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South Sudan Annual Budget: What is the status of the country’s two legislative houses?

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The Covid-19 pandemic coupled with low oil prices have drastically affected South Sudan’s financial calendar.

For the past few months, South Sudan has been running without an annual budget as the Cabinet approved supplementary budgetary allocations to keep the country running.

Traditionally, South Sudan’s financial year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Last week, Minister for Finance and Economic Planning Athian Diing Athian presented to the Council of Ministers budget estimates for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The proposals were supposed to be submitted to the National Assembly not later than May 15.

Meanwhile, the country’s two legislative houses — the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States — were supposed to have been reconstituted according to the revitalized peace agreement signed two years ago.

But the delay in implementing critical provisions in the deal meant some institutions, including the national legislature, could not play their roles.

Information Minister Michael Makuei explained that in case of any delays, the Constitution is used for reference.

“The government operations are continuing. There is already a provision in the Constitution that in case of any delay, the president can order the continuation of the budget, in accordance with the budget of last year until the new budget comes out,” he said.

Years of civil war, a drop in global oil prices and the Covid-19 pandemic have ravaged the young economy.

Before the conflict and the Covid-19 pandemic, South Sudan was drilling over 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day, which has now dropped to 180,000 barrels per day.

Jame Kolok, who heads the Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance advocacy group, said any move by the parliament will be a violation of the 2018 peace deal.

Mr Kolok said should the current parliament pass the national budget in the absence of lawmakers from other parties, which constitute the unity government, it will have contravened the agreement.

“If the parliament proceeds to pass the budget, it will be in contravention of the, deal,” he said.

Paul Yoane, who heads the Information Committee of the Transitional National Parliament, said the House will receive the budget for deliberations and approval. “The concerns about parliament being illegitimate is wrong. We are not yet dissolved, which makes us legitimate,” he said.

According to the 2018 peace agreement, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is expected to dissolve the current parliament. The deal requires parties to submit names of nominees to the National Constitutional Amendment Committee for verification. Afterwards, a verified list is forwarded to the President for the appointment of new members of the transitional national parliament.

The National Legislature consists of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly and the Council of States. The agreement stipulates that the parliament shall be expanded from 400 to 550 members.

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