The damage of declining public investment on services

Dr. Hassan Abdel Ati; Dr. Galal El Din El Tayeb
National Civic Forum

Liberalisation and privatisation policies, and the new terms of international trade, have had negative impact on the national economy and the socio-economic status of the population. The decline in public investment in services has reflected negatively on human development, as indicated by the decline in calorie intake and the increase of the population under the poverty line. It was also reflected in the almost total failure to realise any of the government’s targets in the fields of health, education, drinking water or sanitation.

 Factors affecting human development

In1996, the proportion of people under the poverty line in northern Sudan stood at84.6% in the urban areas and 93.3% for the rural population and no state had arate lower than 76% for urban centres and 80% for rural areas. Poverty andnutritional deficiency rates are expected to be much higher in war-torn southernSudan, for which accurate figures are not available. The civil war, which hasextended geographically and increased in intensity, has had very high costs interms of human lives, with an estimated 2.9 million dead since 1983. The war hasdestroyed natural and financial resources while generating social and politicalinstability. Environmental degradation caused by war, drought and mismanagementof resources has also resulted in lower bio-productivity.

Liberalisationand privatisation policies, and the new terms of international trade, have hadnegative impact on the national economy and the socio-economic status of thepopulation. That impact is reflected especially in the collapse of the nationalmanufacturing enterprises, because of their weak competitive position vis-à-visimports. The economic embargo, declared and undeclared, against Sudan for mostof the 1990s, has curbed the inflow of development aid, loans and investment.This has been the result of the ruling regime's international and foreignpolicies.

OfficialDevelopment Assistance (ODA) per capita fell from USD 32 in 1989 to USD 3 by1995 and to less than USD 0.50 by 1997. The suspension of ODA and limited flowof Foreign Direct Investment in the productive sector also contributed to theoutflow of capital and savings (to buy imports) at a far greater rate than theinflow generated from exports. Foreign loans, far from solving economicproblems, have themselves become an additional problem by causing a reduction inpublic expenditure. Sudan’s external debts had grown to USD 24 billion, by theend of 1999, a rise of 77.4% over ten years, with a massive annual debt serviceof over USD 1.3 billion.[1]

Employment,wages, child labour and vagrancy

Accordingto the Ministry of Manpower statistics (1990), the national unemployment rate is16.5%; the rate is 13.0% for males and 28.0% for females, and 15.5% in ruralareas and 19.6% in urban areas. Ironically, in the states where the publicsector is the largest employer, unemployment is higher, mainly because of thelaying-off of workers in conjunction with the requirements of StructuralAdjustment Programmes (SAPs) and privatisation policies.

Thefact that per capita income increased from the equivalent of USD 284 in 1996 toUSD 288 in 1999 is rather misleading, as the purchasing power of money hasseriously deteriorated through high inflation. Escalating prices and a freeze onwages are indicators of the deteriorating conditions of public sector employeesand wage earners in general, and explain the exodus from the public sector.

Workingchildren constitute 10% the total labour force and 24% of the total childpopulation. Anothersocial phenomenon, closely linked to child labour, is child vagrancy andhomelessness. Available figures suggest some 66,000 children in Sudan are livingin the streets, a rise of 5.4% between 1996 and 1999. This number is estimatedto have risen by 13.9% in 2002.


Morbidityand mortality under-recorded

Theleading five diseases (malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, nutritional deficiency andsepticemia) have together a morbidity rate 20.2% higher than the national rate,and more than 64% higher than the overall rate. However, these figures onlyreflect the sick people who are admitted to hospitals and recorded. A largenumber of disease incidents are not reported because of geographicalinaccessibility and lack of health awareness. Many people have no access tohealth institutions, particularly after the introduction of the cost recoveryprogramme within the SAPs package that was aggressively implemented between1996 and 1998.

In1997 it was estimated that 98% of the children under five and 81% of mothers inNorth Darfur had anaemia.[2]While the infant mortality rate shows a downward trend in the northern regionsduring the period from 1993 to 1999, the rate has increased for southern Sudan.The lowest rate recorded is in Khartoum, an indicator of the urban concentrationof services. The maternal mortality rate has risen sharply from 365 per 100,000live births in 1995 to 504 in 1999, an increase of 38% in four years.[3]


Accordingto official statistics, diagnosed AIDS cases rose from two in 1986 to 2,607 in1999 to 8,222 (4,190confirmed AIDS cases, 4,032 HIV carriers) inApril 2002.[4]The average annual rate of increase between 1996 and 1999 had been as high as27% and the prevalence rate is now 1.6%. Over 71% of the diagnosed cases aremales, of whom 93% are in the 15-49 year-age group. During the last two years,the spread of AIDS that was denied before, was officially recognised, and morerecently the government formed a council entrusted with taking the necessarymeasures to combat the spread of AIDS. Promotion of safe sexual behaviour,awareness and education seems to be the most effective means of fighting thedisease, but very little has yet been done in this respect.

Basiceducation: dropout and absenteeism

Schooldropouts and absenteeism are serious problems. The average annual completionrates for the period 1996-1999 were 53.6% for both sexes, 50.8% for boys, and57.2% for girls. School facilities (e.g., buildings, teaching materials) andtraining of teachers, which directly affect academic attainment and educationalefficiency, are extremely poor in the vast majority of schools. The percentageof trained teachers in northern Sudan, which was 75% in 1991, dropped to 68.3%in 1996 and to 54.7% in 1999.[5]Regional variations are enormous, e.g. 86% in West Darfur, 67.1% in NorthKordofan, and 50% in Gezira State.

Water:90% of epidemics due to lack of drinking water

Theoverall water situation in the country is grim. Based on World HealthOrganisation estimates of per capita needs, current supply constitutesrespectively 58.2%,24.4% and 35.9% of urban, rural and total water requirements.[6]According to the WHO, about 90% of major epidemics in the Sudan are water-borneand water-related, causing the death of some 40% of children under five years ofage.[7]Sudan’s government has set the goal of universal access to safe drinking waterand sanitary means of human waste disposal. To achieve that goal, theComprehensive National Strategy (CNS) (1992-2002) gives priority to thefollowing strategies: protection of water from pollution; increased communityinvolvement; low-cost appropriate technology; and the availability of 18 litresper capita per day (L/C/D) for rural areas and 90 L/C/D for urbancentres.[8]

Ruralwater supply

Thetotal volume of rural water supply in all states of Sudan is estimated to be528,336 cubic metres yielding anaverage per capita daily supply of 0.025 cubic metres for rural population. A sizable portion of supply issometimes lost to evaporation and waste. The contribution of boreholes to thetotal supply is most significant, amounting to 69.2%, followed by hand pumps(12.1%), thesystem of rainwater collecting known as hafirs(11.8%), sand filters (6.4%) and wells (0.5%).[9]

Someregions, especially rural areas, have an acute shortage. Average per capitadaily consumption ranges between a maximum of 35.3 litres in Khartoum and aminimum of only 2.3 in West Darfur State. For potable water the maximum andminimum figures in Sudan are 35.4 and 1.5 L/C/D respectively.

Therural water sector has depended for a long time on foreign funding, with somelocal community participation. Shrinking public investment has adverselyaffected progress in rural water supply programmes. The three-year programmecarried out under the CNS had very low achievement rates during the period1992-1995. The higher rates of achievement in the hand pump programme areprimarily a result of the strong support from UNICEF, effective communityparticipation and the appropriateness and cost effectiveness of the technologyused.

Urbanwater supply

Thelast decade witnessed a surge in rural-to-urban migration. The urban populationgrew from 6.8 million in 1993 to 10.3 million in 1999 (a 51.5% increase). Thishas increased the pressure on the already limited urban water services. Thetarget of the government is to provide piped water supply connections to 85% ofthe urban population by the year 2002, with the remaining 15% being served bypublic stand posts.

Targetedurban water consumption (90 L/C/D) had not been met up to 1999 in any of the 26states of the country. The achievement rate was 56.8% for all the urbanpopulation; the highest rate was in Khartoum (81%) and the lowest recorded ratewas in the Bahr El Ghazal region (13.6%). As for the type of supply, about 30%of all urban population had connections in 1999 (35.1% of the target) and nostate had over 40% of its urban population with house connections. Thus, none ofthe CNS goals of urban water availability, type and quality of supply areexpected to be achieved by the end of the CNS period (2002). Nor has the issueof regional disparities been addressed.


Thedecline in public investment in services has reflected negatively on humandevelopment. This is indicated by the drop in per capita calorie intake and theincrease in the already high percentage of the population under the povertyline. It is also reflected in the almost total failure to realise any of thetargets set by the CNS in the fields of health, education, drinking water orsanitation. Several trends merit special mention:

·        Despite GDP growth, the positive trade balance and the increase inforeign debt, there is a decline in the development budget and socialexpenditure. Possible explanations are the high expenditure on the war (defenceand security) and the halting of ODA and trade sanctions the country was subjectto for most of the 1990s.

·        Although incidence of disease was reduced, infant and maternal mortalityhave increased, which can only be attributed to poverty and/or poor services.

·        The marked increase in child vagrancy is very much linked to the decreasein school enrolment and high dropout rates. With the increasing number of girlsin the street as well, this poses the threat of spread of AIDS.

·         All the indicators usedconfirm that great regional disparities persist.


AliAbdalla Ali, ForeignDirect Investment in Sudan 1990-1999,unpublished report, Financial Investment Bank, August, 2000.

FederalMinistry of Education, StatisticalYearbook,1996 and 1999, Khartoum.

FederalMinistry of Health, E.P.I.,Annual Statistical Report, 1996 and1999, Khartoum.

Governmentof Sudan, Comprehensive National Strategy 1992-2002, Khartoum, KUP, 1992.

Governmentof Sudan, Comprehensive National Strategy 1992-2002, Reports of theSubgroup on Human Resources Development, 1995-1998, Khartoum.

Governmentof Sudan, Country Strategic Report, 1997 and 1999, Khartoum.

Governmentof Sudan, EconomicSurvey,1994 and 1995, Departmentof Statistics, Khartoum.

Governmentof Sudan, FourthPopulation Census of Sudan 1993,Department of Statistics, Khartoum, 1995.

Governmentof Sudan, States Encyclopaedia 2000,Khartoum, 2000.

Ministryof Manpower, AnnualStatistical Report,1996 and 1999, Khartoum.

NationalWater Corporation, Annual Report 1999, Khartoum.

StrategicStudies Centre (Sudan), SudanStrategic Report,1998, 1999 and 2000, Khartoum (in Arabic)

UNFPA,Annual Report, 1996 and 1999,Khartoum.

UNICEF,SituationAnalysis of Women and Children in the Sudan,Country Office, Khartoum, 1996.

WorldBank, Sudan at a Glance, 2000.


[1] H. A. Abdel Ati, "International Commitments and Developments since 1992 and their Implications for the Implementation of Agenda 21”, in Sustainable Development in Sudan Ten Years After Rio Summit: a Civil Society Perspective, Khartoum, 2002.

[2] UNICEF, Situation Analysis of Women and Children in the Sudan, Country office, Khartoum, 1999.

[3] A. Ali, The Role of Population Education in the Process of Family Welfare in the Sudan, Ph.D. thesis, Geography Department, Faculty of Arts, University of Khartoum. 2001.

[4] See the Ockenden Report in Abdel Ati, op. cit.

[5] UNICEF, 1999, op. cit.

[6] Water and Sanitation Project 2000; Tables 28 and 34.

[7] UNICEF, 1999, op. cit.

[8] WHO puts the need at 20 L/C/D for rural areas, 100 for Khartoum and 80 for the other urban centres.

[9] UNICEF, 1999, op. cit.