Sudan’s central bank steeply devalued the country’s currency, as part of a broader effort to win debt relief and revive the struggling economy.
The move was demanded by international lenders but threatens to pile on more hardship in a country whose inflation rate topped 300% in January. The currency liberalization is a key component of the economic reforms planned by Sudan’s military and civilian rulers, who began transitioning the African nation to democracy after decades of authoritarian rule.
The central bank instructed banks and exchange bureaus to adopt the new system immediately, according to a statement on its website. The move essentially aims to stamp out a black market and control currency volatility in a nation with a foreign debt load of around $60 billion.
The change is critical to helping Sudan win some debt relief, Finance Minister Jibril Ibrahim told reporters, while acknowledging that it will lead to a “soaring of prices.” He said “precautions” would be taken to help cushion the impact, but offered no details.
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The central bank has yet to announce the new official rate for what it said would be a “flexible managed float.” Bank of Khartoum, the country’s largest lender, said on its website that the new rate was 375 pounds per dollar, compared with the previous official rate of 55 pounds. The new rate is near the one that had been offered on the black market.
The International Monetary Fund in September had approved a staff-monitored program for the country, which faces daunting challenges including shortages of staples, soaring inflation and political tensions.
Sudan has said it will raise spending by about 60%, to 1.02 trillion pounds ($18.6 billion) in 2021, to help the economy.
The central bank, in a letter to local lenders, said their rates must fall within a range of 5% below or above the official one, based on supply and demand.
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