By Stanley Carvalho
ABU DHABI, Jan 9 (Reuters) - Sudan has secured a $1.5 billion loan from a Chinese bank that was guaranteed by state oil firm China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), Sudan’s finance minister said on Wednesday, throwing a lifeline to the African country.
Sudan has been struggling with an economic crisis since losing three-quarters of its oil production when South Sudan became independent in 2011. Oil was the main revenue source for the budget and for dollars needed to buy basic food imports such as wheat and sugar.
Sudan has avoided an “Arab spring” revolution that toppled rulers in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya but annual inflation running at 46.5 percent in November has sparked small protests against the government.
“The $1.5 billion loan will be used to bridge the fiscal gap and enhance our balance of payments,” Ali Mahmoud told Reuters in Abu Dhabi, adding the loan was granted on Dec 31. He declined to name the bank.
China is Sudan’s biggest trading partner apart from Gulf Arab oil producers and the biggest investor in the oil industry in Sudan and South Sudan.
Mahmoud also said Sudan would boost agricultural exports this year to help offset the loss of oil.
“With most of our oil exports gone, we are enhancing agricultural products exports. This year we are expecting to export edible oil and will cut imports of sugar by half,” he said.
He spoke after the signing ceremony for a $45 million loan for Sudan from the Arab Monetary Fund (AMF), an Abu Dhabi development fund.