TOURISM ‘KEY ECONOMIC SECTOR’ FOR SPLM LED POST INDEPENDENCE GOVERNMENT
A week long economic review and strategy session by the SPLM’s National Secretariat on Finance and Economic Affairs took place recently in Juba / South Sudan. While all current ministries participated with presentations on the outlook of their respective sectors for the soon to be independent new Republic of South Sudan, some sectors, notably tourism, were given higher priority, giving clear indication that an emerging wildlife and nature based industry is considered to be of crucial importance to the new country, reducing reliance on the oil sector.
The outlook for the sector was delivered by the Director General Tourism in the Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism Joseph Oroto, who highlighted the challenges and opportunities for the sector to his colleagues at the ruling party head quarters.
The finalization of a legislative and regulatory regime it was pointed out – the policy document is already pending before the Southern parliament for ratification – would be followed by the creation of a variety of institutions, aimed to efficiently manage the tourism industry and provide it with policies, supervision and guidance as well as have new bodies put into place for the sustainable management of protected areas and the promotion of tourism abroad.
Investment regulations and incentives too will be specifically tailored towards the sector, including special provisions on the use of land, which while expected to remain in public hands would be leased long term to investors to create a security of tenure for them and allow them to borrow against leasehold title deeds.
Key locations in and around the 6 national parks and over a dozen game reserves, along the Nile and around the Sudd will be indentified to eventually offer concessions, which are expected to be awarded in equal measure to Southern Sudanese – promoting a proactive wealth creation programme by ensuring participation of nationals in the economic development – but also for foreign applicants to ensure quality operators for hotels, lodges and resorts to be attracted.
Sources from Juba also denied that any deals had been done or sanctioned by the ruling party, ministries or individuals for ‘hunting concessions’ as a long term moratorium remained in place until a full comprehensive game census had been carried out. It was also categorically denied that any parks or reserves had been leased out already, since the present legal and regulatory framework did not permit this. Currently the only applicable law was the tourism act of 1972, which according to one source needed the most urgent overhaul to create a better institutional and regulatory framework under which investors would feel secure and confident that bringing their expertise and money to the new country would be a sound and safe decision.