South Sudan drops plan for $10,000 work permit fee for aid staff

JUBA (Reuters) - South Sudan has suspended plans to charge foreign workers a $10,000 work permit fee, the finance minister said, after criticism that it would create a huge expense for aid organizations.

War-ravaged South Sudan announced the 100-fold hike in the fee for foreign professionals in early March. Most such workers in the young country are employees of humanitarian groups.

“The Ministry of Finance acknowledges these significant issues ... and steps are being taken to formulate the best way forward,” Finance Minister Stephen Dhieu Dau told a news conference over the weekend.

“The implementing agencies will continue with old rates charged,” he said, adding that parliament was expected to repeal the legislation that approved the fee hike. The previous rate was $100 per foreign worker.

The world’s youngest nation has been embroiled in civil war since 2013, when President Salva Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar, sparking a conflict that has increasingly split the country along ethnic lines.

In February, the United Nations declared that parts of the country were experiencing famine. Nearly half the population, or about 5.5 million people, is expected to lack a reliable supply of food by July.

The fighting has uprooted more than 3 million people. The U.N. said in a report in February that continuing displacement presented “heightened risks of prolonged (food) underproduction into 2018”.

Reporting by Denis Dumo; writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Andrew Roche