Lawmakers representing the SPLM-IO were absent during the tabling of the draft national budget for the fiscal year 2022/2023 at the transitional national legislature on Wednesday.
The main peace party boycotted the crucial session on a budget meant to “consolidate peace and stabilize the economy to realize economic growth and sustainable development” across South Sudan.
The Minister of Finance and Planning presented the 1.3 trillion South Sudanese Pounds budget estimate to a joint session of the transitional national legislative assembly and the Council of States.
Agak Achuil Lual said the “FY 2022/2023 budget gives priority to the implementation of the revitalized peace agreement on the resolution of conflict in South Sudan, and infrastructure in general and roads.”
The budget briefcase was handed over to the Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly, Rt.Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba.
But legislators from the SPLM-IO were no show during the presentation of the budget by Minister Agak.
Nathaniel Oyet who is the Deputy chairman of the SPLM-IO and also Deputy Speaker of the national legislative assembly said their absence from the tabling of the budget was deliberate.
“We don’t want to pretend in parliament that the things are moving well…So the boycott is actually one way of protecting the text and the spirit of the agreement so that the agreement achieve its objectives,” he said.
He did not, however, explain in what way the SPLM-IO is “protecting” the agreement by boycotting the budget presentation.
John Agany, the chairperson of the Specialized Committee on Information at the parliament castigated the SPLM-IO for abstaining from the Wednesday session.
“The passing of budget is compulsory and necessary. Our brothers in [SPLM]-IO should come to their senses and join us, it is not too late. Today [Wednesday] is only the beginning, if they make a decision to join us tomorrow, they are welcome. We are not here to reject them,” he said.
In response, Nathaniel Oyet insisted that they will not attend sessions they believe are against the spirit of the revitalized peace deal. He also criticized the Wednesday sitting as lacking political goodwill.
“The tabling of budget bill without the participation of the SPLM-IO members of parliament is what we regard as the lack of good faith from the side of SPLM-IG members. It kills the spirit of the revitalized peace agreement, the spirit of consensus and also the spirit of the revitalized government of national unity.”
In a counter, Agany said the business of the parliament can not be held back by political decisions of individual parties.
“We are five parties to the agreement beginning with the SPLM, SPLM-IO, SSOA, OPP and FDs. These are political categories that constitute the whole national legislative assembly and the executive and any other wing of the government. So should any one fallout for any reason that is known to them, it will not stop the government operation.”
This is not the first time the SPLM-IO has boycotted a parliamentary session.
In June, Dr Riek Machar’s party walked out of the debate to pass the Political Parties Amendment Bill 2022. It claimed the bill was passed despite their reservations. SPLM-IO said it had raised concerns over the modalities of financing the political parties and the conditions for a party to be legally registered. President Salva Kiir later said the matter would be resolved at the Presidency.
Nathaniel Oyet told The Radio Community [TRC] that any debate or the passage of a bill without the involvement of the SPLM-IO will be considered as half-baked.
“As long as there is no consensus on the bills and reforms, we don’t regard these laws as credible laws because it will be laws that have not captured the reforms described by the agreement,” he stated.
“For us we don’t really pay attention to that,” Agany said in response to Oyet’s statement. “We pay attention to what’s amounting to our people because we can’t stop the nation from operating because of one party’s discontent.”
In July, the IGAD Partners Forum advised against continuous bickering among members of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity.
The Forum said it is concerned by incidents of parties boycotting constitutional processes when opposed to actions related to the 2018 peace implementation.
“The continuing boycott by the SPLM-IO of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly over the passage of the political parties act is not helpful at all,” said Jelte Van Wieren, outgoing Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherland.
John Agany urged the SPLM-IO to reconsider its methods of agitating for reforms.
“SPLM-IO are counterpart to the agreement, but they should also take the interest of our people as the first priority. They should not have a party’s priority in the government.”
After the presentation by the Minister of Finance and Planning on Wednesday, the August House will break into 5 clusters; Governance, Economic, Service, Infrastructure, Gender, and Youth cluster to scrutinize the budget and report back within 21 days.
Their response to the proposed budget will be submitted to the chairperson of Specialized Committee on Finance and Economic Planning at the parliament.
“We need to expedite this work because the calendar of our fiscal budget is behind and we need to really expedite the process,” said Rt.Hon. Jemma Nunu Kumba, Speaker of the Transitional National Legislative Assembly.
The passing of the budget will take 45 days from the day of tabling.
South Sudan’s financial year runs from July 1 to June 30 each year. But this constitutional process has not been adhered to since 2014.
The FY2022/2023 budget has been prepared in a challenging environment of generalized rise in the global prices of goods and services.
The U.S dollars has appreciated against the South Sudanese Pounds with the black market selling at nearly 70,000 SSP to $100.