The future of the 28 new Governors, and the reality beyond congratulatory messages

Posted: January 4, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Business, Columnists, Economy, Featured Articles, Garang Atem, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Garang Atem Ayiik, Juba, South Sudan

Governor Agwer Panyang

The newly appointed governor of Jonglei state, Col. Philip Agwer Panyang, with Defense Minister Gen. Kuol Manyang Juuk and Information Minister Michael Makwei Lueth in Bor, Jonglei state

Introduction 

January 4, 2015 (SSB) — On the eve of Christmas day 25, December 2015, the President of the Republic of South Sudan issued an order that appointed new Governors of 28 states. The creation of 28 states has divided citizens of South Sudan.

With many looking at it as ethnic federalism bulldozed without due diligence on its economic and unity of the people; while others thought this creation should have been subjected to consultative processes and while majority believed it is a fulfillment of Dr. John Garang’s idea of taking towns to the people.

Criteria to create states would have been defined first; states with defined borders proposed and subjected to citizens’ discussions; and finally to legislative approvals.

Consultative leadership and people driven processes are roots on which legitimacy are derived. However, appointments and swearing-in of 28 governors operationalized 28 states. Any continued discussions on their creation will continue to be discussed as academic and legal issues at the national level, and between peace partners.

Creation of 28 states is being proclaimed as fulfillment of Dr. John Garang concept of taking towns to the people. My understanding of taking towns to the people is not an event but a process that will lead to: a) decentralization of resources – money and human capital; b) services delivery to the people, and c) constitutionalism and good governance.

Governors’ challenges: Realities beyond congratulatory messages

 The governors are taking up offices when the economy is almost at it kneels. Over 70% of the ongoing 2015/2016 budget is being financed with deficit money, meaning government printing new money.

In the same month of governors’ appointments, Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning and Central Bank of South Sudan devalued pound by nearly 500%.

These two actions above will drive inflation upwards in 2016 for public, with government’s employees hit hard as government has not fiscal space to insulates its employees and programs. Capable government employees are expected to migrate to green pastures within private, NGO and development partners.

The price of oil in the global markets has soared. Recent International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that in 2016, oil prices will reduce between 5 -15 dollars per a barrel.

With this reduction in oil prices in world markets, and liability to Sudan on Financial Transitional Assistance, means even if peace is implemented in South Sudan to put production back from Tharjath and Unity oilfields, inflows to government coffers will still be minimum if not negligible.

With creation of 28 states, appointments and swearing in of their governors, the expectations of the citizens have been raised. Already citizens are counting new jobs and expanded services. Government mouthpieces are announcing loudly ‘taking towns to the people’ has been realized catalyzing citizens’ excitement.

As with other agencies of the government of South Sudan in the last decades, public sector has accumulated incapable staffs, driven by patronage and poor incentives. This has embedded poor systems and inefficiency in public sector.

Furthermore, current system of appointments both at central and sub-national levels has reduced meritocracy. Few capable staffs in government are either doing their businesses, robbing government of its opportune time; or are creative agents for corruption.

If new governors are not careful, those who will be presented to them for appointments or those lobbying for jobs are redundant lots or performance dwarfs. They should not allow themselves and their governments to be agents to extend mediocrity.

The governors who will make differences?

With ongoing excitement, and rebranding of taking towns to the people, 28 states have massaged minds of the citizens – it sound like a new dawn.

But with full dirty trays in the states, thirty months without resources, is a short period. Despite gloomy economic future, some governors will make an impact if they take some steps outlined below.

Prioritization and planning

Prioritization and planning must be central to governors’ decision-making process. With limited resources, first things have to be done first. First, proper resources assessment, human and physical assets; and development needs assessment should be undertaken immediately after taking office.

From assessment results, resources will be allocated with an eye on minimum physical requirement; match human capital skills with roles; and finally roll out services delivery from sector-based approach plan with equity between decentralized units of states in mind. This will be central to governors’ credibility.

Mobilizing resources

With withering resources, only governors with clarity of minds about the needs of their states will be able to mobilize sufficient resources. There will be five major revenue sources for the states; grants from central government, NGO-driven services, states’ generated revenues, contribution from state’s citizens domiciled inside and outside; and finally private investments. Plans must calibrate funding sources.

First, the 28 governors must work together to fight for resources from the center, establishing Council of Governors, supported by experts in economics and financial management to advocates for their interests from the center can’t be overemphasized.

The governors can easily mobilize their MPs to support resources mobilization. Creating states without defined and agreed funding mechanisms is an empty rhetoric.

Second, proper development plans that can be used to push donors fund to strategic spending will be very useful, understanding Paris Declaration by states’ financial leaders will play a role directing donors money from non-essential planning.

Third, strong finance, economic and planning teams to enhance accountability, transparency and confidence for citizens to contribute to their states development will play a central role. Creating friendly investment environment with incentives will be critical as states success will be knowledge driven.

States that will have cost projects, justifications and confidence of their citizens will easily get their projects financed than those that are clueless on their needs and revenues gaps.

Lean and cost saving initiatives

Governors must act strategically in the light of economic realities. Some cost saving initiatives such as staying lean on the staffing; not creating unsuitable decentralized units; being efficient on staffing – employ few but quality; minimize operating cost; and keep citizens updated on issues facing the government are signals that will connect dots between citizens and successful governors.

Proactive leadership

Being proactive will differentiate true leaders from others, governors who will identify technical skills and ask for funding for development partners as way to beep up capacity in states or other sources; and states must encourage local expertise both in diaspora and in-country to work in states. Those governors who will do this will have goodwill from youth and diaspora, which are huge future political constituency to be ignored by forward-looking leadership.

Managing troubles of 28 states

Managing arbitrary challenges that will come with implementation of 28 states will define governors that will make differences. Lack of defined borders; and lack no census data will complicate how positions, decentralized units and resources will be allocated within the states’ constituents. It will require leadership to avoid ‘exporting trouble to the people’ as Dr. Majak D’ Agoot would call it.

Conclusions.

Only those governors who will act strategically, guided by knowledge and boldness to do it right will give value to 28 states. As they say, where there is a will there is a way, so will it go for some governors.

It takes leadership to do more with less, efficient governors will win the confident of their respective citizens while others will be smoked out by citizens when their terms end.

Gabriel Garang Atem Ayiik (Gatem), the author, has a bachelor degree in Economics and Masters in Economic Policy and Management from Moi and the University of Nairobi respectively. He is also a Certified Public Accountant and a member of Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya. You can reach him via his email: garangatemayiik@gmail.com

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