EPRDF’s Tenth Party Convention Resolutions Versus Societal Expectations
Tigrai Online, September 11, 2015
The tenth EPRDF party convention has just been over with the passing of considerable measures aimed at improving the lives of the Ethiopian people even further. The party convention came at the end of the first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) period and the fifth national elections that reflected the popular approval of the party.
With the tremendous success achieved in realizing the ambitious first GTP, the country is clearly better off than it was five years ago. The bold targets set by the plan and the audacity of the government and the people to go after their realization have taken the country a few steps up on the ladder out of poverty.
Successes in food self-sufficiency, considerable increase in agricultural production and the hike in the export of value added agricultural products mark some of the notable achievements in the agricultural sector. The expansion of educational and health services to all corners of the country ensuring equitable distribution of social benefits is also another one of the milestones. The megaprojects in hydro-electric power production, sugar production, rail transport, road transport, telecommunications and other sectors also clearly show the unflinching march the country is on towards infrastructural development. The fact that the service and industrial sectors are putting on more muscle is also a demonstration of the all rounded and interrelated growth of the economy.
With more of the problems that characterized the country until recently being tackled and the country gaining a more positive image in the international arena, motivation is in abundance for Ethiopians to push even further towards development. The grave challenges they have overcome are also constant reminders that the challenges they are going to face in their endeavors are just as concrete as they imagine them to be. Rising up in unison has proved to be a lasting remedy for these challenges. The experience they have gained in overcoming these challenges would also be crucial in ongoing and upcoming struggles.
Considering the EPRDF has been the instigator of this turn around in the fortunes of the country, it is no wonder that the party has huge social backing. The policies the party has adopted, the way it has openly admitted its mistakes and worked tirelessly on amending them have all contributed to the huge success it has enjoyed over the years. The injection of new blood in leadership achieved through the transition of power from long time leaders of the party to up and coming politicians has also kept the party in touch with the realities of the present without completely shrugging off the values of the past.
It is all these factors that have kept the people on their toes until they hear the final decisions the party makes to sustain the development registered over the last fifteen years. As has been reported by the broadcast media in Ethiopia, people have expressed their expectations that the party would come up with viable ways of addressing the problems they face in their daily lives. These problems include: increase in the cost of living, corruption, unemployment, better and accessible health and educational facilities, better platform for political participation and many more.
Accordingly, this article aims to analyze if the party has lived up to the expectations of the people in passing decisions that would address these problems. In that lime light, it looks into the nine points incorporated into the party's communiqué released at the end of the party convention.
1. The first one of the nine points deals with the need to stamp out rent seeking behavior in the times ahead to make service delivery more just and equitable. The party has clearly states in this section that replacing rent seeking political economy with developmental democratic political economy is the main direction adopted on the renaissance march. The party assembly has identified that the efforts of the past years have granted developmental democracy a supremacy over rent seeking political economy in rural areas while the latter is still reigning in urban areas.
The assembly has also identified rent seeking attitudes and acts as the main source of most of the problems it has. In the coming years, underscores the communiqué, a tremendous effort needs to be exerted to root out rent seeking from identified sources such as: land administration, tax collection, government procurement and contract administration. Participants of the 10th party convention of the EPRDF have also vowed to strengthen the fight against rent seeking in a bid to build developmental democratic activities.
As urban centers are areas of intense interaction between governmental and private institutions, they provide numerous loopholes that have the potential to nurture rent seeking behavior. The institutional reforms in our country that have changed the civil service for the better have certainly helped narrow down these loopholes. However, the temptation of rent seeking still proves to be too much for a considerable number of people as the problem is still chronic. Therefore, making the work procedures of rent seeking prone activities more transparent, less time consuming and less discretionary should be a major area of focus in the times ahead.
With major challenges like the rising cost of living, unfair price increases and skewed access to land and other resources confronting the people, rent seeking behavior acts as a catalyst enflaming all these vices. As a party of the people, it is therefore only rational that the EPRDF has given due attention to this problem. After all, letting a problem this chronic roam unchecked would only loosen the strong bond between the people and the party.
Singling out rent seeking as the main source of socio-economic and political problems and waging a war against it is thus a great way of meeting popular expectations. Putting the problem on check is going to ease the lives of Ethiopians and the party has lives up to expectations in this regard.
2. The second point raised by the assembly recognizes the strength of EPRDF as a vital factor in the rapid growth as well as weaknesses evident in the country. It also notes that the key to unlock all problems is the efficiency of the party’s internal activities in achieving a higher level of leadership. In the times ahead, the party pledged to build on its leadership quality by stamping out opportunism, anti-democratic attitudes, loosening commitment and social affinity in leaders and members. Towards that end, the party has made plans to strengthen intra-party democracy and build on the political and ideological capacity of leaders and members.
In my opinion, it is so mature of a party to acknowledge attitudes of opportunism and anti-democracy as most, if not all, political parties in the world suffer from these problems. Party membership creates a platform for individuals to assume positions of power from the lowest levels of local government to high ranking federal positions.
Although these appointments by parties are primarily meant to serve people, positions of power also allow people to collude with the private sector or abuse their positions to promote their individual gain. As the saying goes, power corrupts. The identification of opportunism as a threat to the quality of party leadership by the EPRDF is thus a demonstration of the party’s sincere aim to provide better political leadership.
Another problem mostly cited by political science scholars in relation with party systems is the restrictive and anti-democratic nature of party whips. The detailed stands depicted in a party manifesto limit the boundaries of members on certain issues leaving parties with some sense of undemocratic behavior. The EPRDF plan to work on intra-party democracy is thus a conscious attempt to broaden the democratic arena of the party.
A different form of anti-democracy in parties also arises when a certain group or groups try to impose their views on other members by harshly criticizing others who oppose their ideas. Although the long tradition of EPRDF shows the party as one where heated discussions between members thrive, the plan to fight anti-democratic behavior would help sustain that trademark of the party.
Accordingly, the second resolution of the party to build on the quality of political leadership through fighting opportunism and anti-democratic behavior also complements social expectations from the party as it augments the execution capacity of plans. Besides, the fact that the party has not gone easy on itself is an affirmation of its commitment to meet social expectations.
3. The third point included in the party resolution acknowledges the formation of a primary level developmental army formation in natural resources and environmental protection as per the direction set during the 9th party convention. The assembly also approved the achievement of food self-sufficiency through efforts to increase product and productivity. On the other hand, the assembly noted that the developmental army building did not go according to plan in livestock resources, irrigation and urban development. The assembly then calls for strengthening of efforts in development army building both in urban and rural areas putting in place a capable army in sectors where it is lacking. Through mainstreaming good practices and implementing strategies that build our developmental capacity, the assembly vowed to work towards structural change and transformation.
As developmental armies work across various sectors to improve performance, their existence and active deployment would help push the boundaries of developmental success even further. They also provide a good opportunity to ensure increased popular participation in developmental efforts. As far as sustaining the achievements of the past years goes, building a strong developmental army sounds like a viable way to go. In that respect, social expectations of sustaining economic development seem to be met by the party.
4. Participants of the convention also recognized that Ethiopia has yet to rid itself of poverty with food self-sufficiency not achieved at family level despite a dozen years of double digit growth that has aligned the country along the fastest growing economies in the world. Accordingly, it acknowledged the need to have a rapid, sustainable and fair economic growth that would ensure economic structural transformation during the second growth and transformation plan. Towards that end, the assembly vowed to strive towards better saving, investment and tax collection. Moreover, it expressed commitment to solve manufacturing industry sector and balance of payment problems in a bid to speed up the transition to an industry led system.
Saving is considered as a vital means of building social security. The relentless efforts in past years to build a culture of saving in our society have resulted in considerable changes. The increasing recognition of the country as a favorable investment destination is also drawing numerous companies from across the world. The technology transfer, employment and export these companies generate would help even out its balance of payment deficits.
Scaling up the small and micro enterprises that have mobilized a large number of people during the first GTP period to medium manufacturing enterprises and introducing more heavy industries would help speed up the transition to an industry led economy. Therefore, we can once again say that EPRDF’s resolution has lived up to the societal expectation in industrializing the economy.
5. The assembly also passed a resolution to root out problems in access and quality of health and educational services. It also acknowledged the great success in the sectors over the past years.
Making the cut as one of the African countries that have achieved the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ethiopia has registered notable achievements in the health and education sectors in the last fifteen years. Most notably, the country has managed to slash child mortality by over two-thirds three years ahead of the 2015 deadline for the MDGs. The deployment of health extension workers and the construction of health centers in most of the smallest local government units have also helped health conditions in the country. Ethiopia is also on the brink of realizing a 100% gross enrolment of its children in elementary schools. Therefore, ensuring access to health and educational services to those who haven’t yet got it along with efforts to ensure the quality of services provided would help satisfy societal expectations.
6. The assembly also granted special attention to solving the problems of accessibility and quality of the rapid economic growth of the past dozen years. Towards that end, it vowed to make the huge infrastructural projects underway more accessible to the people.
The developmental democratic model that the government employs has a sense of equitable distribution of the developmental achievements of the country. The drive towards not just rapid development but also democracy equips the developmental democratic state with a much balanced allocation of the fruits of social engagement in development. The pro-poor projects in the country over the last decade or so have notably taken millions out of abject poverty. That means present efforts to make the development more inclusive have a foundation to build on.
The stark difference in the stance of the Ethiopian government with neo-liberal economic teachings is a demonstration of the wide social base that its development encompasses. Instead of adopting a system where just a handful of people own the overwhelming majority of national resources while the wider public sits back and waits for that wealth to trickle down to it, if it ever does, the developmental democracy model aims to ensure high popular participation in developmental and democratic endeavors.
With the above states problems of rent seeking, opportunism and anti-democratic behavior reinforcing a highly skewed resource allocation system in favor of just a few people, there have recently been notable cases of amassing unduly gained wealth. The resolution to ensure access and equity in the allocation of the country’s development along with other pledges by the party to stamp out rent seeking, opportunism and ant-democratic behavior would definitely help realize this goal.
7. The assembly acknowledged the activities carried out in the previous years to build a democratic system. Towards further scaling up such activities, the assembly has put in place directives that would allow councils at various levels to see through their controlling responsibilities of the executive body. Other such measures aim at allowing the active participation of civic and professional associations contributing their parts in building our unity, the common council of political parties revamping the multi-party system, media outlets entertaining public opinion and direct participation of the people. By pushing towards all these goals, the assembly aims to strengthen the democratic system.
For all the democratic system building efforts in the country, the major challenge seems to be the negative reports of the so-called rights groups of the west. The sporadic breaches of human rights they refer to are consciously exaggerated with their hidden aim of promoting western political, economic and social interests barring them from reporting on the grave human rights transgressions. Their barks on developing countries that do not entirely rely on western powers to pursue their own national interests are ill-fated attempts are bullying them into succumbing. Accordingly, developing nations like Ethiopia need to assert themselves in dealing with these actors. Regardless of what these agents say, it is the citizens of a nation that can determine the pace of democratization in their country by weighing in through their participation.
8. The assembly also vowed to increase the participation and benefits of women and the youth by strengthening organizational structures that incorporate them. The assembly recognized positive changes over the past years in strengthening these structures but affirmed the need to work even harder to push the achievements even further. Towards that end, the assembly has pledged to work hard towards job creation and capacity building for women and the youth.
Considering women and the youth make up the majority of the working population in the country, building their capacity is not a matter to be delayed for later. The increased investment attraction capacity of the country has complemented efforts to provide jobs for women and the youth. Foreign Direct Investment has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in our country with women and the youth as the major beneficiaries.
Considering the bright future for foreign investment and the overall economy of the country, the number of beneficiaries from this group is destined to go up. With the government creating a conducive environment for women and the youth to benefit out of the development, the women and youth who make an effort to participate in the development are definitely going to better their lives. This direction could, therefore, change the lives of millions of people around the country if optimally implemented during the second GTP period. In that case, it would be one of the most notable ways of satisfying societal expectations.
9. Finally the assembly reiterated the thorough deliberations it had on modest changes in good governance and the major challenges faced. Identifying good governance as a closely linked issue with development and labeling it a matter of survival, the assembly assessed improvements in making government work procedures participatory, transparent and accountable in the past few years. It, however, noted the presence of vices such as rent seeking, favoritism and corruption that repress service delivery and social satisfaction. Accordingly, the party pledged to work hard towards institutional building, transparency and accountability so that the society that has given its consent for the party to keep leading the country would be served better.
Since assuming power about a quarter of a century ago by toppling down the Derg regime, EPRDF has increasingly enjoyed increasing popular acceptance over the years. The early days of the party’s tenure in power were met with suspicions of all kinds for various reasons. One reason might be that the Derg propaganda machine which depicted the party as a wild beast from the jungle was fresh in the minds of the people. Another could be the fact that it took the EPRDF some years before it organized its focus on implementable policies that served the interests of the people.
With implementation problems and weak mobilization capacities holding back the party from unveiling its socially, economically and politically viable agenda, EPRDF set out to find the solutions that would enable it build an unwavering bridge connecting it to the people.
As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Its leaders were finally able to crack down on policies and strategies that would promote the interests of the people. As it has materialized, these policies and strategies all had the massive participation of the people at their hearts. The discussions with the people helped the two understand each other better coming up with viable options of tackling their problems.
The double digit economic growth, the 100% enrolment rate in schools, the slashing of child mortality by two-thirds, the increase in life expectancy and the bright future ahead have all been possible with the concrete cooperation of the people and the party.
With a natural evolution of its own, the bond between the party and the people has become very strong. The tenth party convention of the EPRDF has been followed eagerly by the people as it has become a guide into what is going to happen in the country in the coming years. The nine points of the resolution that the party endorsed at the end of the convention have, as depicted above, the interests of the people at their core.