INTERVIEW: Renk County to use oil revenue share to improve health services, education
The Renk Community Development Committee has decided to use their share of the oil revenue, to which oil-producing areas are entitled, to improve health service delivery and education in the county.
People in Upper Nile and Unity states and Ruweng Administrative Area are – by law – expected to receive 2 percent and 3 percent shares.
These percentages are to go directly to oil-producing states and the communities living near oil fields, according to the Petroleum Revenue Management Act of 2013.
Radio Tamazuj caught up with Ustaz Kak Langi Kak, the head of the committee in Renk County, and sounded him out about their development plans.
Below are edited excerpts:
Q: To start with, we want to know if you received your 3 percent of the oil revenue share for the communities in oil-producing areas.
A: Thank you once again and let me begin with the introduction of this committee. It is a committee that was established based on the Oil Revenue Act. The act provides for the oil production counties and other counties in the state to form community committees that are expected to contribute with ideas and efforts for the development of the oil production areas.
This committee was formed in August last year at the Upper Nile State level. It is an inclusive committee that comprises 27 members who represent the four Payams of Renk County, namely; Jelhak, Shomedi, Geiger, and Renk. I have the honor to head this committee and it has been approved by the high local authorities. It has also been approved by the petroleum authority and the National Ministry of Finance.
As part of the completion of the committee’s task, we managed to carry out a series of meetings with the concerned national authorities and demanded the share allocated to the communities of the oil-producing areas per the Oil Revenue Act. We came to know that the act allocates 5 percent of the oil revenue to the oil-producing states. 2 percent is allocated to the state government and 3 percent is allocated to local communities. 55 percent of the 3 percent of the community share should go to the oil-producing county which is Malut in Upper Nile. The rest of the state is eligible for only 45 percent of the 3 percent share.
Upper Nile state used to be composed of Malut County as an oil-producing county and Maban and Renk. But now due to some changes, Malut still maintains 55 percent of the 3 percent but the rest of the 13 counties also deserve their share if their committees are formed in the coming days. The completed committees today are those of Malut, Renk, and Maban counties.
The Ministry of Petroleum has a matrix for every oil sale. Whenever oil is sold, it details shares of oil companies, the coming generation, state government, and communities. This fund has been allocated since 2011.
We have gone through the official documents of the revenue and we found that the stated fund is allocated but the payment was suspended by the council of ministers. The decision of the council of ministers to cancel the suspension of payment to the communities happened upon the resumption of oil production in 2020.
The current fund allocated to us is very little compared to what the area deserves from our revenues in the National Ministry of Finance. The money that has been allocated is the sum of USD 460,000 for Renk County. We have received, for the first time in years, USD 190,000 in our account. Due to the economic and financial policies that have been approved by the council of ministers to control the flow of the hard currency in the country, the central bank doesn’t pay to local accounts in hard currency. That is why we were left with no option rather than get paid in South Sudanese pounds.
As people who have projects to be implemented, we might need US dollars to buy something. We protested earlier on this matter because the official rate in the bank was 18 against 65 in the black markets. But now the official rate in the bank has been increased to 33 and 35 in the black market. So we thought the difference was not that huge and we agreed to take our money which is the equivalent of SSP 63 million. The funds are now in our account in the central bank.
Q: What about the funds of the previous years, have you asked about that?
A: The funds are with the Ministry of Finance and we know that every country has its financial policies. So we regard this generally as depositing cash with the ministry. It is a huge amount of money that I can’t expose figure now but the country has priority policies for payment. So what we need at the moment is to cooperate with the ministry of finance to pay this money per our developmental projects that we have already presented. The law says this fund is supposed to be paid according to projects in the county.
Q: What are your development priorities at the moment?
A: As an oil-producing area, our community services are too bad. Therefore, Renk County citizens are concerned about health, education, and water services in urban and rural areas. So, the USD 190,000 that we have received in our account is too little compared to the needs of our people. We prioritized the health services that our citizens need.
After the notification of the payment by the ministry of finance, we met with heads of the sub-committees here in the state and briefed them about the cash. Despite being little, there is a need to show our citizens that there are benefits in oil production and there is a need to show that through developmental projects. So we decided to give priority to health services. We only have three hospitals namely; Renk Civil Hospital, the Military Hospital, and Eye Hospital.
Our plan to develop the health sector includes recruiting health workers, specialized doctors. Children have been suffering every rainy season from colds, coughs, and other diseases. So we need to bring more health workers and to improve modern health equipment for these hospitals.
Our citizens have been suffering and paying a lot of money to go all the way to Sudan for health services. We keep on receiving dead bodies coming from Sudan. So, we are going to focus now on health and followed by education because our children are now getting an education in Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya. So, instead of letting our children migrate, we should provide teachers, books and improve the educational environment here.
Q: What guarantee is there that the ministry of finance is going to continue paying the 3 percent oil revenue share to the community?
A: There is hope that we as community development committees in the state will cooperate with the ministry of finance because the matrix of payment is very clear and it is upon the ministry of finance to do the payment per its priority. If we are serious about providing our citizens with services, this will encourage the government to cooperate with the committees in the future. We are serious about giving services to our people.
Q: Any parting shot?
A: My message is that the oil resources are enough to create a change in our county if there is cooperation among the community and present and suggest developmental projects that serve citizens themselves.
Any talk on corruption practices is too early now because this is the beginning of the payment of the funds. Through our search, I didn’t find that the money was paid previously to the states. So I hope that the payment will continue so that we witness the economic change that matches Renk County's reputation.
Our strategic plan is to benefit from this money and improve the agricultural projects which is the main activity of the county. Renk County is regarded as the food basket for the whole of South Sudan and we are capable of improving our agriculture. Through the little resources, we can even change from agriculture to manufacturing and instead of exporting the sesame and importing oil, we can establish local factories to do that and have an economic change in our people.