The shiny ten, 20 and 50 piasters, and one and two South Sudanese Pound coins were circulated on the 9 July. Until now, small transactions in South Sudan had to use to paper denominations of one, five and ten pound notes. Anything in-between was rounded up.
With the cheapest commodity at two SSPs, critics believe the coins will bring little relief to a country experiencing one of the most distressing aftermaths of an independence movement in the world.
Following generations of oil-soaked warfare, South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011. Just two years later, the country’s leading party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement, cracked into its formal tribal divisions, Dinka and Nuer. Since President Salva Kiir (a Dinka) accused his Vice President Riek Machar (a Nuer) of an alleged coup, vicious civil warfare has torn the world’s newest country in two.
Former Cabinet Secretary and Head of Civil Service of the Upper Nile State, Deng Gach Pal explains ‘having piasters introduced into the market will not improve the economy per se, precisely because commodity prices have already skyrocketed as a consequence of the lack of hard currency and negative impact of ongoing civil war.’
For piasters to be able to improve the economy, market prices have to be made to drop to a normal level where piasters or 1 SSP coins can be of use – an event that can only occur once the civil war comes to an end. ‘Citizens are yearning for a peace agreement to really improve the economy,’ says Gach Pal.
However, the most interesting element of the coins are the designs on their faces. They have been embossed with the motifs from South Sudan’s ten states. In a controversial move, the ten piaster coin has been embossed with a desert oil rig. While officials claim this was mimicked from the Flag of Unity State in the north of the country, critics fear that it might incite post-war tensions with Sudan.