Discarding Developmental State Economic Policy is Tantamount to Aborting Ethiopian Renaissance Part 1
By Seifeselassie Gebre
Tigrai Online, June 29, 2018
The primary focus of this article is on the Government’s recently-announced radical 'neoliberal reforms' in the form of massive privatization drives during the past two months and what it means for the future of the existing ‘developmental state’ model that has been the catalyst for our unprecedented socio-economic progress. These decisions have perplexed ordinary citizens and political observers alike who are scratching their heads particularly the speed with which these decisions were made without transparent deliberations and involvement of the relevant stakeholders and the people of Ethiopia at large through their elected representatives in Parliament. Two months is too short a time for a newcomer to get situated in a new job and to get acquainted with the complex socio-economic and political challenges of a country of over a 100 million inhabitants much less to fully study, analyze, and arrive at a prescription that could cure real or perceived ills that have befell our nation unless the neoliberal blueprint was handed to them by outside forces and all they had to do was execute to the ready-made blueprint. As I will elaborate further below, contrary to the current government's dishonest claim that they will keep the 'spirit' of 'developmental state' socio-economic model that heralded the dawn of Ethiopia's renaissance, the current turn of events and their trajectory undoubtedly point to the fact that the current leadership is working to abandon the proven and time-tested developmental state socio-economic model in favor of the failed and discredited neoliberal economic model. I would argue that under any legal framework, the 'letter' takes more precedence over the 'spirit.' When the government says that they intend to keep the 'spirit' of 'democratic developmental state' while fully embracing a failed neoliberal model to the 'letter', the government is disingenuously trying to give the appearance of continuity but in reality they are adopting a model that has proven to be an utter failure in its over 50-year history. The PM’s fancy but misleading wards does not change the fact that he is trying to undermine and replace the very successful economic model of ‘developmental state’ with the repeatedly failed neoliberal policy. To understand the current turn of events, we have to delve deeper into the activities of external forces who have been pushing the neoliberal agenda ever since EPRDF came to power.
Ever since EPRDF came to power and openly announced to the world that they had chosen a different path to socio-economic development known as "developmental state" (modeled mostly after China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, known as 'East Asian Tigers') instead of the discredited 'neoliberal model', the Western neoliberal forces, mainly US, UK, and France never slept a wink trying to undermine and destabilize our nation to make their self-fulfilling prophecies a reality. Why you ask? Well, the foundation of Western imperial capitalist system never changed; it just morphed into a 'Neoliberal World Order' to soften the negative connotations associated with it after Ronald Reagan and his Siamese twin Margaret Thatcher came to the political stage. It is like putting lipstick on a pig. The endgame and the marching order for this new system to survive and prosper is that it must ensure their multinational corporations enjoy unfettered access to our cheap natural resources, young labor force, and markets without the environmental, labor, safety, and other laws that cut into their corporate profits. What makes the Western neoliberal agenda very detrimental to developing economies is that it is purposely designed to create a dependent economy and social structure so much so that eventually the target country ceases to exist as a sovereign nation. In order to achieve their above mentioned end goal, Western governments have been building and fine-tuning their large arsenal of tools over the years to create vassal states by hook or by crook. I would like to warn our readers that Neoliberalism is not just one economic school of thought among many but rather a unique blueprint for a world economic and social order that ensures the continued survival and prosperity of US uni-polar hegemony. As such it is a sneaky multi-headed monster that preys on its targets relentlessly without mercy until such time that they surrender their national sovereignty. The two schools of thought are mortal enemies. Neoliberalism is a recipe for economic stagnation, social and cultural decline, permanent conflict and war, and ultimately complete surrender of one's sovereignty while Developmental State is a way forward for joint prosperity, development, and peaceful coexistence.
The 'New Kid on the Block'
To the surprise of many, we witnessed a man, few had heard of until very recently, being catapulted from a relative obscurity to the highest office in the land at a lightning speed. Was it the result of an EPRDF-orchestrated change of guard long in the making unbeknownst to the rest of us? OR was it the result of a relentless behind the scenes horse-trading that took place between EPRDF's Neoliberal faction and Western elements that were instigating the violence that necessitated the sudden mid-term resignation of PM Hailemariam Desalegn? While we will probably never know how it all transpired, we can, however, connect the dots.
Connecting The Dots
The foot soldiers of the Washington neoliberal cabal including former diplomats such as Mr. Herman Cohen (former Undersecretary for African Affairs and interlocutor during EPRDF's take over) and his partners-in-crime Mr. David Shinn and Mr. Donald Yamamoto (both former US ambassadors to Ethiopia) have been pressuring the good PM to use this honeymoon period to rush through controversial reforms. Mr. Cohen encouraged the young PM to boldly pursue democratic reforms and even defy 'power brokers' behind the scene. He inadvertently let the cat out of the bag when he proclaimed 'international community is with you.' He could not hide his euphoria over the turn of events because his long struggle to undermine EPRDF in general and TPLF in particular seemed to come to fruition. It should be abundantly clear that when he or the US State Department refer to 'international community,' they mean USA and its European vassals. Mind you, his arrogance did not even permit him to evaluate the reaction of Ethiopians. It was sufficient that he (Dr. Abiy) received Western blessing !!! Mr. Cohen took the gloves off when he said the following only 24 hours after Dr. Abiy was elected "Message for new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed: Do not be reluctant to take bold steps toward democratic reform. TPLF politico-economic monopolists have been revealed as frauds, and will not be able to restrain you." These words from Mr. Cohen sure sound like 'marching orders' to the new young leader to me. Furthermore, I do not recall Mr. Cohen ever uttering these words when PM Hailemariam Desalegn was elected. It goes to show their frustration of having failed to convince previous administrations not only to drop 'democratic developmental state' in favor of neoliberal world order to put brakes on our economic growth but also to put a stop to EPRDF's pivot to Asia as part of the New Silk Road (Belt & Road Initiative) which is planned to put Ethiopia on an even faster development path by making it the east Africa gateway.