Saturday, 13 June 2009

You don’t have to mean it, you just got to say it…

Hard Currency. Cash. Bones. Clams. Call them what you may. They make the world go round… especially in the neighbourhoods of Amarat, Riyard and Khartoum Two. Sometimes on a very hot and bothersome Sudanese afternoon, you can smell them in the air (they smell a bit like generating fuel, funny that).

I was talking to my friend Waleed yesterday and he thinks that the banishment of the NGOs might have had something to do with cash.

I think he’s right (well a bit).

Hard currency is extremely important in countries with economic sanctions. It keeps the wheels of commerce grinding along. This government needs hard currency to enter the country so it can keep the economy going, or perhaps it is more appropriate to say to keep the spending habits of the rich going…

When they kicked out the NGOs, the government required them to pay all their workers six months severance- which was good for the workers, but bad for the NGOs. I remember people complaining about how the government was seizing all the money in the NGO bank accounts, but according to a friend working for one of the NGOs, their bank accounts were bone dry; they had to bring in more money from outside to pay this huge sum of money. A LOT OF EXTRA CASH.

So now I am wondering how much of a knee-jerk irrational decision it really was. Maybe their banishment was about getting hard currency into the economy. Maybe not completely…. Maybe just a bit.

And maybe the fact that they are being allowed to come back has something to do with the fact that there is a hard currency crisis in the country at the moment. The black market is tight and the price of dollars has shot up. People are in desperate need of cash. Especially the rich. Especially the ones that matter to the government.

I think this government is very smart. They can see that they need more clams floating about the economy. Where do clams come from?

No, not the ocean, silly. I am not speaking nautically.

They come from the kingdom of khawagastan.

It makes you realise the full impact that the UN and the NGOs have in Sudan. It is not just their work that changes the place, but their cash and their good time living.

I am feeling a bit naive to have thought that the government was going to feel the impact of the departed NGOs in the form of angry people on the periphery who had lost their programs. They are feeling the impact in their own pockets- or perhaps more appropriately (because their own pockets are presumably well lined) in the pockets of their political constituents.

Might it all be about cash in the end or have I caught the cynics bug? 

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