Monthly Archives: July 2011

South Sudan: The World’s Newest Nation

Hi. This is an article that I have delayed posting here for the longest time. Hope you like it.

It was declared on July 9, 2011. South Sudan was now an official independent nation of its own. Its population is an estimated 8,000,000. The capital city is Juba, a city of an estimated 400,000 people. Hearing about what the people of South Sudan went through, you’d feel their independence from the main Sudan was hard-earned.

Map of Sudan and regions. Area declared South Sudan is in red.

Firstly Sudan was originally a joint condominium between Britain and Egypt until they declared independence in 1956 as the Republic of Sudan. Despite Sudan being independent, it was not unified. The northern and southern parts of Sudan were sharply divided.  The main divide between the two was based on ethnicity but also about religion; the northern part of Sudan was predominantly Muslim while the southern part of Sudan had a Christian majority. Conflict between Northern Sudan and Southern Sudan had already existed for a year and would continue until 1972. That war would be known as the First Sudanese Civil War. Half a million people were killed. It would take an agreement in Ethiopia in March 1972, known as the Addis Ababa Agreement, that would end that civil war. The goal of the Agreement was to address and appease concerns of the southern Sudan liberation and succession movement. This would help to give some autonomy to the Southern Sudanese region and would give peace to Sudan for almost a decade.

The one thing the Agreement failed to do is dispel the tensions that caused the first Sudanese Civil War. Then in 1983, Sudan’s President Gafar Nimeiry declared all Sudan an Islamic state, The Southern Sudan Autonomous Region was abolished on June 5, 1983 and the Addis Ababa Agreement was ended. This would lead to the Second Sudanese Civil War. This war would last from 1983 to 2005 and would have one of the highest civilian death tolls since World War II. Two million people were killed as a result of the warfare, famine and disease caused by the conflict. Four million people from Southern Sudan have been displaced during the times of the war. At the start of that war, the Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement was formed as both a rebel group and a political party in response to the crises.

The war finally ended in January 2005 after a comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed. The purpose of the agreement, known as the Naivasha Agreement, was to develop democratic governance countrywide and share oil revenues. It further set a timetable by which Southern Sudan would have a referendum on its independence. The referendum happened during the week of January 9-15, 2011. Almost 99% of South Sudanese voted for independence. Independence was declared on July 9, 2011 and the United Nations recognized South Sudan’s independence on July 14th.

Despite being the world’s newest nation, South Sudan still faces problems and challenges in the time ahead. One problem is that the famine that is occurring mostly in Somalia also includes South Sudan and other nations. Another problem is that conflict between Sudan arose again a month ago with the South Kordofan conflict that still exists today. Another problem is of possible intertribal enmity within the country. One challenge South Sudan will have to face in the future is organizing the nation and its rights amongst the people. It is currently on a human rights watch by the UN, and rightly so. The SPLA may have been able to get South Sudan its independence but is also known for human rights atrocities of their own. Even the CIA has suspected of genocide in southern Sudan last year. One thing the elected President of South Sudan, Salva Kiir Mayardit, has promised is respect to freedom of religion. Kiir himself is Catholic with a Muslim son.

South Sudan: the world’s newest nation. Will it be a better, wealthier, more developed, more just country that Sudan was and still is? Or will it have its own problems or atrocities? Only time will tell.

WORKS CITED

WIKIPEDIA: South Sudan. Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Sudan >

IMAGE CITED

WIKIMEDIA: Regions Of Sudan. Wikimedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Regions_of_Sudan.png&gt;

HST Referendum: BC Votes On The Tax

Hi. I know it’s been a while since I wrote something, especially of substance. So here I am getting back into the swing of things with my latest article. Hope you like it.

If you’ve lived in BC this past year and a half, you may have known for a long time about the most heated three letters in the province: HST. The tax came from nowhere, became part of BC faster than you think and is now up for public vote after a year of existence. The tax and the craziness surrounding it is both frustrating for the citizen and cartoonish in the media’s eye. Even more surprising is that the referendum involving the HST isn’t your typical ballot-and-booth referendum but a mail-in referendum lasting a full month. Most BC residents may not know a whole lot about this Harmonized Sales Tax but it sure has been far from harmonious in BC.

What few people know is that British Columbia is currently one of five provinces with an HST. The others being New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Ontario. Actually it was the Atlantic Provinces who worked back in 1996 in having a Harmonized Sales Tax implemented in order to lower the amount of tax a citizen would have to pay. This resulted in a 15% HST that came into existence on April 1, 1997. When the GST lowered to 6%, the HST went down 1% to 14% and would go down to 13% when the GST was reduced to 5%. It was noticed that the price of goods fell when the HST came in. In fact one of the things in changing from a cascading tax to a value-add tax was to reduce income taxes, and instituted direct transfer payments (refundable tax credits) to lower-income groups, resulting in lower tax burdens on the poor.

The benefits of the HST were appealing. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper government said of tax harmonization: the single most important step provinces with retail sales taxes could take to improve the competitiveness of Canadian businesses.” However it was in 2010 when the HST was implemented in BC and Ontario that the drawbacks came to light. It made businesses hard to manage and property values hard to maintain. Many food expenses which had either to the one tax or neither tax became more expensive. The price of gas increased. Services like haircutting and dry cleaning which had only one tax saw the raised price. Some items in BC, like public transportation, ferry costs and toll-bridge tolls. Children’s clothing, child-care items and feminine hygiene items were also exempt. Nevertheless the expenses that were already added were noticed soon enough.

In BC, the brouhaha about this tax is not just simply its existence but its introduction and implementation. It was first reported back in June 23, 2009 that the BC government under the leadership of Gordon Campbell intended to harmonize the two taxes. Full attention to this tax didn’t come until after the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver had ended. Before it was to be implemented on July 1, 2010, the raucous was not only raised by BC citizens but former premier Bill Vanderzalm in campaigning to get the HST abolished. After the HST was made official in BC, Vanderzalm still continued on his campaign while Gordon Campbell’s popularity soon dipped to single-digit percentages, leading him to retire.

 

Now the fate of the HST lies in the hands of the citizen of British Columbia. All registered BC voters including myself were sent a mail-in yes/no ballot in which one is to vote not on keeping the HST but on abolishing the HST. The deadline for mailing in the vote was Friday July 22nd. During that time, there has been many pro-HST and anti-HST rhetoric. Those against the HST would speak of their drawbacks, most notably the increase in expenses for BC citizens and the businesses that have either faced huge economic difficulties or closed. The common citizen should also have its own experience with the HST in the past.

 

Those for the HST have come from economics or other sources that have studied the HST in the past. On May 4, 2011, an independent panel commissioned by the BC government released a report on the impact of the HST in BC. The report concluded that “Unless you are among the 15 per cent of families with an income under $10,000 a year, you’re paying more sales tax under the HST than you would under the PST/GST: On average about $350 per family.” The report also predicted that by 2020, the HST is anticipated to result in a BC economy that will “Be $2.5 billion larger than it would be under the PST. That’s about $480 per person or $830 per family.” There was even a prediction from the University of Calgary that the HST will lead to 600,000 more jobs in the next ten years. Economists have even spoken of the potential damages and drawbacks that could happen if the HST is abolished.

 

Anyways the referendum is over. If you didn’t mail your ballot in by now, tough cookies. Time will tell what the result of referendum will determine. Time will also tell which tax system was supported by the people and whether it will pay off in the long run. Stay tuned. The future of BC and its economy will be decided.

WORK CITED

WIKIPEDIA: Harmonized Sales Tax.Wikipedia.com. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.  <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonized_Sales_Tax>