01 November 2011

Stationary Bandits

The 2009 World Bank Report Sudan: The Road Toward Sustainable and Broad-Based Growth and the 2010 GoSS Growth Strategy both highlight the issue of informal road checkpoints as a major constraint to trade within South Sudan, but primarily based upon (extensive) anecdote.

The South Sudan National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have now just released the results from the first survey of Check-points on Major Trade Routes within South Sudan. Following an approach used by Ben Olken and Patrick Barron in Indonesia Thailand (oops), the NBS hired enumerators to sit, unannounced, alongside commercial trucks travelling along major trade routes, and make notes of the location of each checkpoint, the amount charged, and time spent waiting. The results are pretty damning.

Check-points are numerous. There are 4 check-points per 100km or 1 per 25km along the major trade routes in South Sudan.  
Payment is widespread. On all except one route surveyed, drivers made a payment at an average of 97% or more of the check-points they stopped at. 
Payment is not confined to the international border posts. While the largest payments occur at the international borders, payment on internal routes can be up to 8% of the value of goods transported.  
Most individual payments are small. 47% of individual payments were less than 20 SDG and only 4% were more than 500 SDG. 
Total payment is significant. For all but two routes surveyed, average payment per 100km exceeds 100 SDG. For more than half the routes surveyed, payment per 100 km exceeds 200 SDG. For 10 of 21 routes surveyed, drivers pay 4% or more of the value of items carried. Even on purely internal routes, drivers pay out up to 8% of the value of items carried. 
Many payments are unreceipted. 47% of individual payments made during the survey were unreceipted. 27% of the total payment made during the survey was unreceipted. 
Waiting times at check-points are high. Across all routes, waiting time is on average 2 hours 9 minutes per 100km or 65% of driving time. 
The most commonly observed officials are police and traffic police, sighted at more than 50% of check-points respectively. In many cases, more than one type of official is present at a check-point.
 If the government is as serious about acting to stop collections at checkpoints as they say they are, this is plenty of evidence to go on.

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