It was always expected that South Sudan would have problems starting on the long road to economic development. The country is starting from a very low infrastructure base, its people are very poor and have had very limited education, the country is landlocked, meaning that any international trade is going to have high transport costs attached, and the country’s ongoing conflict with Sudan drains it of resources and effectively cuts off oil revenues which constitute almost all of its income.
So when the looting of the country’s finances by government officials is added into the mix, the country’s prospects for survival look very poor indeed. The country’s current plan is to build an oil pipeline through Kenya to the coast, and in the meantime stretch out the country’s cash reserves as far as they will go using austerity budgeting. However that plan will not work if venal officials help themselves to the country’s money.
According to president Salva Kiir, officials have stolen some $4 billion from state resources. Most of the money has been taken out of the country and deposited in foreign accounts, with some being used to purchase properties. While grand corruption by high-ranking officials has been an established practice for many years in other East African countries, the possible consequences for South Sudan at this delicate juncture in its history are severe.