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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
South Sudan gov’t defends spending on cars for lawmakers

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- South Sudan on Thursday defended a decision to facilitate its lawmakers with 40,000 U.S. dollars each to purchase state-of-the-art cars despite economic hardship caused by more than four years of violence.

President Salva Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told Xinhua that decision will help enhance the effectiveness of parliament since many MPs have been using commercial motorcycle taxis to go to work.

“This is to enhance the effectiveness of parliament by giving members a loan which will be paid within five years,” Ateny said in Juba, adding that this is not strange since other governments have done the same.

Ateny said the expenditure on parliamentarians is from the South Sudan Treasury.

South Sudan’s parliament now has 440 members, a number expected to reach 550 when the warring parties finally conclude a peace agreement on Aug. 5 in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

“South Sudan is a sovereign country and you do not need to question the source of the money. It is South Sudan money,” he said.

Several South Sudanese civil society members and locals have questioned the decision to award MPs exorbitant cash as the majority of people wallow in poverty amid UN agencies’ warning that about 7 million people need emergency food aid.

Marial Awou Yol, a lecturer of economics at University of Juba, said the loan would be costly as it will trigger demands for salary increase from other government employees, which the country cannot afford at this time.

And the lawmakers may not be able to repay the loans because of their low salaries, he added.

“How can somebody who gets a salary of 40 to 50 dollars per month pay a car loan of 40,000?” he asked.

South Sudan descended into civil war in late 2013, and the conflict has created one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world.

A 2015 peace agreement was shattered when the warring parties renewed fighting in July 2016 in the capital, forcing rebel leader Riek Machar to flee into exile.

The UN estimates that about 4 million South Sudanese have been displaced internally and externally.

           

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