April 29, 2020 / 5:04 PM / a month ago

Sudan postpones key economic meeting due to coronavirus

KHARTOUM, April 29 (Reuters) - Sudan has postponed a key economic conference meant to formulate subsidy reforms demanded by foreign donors until after the coronavirus pandemic, the state news agency SUNA reported on Wednesday.

The conference had been scheduled for June 2, with preparatory meetings in May. A new date will be set after Sudan’s epidemic has been overcome, SUNA quoted the conference’s preparatory committee as saying.

Sudan’s struggling economy has not revived with the overthrow of long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir a year ago.

The transitional government has been trying to overcome shortages of imported - and heavily subsidised - fuel and flour. Inflation is running at more than 80%, according to official statistics.

Potential foreign donors are pressing for subsidy reforms and greater economic transparency.

But the government, in an awkward power-sharing arrangement with the military, is divided on how to tackle the issue and had postponed any action until after the economic conference, which was originally scheduled for March.

Sudan is also lobbying to be removed from a list of countries that the United States considers sponsors of terrorism, a designation that complicates efforts to negotiate a deal for its foreign debt, unblock international funding and connect to international banking systems.

On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that Sudan, which has suffered from internal conflict and international isolation for decades, could experience “untold suffering” and a “humanitarian disaster” unless donors acted fast, with the threat from COVID-19 looming.

“We run the risk of a country which held such promise relapsing back into political instability and potential conflict,” she said in a statement, noting that Sudan was not eligible to access a $50 billion trust fund set up by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to help countries fight the coronavirus.

Sudan said on Wednesday it had recorded 57 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the total to 375, and three new deaths, for a total of 28. (Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Alaa Swilam and Nafisa Eltahir; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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