fees and a social development tax by 66 percent.
"The government is completely broke. If hunger intensifies, people, along with their other reasons for anger ... we are worried that a revolution will come, which will lead to chaos," said Turabi, who has in the past called for the "downfall of the regime" through a popular movement instead of a military coup.
Protests inspired by the "Arab Spring" demonstrations have failed to take hold in Sudan where political expression is severely restricted, but food protests have ended previous administrations in what was once Africa's largest country.
In 1985, all it took was about 10 days of protests against food inflation to topple President Jaafar Nimeiri.
Besides a border conflict with the South, Sudan's army is facing insurgencies from Darfur rebel groups and militias in other border states that it accuses South Sudan of supporting. South Sudan's government denies the allegations.
Sudan lost three-quarters of its roughly 500,000 bpd of crude oil output when South Sudan gained independence in July under a 2005 settlement that ended two decades of civil war.
Turabi said the government's major mistake was in destroying the agriculture sector, which in the early 1990s accounted for nearly all exports.
"It's a stupid policy. All agriculture was killed in Sudan because of oil," Turabi said.
Ofwat allows retailers to raise prices from April
Retailers can recover a portion of excess bad debt by temporarily increasing prices from April 2022, according to an Ofwat statement.
The regulator confirmed its view that levels of bad debt costs across the business retail market are exceeding 2% of non-household revenue, thereby allowing "a temporary increase" in the maximum prices. Adjustments to price caps will apply for a minimum of two years to reduce the step changes in price that customers might experience.
Measures introduced since March 2020 to contain the spread of Covid-19 could lead to retailers facing higher levels of customer bad debt. Retailers’ abilities to respond to this are expected to be constrained by Ofwat strengthening protections for non-household customers during Covid-19 and the presence of price caps.
In April last year, Ofwat committed to provide additional regulatory protection if bad debt costs across the market exceeded 2% of non-household revenue.
Georgina Mills, Business Retail Market Director at Ofwat said: “These decisions aim to protect the interests of non-household customers in the short and longer term, including from the risk of systemic Retailer failure as the business retail market continues to feel the impacts of COVID-19. By implementing market-wide adjustments to price caps, we aim to minimise any additional costs for customers in the shorter term by promoting efficiency and supporting competition.”
There are also three areas where Ofwat has not reached definitive conclusions and is seeking further evidence and views from stakeholders:
- Pooling excess bad debt costs – Ofwat proposes that the recovery of excess bad debt costs is pooled across all non-household customers, via a uniform uplift to price caps.
- Keeping open the option of not pursuing a true up – For example if outturn bad debt costs are not materially higher than the 2% threshold.
- Undertaking the true up – If a 'true up' is required, Ofwat has set out how it expects this to work in practice.
Further consultation on the proposed adjustments to REC price caps can be expected by December.
"While it’s great that regulators are helping the industry deal with bad debt in the wake of the pandemic, raising prices only treats the symptoms. Instead, water companies should head upstream, using customer data to identify and rectify the causes of bad debt, stop it at source and help prevent it from occurring in the first place," she said.
"While recouping costs is a must, water companies shouldn’t just rely on the regulator. Data can help companies segment customers, identify and assist customers that are struggling financially, avoiding penalising the entire customer in tackling the cause of the issue."
United Utilities picks up pipeline award
A race-against-time plumbing job to connect four huge water pipes into the large Haweswater Aqueduct in Cumbria saw United Utilities awarded Utility Project of the Year by Pipeline Industries Guild.
The Hallbank project, near Kendal, was completed within a tight eight-day deadline, in a storm and during the second COVID lockdown last November – and with three hours to spare. Principal construction manager John Dawson said the project helped boost the resilience of water supplies across the North West.
“I think what made us stand out was the scale, the use of future technology and the fact that we were really just one team, working collaboratively for a common goal," he said.
Camus Energy secures $16m funding
Camus Energy, which provides advanced grid management technology, has secured $16 million in a Series A round, led by Park West Asset Management and joined by Congruent Ventures, Wave Capital and other investors, including an investor-owned utility. Camus will leverage the operating capital to expand its grid management software platform to meet growing demand from utilities across North America.
As local utilities look to save money and increase their use of clean energy by tapping into low-cost and low-carbon local resources, Camus' grid management platform provides connectivity between the utility's operations team, its grid-connected equipment and customer devices.