World Bulletin/News Desk
Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir on Tuesday defended a recent government decision to lift fuel subsidies, saying the move was necessary to avoid "economic collapse."
Recent economic measures, he said at a military graduation ceremony, were "aimed at avoiding the collapse of the economy as inflation skyrockets and currency exchange rates fall."
Sudan has been rocked by mass protests since a government decision last week to lift state subsidies on fuel and other vital commodities as part of a controversial economic reform program. The government has also raised taxes on a number of consumer goods.
The move sent retail prices for hydrocarbons and consumer commodities skyrocketing, instantly triggering mass protests.
While activists say more than 100 people have been killed so far in protest-related violence, Sudanese authorities put the toll at 34, including several policemen.
Al-Bashir also admitted that the secession of oil-rich South Sudan had had a negative impact on the economy.
Oil-rich South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July 2011 following a popular referendum, causing numerous economic problems for the government in Khartoum.
Paying tribute to those killed in the recent wave of protests, al-Bashir said that "the right to peaceful, civilized protest is guaranteed to allow people to express their opinions."
He went on to say that the Sudanese people had foiled foreign plots hatched against Sudan, hailing the role of the Sudanese military in "defending the homeland."
The Sudanese leader also defended his policies since coming to power in 1989, saying he had worked amid numerous "challenges," not least of which were "media pressures."
He stressed that the government was "working amid major challenges," which had resulted in the secession of South Sudan, a conflict in the western Darfur region, and the fabrication of incidents by the media aimed at "tarnishing the image of Sudan."Last Mod: 01 Ekim 2013, 16:20