Omar al-Bashir. Picture: REUTERS
Omar al-Bashir. Picture: REUTERS

Khartoum — President Omar al-Bashir dissolved the Sudanese government on Sunday and named a new prime minister, moves aimed at fixing a crisis-hit economy battered in recent months by shortages of bread, fuel and hard currency.

Bashir named Motazz Moussa as prime minister. He replaces Bakri Hassan Saleh, appointed in 2017 as the country’s first prime minister since Bashir came to power in 1989.

Moussa had been serving as minister of irrigation and electricity before the government was dissolved.

Saleh, who had been prime minister and vice-president before the shake-up, will stay on in the newly created post of first vice-president, and Osman Yusuf Kubur will be second vice-president.

The announcement came just after Bashir called an emergency meeting of governing party officials in the presidential palace on the back of growing economic concerns over price rises and shortages.

Fewer  ministries

No other ministerial appointments were announced, but the number of ministries in the new government will be slashed to 21 from 31, a move intended to cut spending, National Congress Party deputy chair Faisal Hassan told a media conference.

The ministers of foreign affairs, defence and presidential affairs will remain in their posts when the new government is formed, Hassan said.

Khartoum has been trying to slash expenditure as it grapples with record high inflation, the hard-currency shortage and growing concern over low liquidity at commercial banks.

Long queues outside commercial banks have become a fixture around Khartoum in recent weeks as the liquidity of the local currency has dwindled and ATMs have been emptied of cash. Daily withdrawal limits in some places have been set as low as 500 Sudanese pounds ($16.60).

A presidency statement said the latest measures were necessary to solve "the state of distress and frustration faced by the country during the last period".

Sudan’s economy has been struggling since the south seceded in 2011, taking with it three-quarters of oil output and depriving Khartoum of a crucial source of foreign currency.

The lifting of 20-year-old US trade sanctions in 2017 was expected to usher in a more prosperous era for a country that had long been isolated.

But economic woes have only deepened as a black market for US dollars has in effect replaced the formal banking system, making it more difficult and expensive to import essential supplies such as wheat.

That helped to push annual inflation to about 64% in July.

A doubling of the price of bread in January, after the government eliminated subsidies, triggered demonstrations.

Sudan has been without a central bank governor since June, when Hazem Abdelqader died after a heart attack while on a trip to Turkey.