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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 November 2018

Sudan's Omar Al Bashir sacks entire cabinet, appoints new PM

President takes drastic step as Sudan's ailing economy sees the cost of food more than double in the past year
Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir speaks in Khartoum, Sudan, March 2, 2017. Reuters

Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir on Sunday sacked the country's 31-member cabinet and appointed a new prime minister to tackle a growing economic crisis in the African country.

Bashir's decision to fire the entire cabinet was approved by the top leaders of his ruling National Congress Party (NCP) at a late-night meeting.

The decision comes as Sudan faces a growing economic crisis led by an acute shortage of foreign currency and surging inflation of more than 65 per cent.

Faisal Hassan Ibrahim, a top aide to President Bashir, said: "The economic situation needs to be resolved and for this President Bashir decided to cut the government at all levels."

"President Bashir has decided to have a smaller, 21-member government," he added.

The outgoing cabinet was led by PM Bakri Hassan Saleh, who was also the first vice president.

President Bashir appointed Moutaz Mousa Abdallah, who was the irrigation minister, as the new prime minister. Mr Saleh will continue as first vice president.

President Bashir also appointed Mohamed Osman Yousif Kiber as vice president.

Mr Ibrahim said Mr Abdallah had been tasked with forming the new cabinet, but did not know when he would be sworn in.

Earlier on Sunday, the presidency announced President Bashir's decision to sack the government of Mr Saleh, saying it was "in order to fix the situation facing the country".

"He [President Bashir] will form a new government that can once again bring hope to the Sudanese people," the presidency added.

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Sudan's worsening economy saw the cost of food items and other products more than double over the past year. The Sudanese pound plunged against the US dollar on the foreign currency market.

The central bank twice devalued the pound this year, and it now trades at 41 to the dollar on the black market. The official rate is 28 to the dollar.

Sudan's economic crisis was highlighted for the first time in April when foreign minister at the time Ibrahim Ghandour announced in parliament that he had been unable to pay his staff for months due to a shortage of funds. He was immediately sacked.

Days after President Bashir dismissed Mr Ghandour, he announced a major reshuffle that saw the oil, interior, agriculture, youth and sports and justice ministers replaced. That reshuffle was also aimed at tackling the economic crisis.

Sudan's economic troubles have worsened despite the United States in October lifting its decades-old trade embargo on the African country.

Expectations that the lifting of the sanctions would help revive Sudan's ailing economy have failed to be met so far.

Although Washington lifted the embargo, it still kept Sudan on its list of "state sponsors of terrorism," a factor which officials say keeps investors away.

Sudan's economy is already suffering from the loss of three-quarters of its oil resources when South Sudan gained independence in 2011.

The World Bank and other global financial institutions urged Sudan to swiftly adopt structural reforms to revive its ailing economy.

Sudan's average GDP growth between 1998 and 2008 was above six per cent, after which it steadily declined.

Previous efforts at economic reform have proven contentious.

An attempt in September 2013 to cut fuel subsidies led to bloody confrontations between anti-austerity protesters and the security forces. Dozens of people were killed in Khartoum.

In January Sudan again experienced sporadic anti-government protests after a rise in food prices.

The authorities swiftly moved in to curb these protests by arresting several activists and opposition leaders.

In August, the NCP chose President Bashir as its candidate for 2020 presidential election.