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S. Sudan evicts civil servants from hotels to cut costs
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Jan 2, 2009 - 3:07:46 AM

S. Sudan evicts civil servants from hotels to cut costs    
Written by Badru Mulumba   
January 1, 2009: As the hospitality industry in Juba ushered the new year with pomp and pageantry, what was in the mind of many officials was how to cushion  the industry from losses in the coming year.

The Government of Southern Sudan on Wendesday ordered eviction of all public servants accommodated in hotels by January 1, 2009, a move industry players see as a blow to the struggling industry.

The order, triggered by partly the world’s economic crisis, is likely to leave some hotels reeling from losses moving into 2009, as reduced competition sets off a drop in room prices. But it could also spark a rise in housing prices in a city that doesn’t have many housing structures.  

Hotels and accommodation sites in Juba generally depend on the government staff—from directors to  their assistants at ministries — for their earnings, for up to $300 a night.

“All the employees who are being accommodated in the hotels have to leave immediately,” said Finance Minister Kuol Athain. “By January 1, 2009, nobody will be accommodated in the hotels.”  

 The decision to house government staff in hotels was taken during an extraordinary ministerial meeting in March 2006. Five decades of civil war, with the latest round lasting 21 years, wiped out most of the infrastructure in Southern Sudan, leaving government staff with no houses.  

But many Sudanese say the staff has stayed too long in hotels, and that the government should have taken the initiative to build houses for its employees  and improve living conditions of the ordinary people instead of wasting public money.  

However, Finance minister Kuol Athain said the estates have never been constructed because there was no Land Act.

Land is still a touchy issue in Sudan, but the Land Act that was recently passed is expected to streamline land issues.

In a circular issued on the eve of 2009, by the Ministry of Public Service, undersecretaries are also directed to stop payment to hotels.

“They must forthwith stop paying GoSS employees resident in hotels with immediate effect,” according to the circular, signed by Martin Elia Lomuro, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister and currently acting Public Service Minister.

“Failure to comply with the resolutions of the GoSS, as reinforced by this ministerial order, implies corrupt indulgence and constitutes a serious violation punishable by law.”

The circular also asks hotel managers in Juba to immediately provide the ministry with the particulars of government employees in hotels, including payment details, within 72 hours from the date of issuance of the order. The government says the eviction plan would “protect the inalienable right of the people of Southern Sudan to good governance.”

It was not immediately clear how much the government hoped to save  from the eviction plan– and the finance minister said ministries often pay the bill through different accounts, making it hard to approximate the cost.

“It depends on ministry by ministry that are paying,” Mr Athain said. “But we are going to save a lot of money.”

But while the circular was issued December 31, the decision to evict staff from hotels was taken by the ministerial order passed in November.

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