Sudan to discuss debt relief, investments in Paris conference
May 16 - 2021 KHARTOUM
PM Abdallah Hamdok at his office, July 2020 (SUNA)
Tomorrow, the high-level Paris conference on investment in Sudan will start in the French capital. PM Abdallah Hamdok and other top Sudanese officials will be attending the conference, hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, along with representatives of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the Paris Club.
The aim of the Paris meetings is to re-integrate Sudan into the international community following its removal from the US list of State Sponsors of Terrorism in December last year, and to draw investments, in particular in the fields of energy, infrastructure, agriculture, mining, and telecommunications.
PM (and economist) Hamdok will address the sessions on economic reforms in Sudan and modernising the banking system, as well as the round table discussions on investment opportunities, where the Sudanese delegation will present five projects "ready for investment".
The Sudanese delegation consists of 31 people, including Hamdok and a number of ministers, as well as technocrats, specialists, and media professionals. Yet, Hashem Matar, President of the Sudanese Businessmen and Employers Federation, decided on Tuesday to boycott the Paris conference in protest against the violent break-up of a peaceful vigil in Khartoum the day before, organised to commemorate the June 3 massacre in 2019.
On Tuesday, the Arab Institute for Sciences will open an exhibition on the Sudanese revolution that started in December 2018 and led to the ousting of the 30-year-long dictatorship of President Omar Al Bashir on April 11 the following year. 
Debt relief
In an interview with AFP in Khartoum on May 11, Hamdok said he hopes Sudan will be able to settle its $60 billion foreign debt bill this year by securing relief and investment agreements at the Paris conference.
“All legislative obstacles and those related to the [US SST] embargo have been completely resolved,” he said. “We have already settled the World Bank arrears and those of the African Development Bank. In Paris, we hope to settling the International Monetary Fund arrears.”
The debts to the African Development Bank were cleared through a bridging loan worth $425 million from Sweden, UK, and Ireland. The World Bank arrears could be settled with a US $1.1 billion bridging loan.
Hamdok explained that the French capital was chosen as venue for the conference, as it hosts the Paris Club, “our largest creditor, and all members of the Paris Club will be present at the conference.” Sudan's debts to the Paris Club, which includes major creditor countries, make up about 38 percent of the $60 billion arrears.
Measures taken
The Al Bashir regime (1989-2019) has left the country with a collapsing economy and a shocking lack of hard currency needed for the import of basic consumer goods. Inflation is soaring and the Sudanese Pound continues to fall, despite the levelling of the official forex rates with those at the parallel market in February.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reported in February that most areas of Sudan will face acute food insecurity this year. A study of Sudan’s National Council for Child Welfare last year revealed that one in three Sudanese children is stunted because of malnutrition.
The government of Hamdok has taken tough measures such as subsidy cuts and introduced a managed currency float to qualify for an IMF debt relief programme. These unpopular measures were necessary to move towards debt relief by the end of the year, the PM said.
Earlier this week, Radio Dabanga reported that the Council of Ministers approved the establishment of a gold stock market and an agricultural crops stock market.
On Monday, the IMF approved a financing plan that "will help mobilise the resources needed for the IMF to cover its share of debt relief to Sudan". The UK announced on Wednesday that it would provide a £148m bridging loan to help Sudan clear African Development Bank arrears.
 
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