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Opposition kicks as Sudanese govt. plans subsidy removal on fuel, basic commodities (Corrected)

Opposition parties in Sudan have vowed to embark on massive protests if the ruling National Congress Party of President Omar Al-Bashir carries out its plan to remove subsidies on fuel and other basic commodities.

The government said the decision to remove subsidies was spurred by economic realities and developments across the country.

But Kamal Omar, Spokesman for the National Consensus Forces Alliance (NCFA) and political secretary of the opposition Popular Congress Party (PCP), was Tuesday quoted by the Al-Ayam independent daily newspaper as saying that opposition parties would organize demonstrations and sit-ins in protest against the “planned hike in prices”.

“We consider any increase in the prices of commodities a red line and we will resist it by all means, including popular demonstrations and sit-ins by in public parks and streets,” Omar was quoted as saying at a meeting of the NCFA parties on Monday at the headquarters of the opposition Arab Ba’athist Party.

Omar said the government was not subsidizing those commodities, indicating that the government had made a profit of 5 billion Sudanese pounds (about US$ 830 million dollars) last year from fuel, describing insinuation by the government that it was subsidizing those commodities as “political exploitation”.

The NCFA and PCP official accused the government of forcing the people to bear the burden of its spending on “wars” in Darfur, the Blue Nile and South Kordufan, security operations and the losses in national budget suffered from secession of the South.

PANA reports that the removal of subsidies from fuel and wheat was approved at a meeting of the ruling National Congress Party (NCP) and other pro-government political parties on Sunday.

Dr. Hassan Ahmed Taha, the head of the Economic Committee of the Ruling Party, argued that the government could not possibly continue subsidies, particularly for fuel.

He was quoted by the independent daily newspaper, Al Sudani, on Tuesday, as saying that the current money spent on subsidies would be channeled into the current budget deficit which he did not specify, raise basic salaries, widen the basis for social welfare and pay for Sudan’s foreign debts commitments.

He complained that the country imports some two million tones of wheat annually.

The subsidy-removal plan was the brainchild of the Finance Minister, Ali Mahmood Abdul Rasool.

In a separate move, the Sudanese Communist Party (SCP) issued a strongly-worded statement, rejecting the planned hikes and urged the “masses” to resist them by all means.

According to the government, the subsidy removal will take effect from January 2014 when its new budget will be presented.

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