JUBA/WASHINGTON - The government of South Sudan says that beginning in March, it will deduct one day's salary from civil servants' paychecks each month to help pay for implementation of the peace deal aimed at ending the country's civil war.
Some observers are skeptical about how that will work, however. Most civil servants haven't been paid for months.
Garang De Mabior Garang, a senior member of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement in Opposition (SPLM IO), a group that signed the peace deal, says the government's announcement mocks the public's intelligence.
"As we all know, workers are not paid on time as the situation currently stands, with government workers going more than six months without salaries and many of our foreign missions facing eviction. It begs the question; what salaries does the regime intend to cut?'' Mabior asked in a statement.
Plan to last for months
South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei announced the salary deduction plan last week in Juba. He said the monthly deductions, due to last through June, should raise about one billion South Sudanese pounds, about $38 million.
The money would be used for the training and supply of a unified national army, among other activities.
Makuei said the government made the decision because the international community has not come through with promised funds. He called on citizens to "own" the peace agreement by contributing to its implementation.
But public servants told VOA's South Sudan in Focus that they have doubts about the plan. Some declined to be identified for reasons of safety or protecting their jobs.
One man, who wanted to be identified only as Losik, said, "It is a good idea but where is the salary? People are staying for months without salary and the civil servants [are owed] by the government … But also our salary itself is not enough, so the government should look for other alternatives," he said.
Susan Pita, a civil servant in the capital, Juba, also objected to the government taking part of a salary that is already small — when it is paid.
"If we deduct this money, what will be remaining for them? Because even those particular workers who are receiving salaries, even this salary is not enough. If we are going down to market, this salary is nothing," Pita told VOA.
Another public servant, Solomon, said he has no problem contributing money to support efforts to restore peace in the country — but worries that any money deducted will end up in politicians' pockets.
"It should not be a means of making other people's pockets swell; it should really go to what it is intended to. This is a general fear that everybody fears," he said. "Whether used in the right or wrong way, I am ready to contribute, it is a good decision," he said.
In support of deductions
Civil servant John Donito welcomes the deduction but hopes the money will actually be used to implement the deal.
"The idea is not bad, but it shouldn't be only civil servants; other people should also be included like the politicians and also the traders in the market," Donito told South Sudan in Focus.
Makuiei said the government will approach people in the private sector for contributions as well, adding the government needs about 44 billion South Sudanese pounds to implement the revitalized peace agreement signed last year.
South Sudan recently resumed oil production, which is expected to bring in billions of dollars to the government over the next few years.
Awow Daniel Chuang, the oil ministry's director-general, told the Associated Press in August last year that, "The goal of resuming oil production in Unity State is to help increase South Sudan's total output of 130,000 barrels per day to almost 300,000, which could bring in about $5 billion over the next five years."