JUBA - South Sudan Minister of Finance Aggrey Sabuni Tisa urged the country to diversify its economic base so that it collects more revenues from sources other than oil as he presented the 2014-15 budget to lawmakers this week.
Oil brings in the lion's share of South Sudan's revenues, and the government expects it to bring in 8.9 billion South Sudanese pounds in revenue this fiscal year, or nearly 80 percent of the 11.3 billion pound budget submitted to parliament this week by President Salva Kiir.
Non-oil revenue is expected to be less than half of what oil brings in. Tisa predicted it will be bring in approximately 3 billion pounds and will come from sales taxes, customs and excise duties, personal income and business taxes, and license and other fees paid to the government.
Second largest budget in South Sudan history
The budget is the second largest in the country's history. Only last year's budget was larger, at 18.6 billion pounds, or around $5.8 billion.
Nearly half of last year's budget was used to pay back loans the country took out when a row with Sudan over pipeline transit fees led to South Sudan shutting down oil production in 2012.
Presenting the 2014-15 budget to lawmakers, Tisa said its primary focus will be to "maintain security, keep government running and provide core services."
More than a third of the budget -- 4 billion South Sudanese pounds -- will go to the security sector.
"We will also make efforts to pay down our debts and pay off some of our arrears, so that our finances remain on a sustainable footing. We will also support a few carefully selected investments to underpin our peace and reconstruction efforts,” he said.
Two-hundred-and-sixty-million pounds will go toward paying interest on outstanding debts and 800 million pounds to debt arrears.
Education was allocated 6.2 million pounds, and health around 4 million pounds.
Tisa called for an overhaul of revenue collection in South Sudan. Among other things, he said South Sudan needs laws that ensure that revenues do not disappear into the the pockets of corrupt officials.
“We need to streamline our revenue administration to maximize our revenue collections, minimize leakages and reduce the cost of doing business," he said.
The Treasury will "work closely with the Ministry of Justice in order to ensure that spending agencies do not enter into new contracts for which they have no budgetary allocation,” Tisa said.
South Sudan's fiscal year runs from July to June. Lawmakers are expected to pass the 2014-15 budget this month.