Many cash machines in the Sudanese capital have run out of banknotes as the government scrambles to prevent economic collapse with a sharp devaluation and emergency austerity measures.
Rising demand for cash due to inflation, lack of trust in the banking system and the central bank’s policy of restricting the money supply to protect the Sudanese pound have all contributed to a liquidity crunch that has worsened in the past 10 days pending new banknote deliveries.
The banknote shortage comes one month after authorities let the value of the pound slide from 29 pounds to the dollar to 47.5 pounds and announced measures to tighten spending.
“I move from place to place until I find a money changer with funds because a large number of the cash machines are empty,” said Ahmed Abdullah, a 42-year-old government employee.
“Why are we suffering like this to get our money?”
Sudan has suffered from a lack of foreign currency since losing three-quarters of its output of oil when the south of the country seceded in 2011. The lifting of two decades of US sanctions in October 2017 did not bring a hoped for reprieve.
Rampant inflation, strict withdrawal limits and a currency crisis had already placed Sudan’s economy in deep trouble before the latest liquidity crisis.
President Omar al-Bashir, who seized power in a coup in 1989 and whose ruling party has said it would nominate him to run for reelection in 2020, has taken a series of steps to address the economic crisis in recent weeks.
A new central bank governor changed the system for setting the exchange rate and a new prime minister announced a 15-month economic reform plan.
Though the streets have been quiet after rare nationwide protests triggered by bread prices early this year, further price rises since last month’s devaluation have triggered fresh grumbling.
Spot checks with traders and market vendors showed that over the past month the cost of a kilo of flour has risen 20 percent, beef 30 percent and potatoes 50 percent. Sudan’s inflation stood at more than 68 percent in September, one of the world’s highest rates.
At the start of the month the government bolstered flour subsidies to try to contain the impact on bread.