The Broad-day Theft of Telecommunication Companies in South Sudan

Posted: December 10, 2016 by PaanLuel Wël in Columnists, Economy, Mayen Ayarbior, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By David Mayen Ayarbior, Juba, South Sudan

corruption

From rags to riches: The amazing transition of the telecommunication companies in South Sudan

December 10, 2016 (SSB) — The level of ‘theft’ inflicted upon the people of South Sudan by telecommunication companies is beyond description.  The helpless people have complained time and again against that theft and sought protection, but that complain seemed to have fallen on the deaf ears of those who should protect the people. The only resort left now is for the people to organize a large demonstration and move to the headquarters of Vivacell, Zain and MTN and close them by force. Even though that may be extreme, as it might carry negative consequences for the people themselves, what other options are there?

Just like the V8s (running schools) in South Sudan which have become like donkeys in Mauritania, found in the least developed villages, the country did not need that big number of telecom companies in the first place. In addition to their insatiable appetite for looting the helpless South Sudanese in broad day light, they are the biggest earners of money in the country, least taxed and largest industry responsible for the biggest capital repatriation. “Parasites” is the single word description befitting them.

One can load SSP 500 and for some reasons which can only be defended by Vivacell and MTN, the money will be over in ten minutes, yah minutes, not hours. That is even if you did not talk with anyone. When you go to their offices, someone will arrogantly take your phone and teach you how to switch your “mobile data” on and off, because it incurs money to keep it on.

Even when you subscribe to a one week or month internet bundle and only use such popular services as WhatsApp or Viber to communicate, hoping that they are already free from their sources in America or Europe, your money, MBs or GBs will be zero. Bundle subscription in South Sudan does not mean the same thing as what it is worldwide.

Last year, our toothless parliament made a public consumption show by summoning telecom firms and claimed to have hired a consultancy agency to study whether the current exorbitant charges by telecom firms were according to “international standards.” Like all other such shows, the result is what we see today. Instead of improving, the telecom firms of our country seemed to have received a “Looting License” from parliament. Now, they are ten times worse than before they were summoned by parliament.

Under pretext of the effects of managed float, banks have raised their withdrawal fees and as a result of their huge profit margins get rewarded by being given the only available foreign currency in the country so that they send the money to East Africa. Instead of giving the 20 million USD to a firm to build four modern hospitals, every four three months so that the women in rural areas who needlessly die in child birth are saved, we claim that auctioning the money makes more economic sense.

How? God knows. Instead of having one telecom company like Ethiopia, through a public-private partnership, even with MTN, we think holding four phones with open arms make more prestige and economic sense. How? God knows.

Instead of using the $120,000*60 every six months in building sixty primary schools, health centers, police stations, or local market places; buying 60 V8s (which should instead of only be driven by the president and his two VPs) to be distributed to civil servants and rural politicans is said to be making more prestige and economic sense. How? God knows.

In conclusion, and as a survival mechanism statement: While our gallant soldiers are doing their best to protect the citizens from known and unknown gunmen, we seem to have some rebel economists in the country. When and how are the people going to be able to march to Vivacell and MTN headquarters or weed out rebel economists from their offices? God knows.

We have become accustomed to skewed economic decisions and zero consumer protection. The President wrote (posted in Paanluelwel.com last week) a hopeful letter addressed to the people of South Sudan that their economic hardships will be over soon (six months). He stated that the disastrous policy of miss-managed float shall be abandoned and thrown to the dust bin of history, and a return to fixed-exchange shall be adopted.

But the people continue to ask whether the same failed economic team around him (except a few good ones) will be the same people to implement the new policy? Shall there ever be any accountability for failure and disastrous advice?

Mayen Ayarbior is a Lawyer, Political Economist, and International Security specialist. He is the author of: House of War (Civil War and State Failure in Africa). He could be reached at mayen.ayarbior@gmail.com.

 The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing.

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