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South Sudan on Track to Lift Austerity Measures: Kiir

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir, shown here at a news conference in April, says the country's austerity measures could be lifted in January.
South Sudan could be nearing the end of almost two years of austerity measures, thanks to a healthy flow of oil revenues, President Salva Kiir said Friday.

The Petroleum Ministry has reported that South Sudan has taken in more than 780 million dollars in oil revenue since production resumed in April, and the country is on track to meet a target of 10 billion pounds in oil revenue by June 2014, when the fiscal year ends, Kiir told a news conference where he outlined key spending increases in the 17.3 billion pound budget.

Austerity measures were put in place in early 2012 when a row with Khartoum over pipeline transit fees led South Sudan to halt oil production, its principal source of revenue.

The 2012/13 austerity budget of 6.7 billion pounds forced the country to cut all planned infrastructural development projects and slash housing allowances for officials.

But with oil production back onstream as of April this year, Kiir said he directed government officials to allocate most spending increases in the budget "to improving social services, infrastructure, agriculture and living standards, especially in the rural areas."

Under the 2013/14 budget, the education sector will get an injection of 60 million pounds to enable schools to pay for students' activities without charging registration fees, and the health sector will get 148 million pounds to boost salaries, buy medical supplies and improve hospital infrastructure, Kiir said.

He thanked South Sudanese for "the sacrifices they made during this difficult time" of belt-tightening.

South Sudan's budget for fiscal year 2013/14 was initially approved in June, but was recalled and redrafted when Kiir sacked his entire cabinet.

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