Sudan sees '09 oil revenue down 44 pct on global crisis

By Andrew Heavens

KHARTOUM, Dec 1 (Reuters) - Sudan expects its oil revenues to fall 43.7 percent in 2009 as the global financial crisis continues to bite, according to the country's annual budget passed by its parliament on Monday.

It forecast oil revenues of 7.9 billion Sudanese pounds ($3.6 billion) in 2009, down from the 14 billion Sudanese pounds the country earned in 2008.

State finance minister Tarek Shalabi told Reuters he was still hoping oil prices would bounce back in the coming months, but said government spending would remain restrained.

"The oil price has been nose-diving and that puts a lot of pressure on to our system," he said.

"I think that prices will go up," he added. "But there will be pressure on government departments to manage their resources very carefully"

Earlier in the year, Ministry of Finance officials said Sudan would be largely insulated from the global slowdown, thanks to its isolation from western economies which has been heightened by U.S. trade sanctions.

The Ministry of Finance budget document also predicted oil would make up a smaller share of the country's total revenues, dropping to 43.2 per cent in 2009 from more than 60 per cent a year earlier.

Shalabi said the government would make up some of the revenue shortfall through an increase in some taxes. Those included 20 per cent VAT on telecoms and communications services, up from 15 per cent in 2008, and a new 5 per cent "development tax" on some imports.

"Imports of raw materials for development will be exempted ... We are really trying to target luxuries," the state minister told Reuters in a phone interview.

He said the budget also focused on developing areas of Sudan's economy outside the oil sector, particularly agriculture, an industry that still employs a large part of Sudan's population.

Sudan says it currently produces 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude. The country's mining and energy minister last month said it would raise that figure to 600,000 bpd in 2009.

Oil is down by almost two-thirds from a peak of more than $147 a barrel in July. A global economic slowdown that has tipped a growing number of countries into recession has caused sharp falls in oil demand.

The dominant party in southern Sudan, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) last month threatened not to support the budget unless President Omar Hassan al-Bashir's party agreed to enact measures promised in the 2005 north-south peace deal.

But officials from the SPLM said they had reached an agreement with north Sudan's dominant National Congress Party to get the legislation approved on time and the budget was passed with an overwhelming vote on Monday.

The SPLM and the National Congress Party formed a coalition government after the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement ended a two decade north-south civil war, creating a semi-autonomous government in the south and allowing oil revenues to be shared. (Editing by Peter Blackburn) Keywords: SUDAN BUDGET/OIL

(Khartoum bureau +249 910 641393 andrew.heavens@gmail.com)

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