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Sudan turns to oil, China, and food exports to ease economic crisis

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Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Reuters

(Read caption) A sheep vendor waits for customers at a market, ahead of the Eid-al-Adha feast, in Khartoum November 3, 2011. Sheep sales have come to a halt as high prices deter many Sudanese to buy sheep on the occasion of the Muslim pilgrimage haj. Traders blame bad weather and higher costs for the prices to rise.

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Even before South Sudan became independent in July of this year, (North) Sudan was suffering from high inflation and other economic woes. Inflation rates began to climb in the winter of 2010-2011 (.pdf, see figure 6), driven in part by rising costs for staple foods. The loss of the South (which produced around 75 percent of the unified Sudan’s oil) compounded Sudan’s economic problems, and inflation has remained high (around 20 percent), though it fell slightly in October. Continued violence and uncertainty in border areas and in Darfur has no doubt added to economic volatility.

In July, the government in Khartoum announced austerity measures and launched a three-year economic recovery program. Now Khartoum is taking at least three more steps to address the economic crisis:

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  1. Boosting oil production from the current level of around 117,000 barrels per day to 180,000 bpd in 2012
  2. Upping its food exports
  3. Maintaining and deepening its relationship with China

Khartoum’s political problems, especially the issues connected to its relations with the newly independent South Sudan, are central concerns for the government. But the economic crisis has huge domestic importance, and the course of Sudan’s internal politics in 2012 could be strongly affected by the success or failure of the measures listed above.

– Alex Thurston is a PhD student studying Islam in Africa at Northwestern University and blogs at Sahel Blog.