South Sudan Seeks $1.9 Billion Chinese Loan as Inflation Rockets

South Sudan said it’s seeking a $1.9 billion loan from China to develop its oilfields and roads, as the war-torn African country battles inflation that exceeded 660 percent last month.

Foreign Minister Deng Alor Kuol requested the financial assistance during a recent visit to the Asian nation and the Export-Import Bank of China “is working on this loan,” ministry spokesman Mawien Makol Arik said Tuesday by phone from the capital, Juba. South Sudan has sub-Saharan Africa’s third-largest crude reserves, although output has fallen to as little as 120,000 barrels a day because of a civil war that erupted in December 2013.

“The oilfields need to be working,” Arik said. The money will also fund roadworks in one of the world’s poorest nations, which has almost no paved thoroughfares outside Juba, he said.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan’s conflict. A transitional government formed by President Salva Kiir and ex-rebel leader Riek Machar was thrown into turmoil in July after Machar’s troops were driven from the capital following attacks by Kiir’s forces with helicopter gunships, tanks and infantry. Machar is now in hiding and has been replaced as vice president.

The fighting has taken a heavy toll on South Sudan’s economy, which the International Monetary Fund projected would contract 5.3 percent last year. Annual inflation rocketed to 661.3 percent in July, driven mainly by higher prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Monday.

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