By Hiwot Belay
Tigrai Onlne - March 01, 2014 2014
Our great leader Ato Meles Zenawi has once said that “by realizing back-breaking plans, we will once again hold our head high’’. Today, it’s been years since our country’s name is dragged with hunger, famine and civil war by the international media, and instead it has started to be taken as benchmark for rapid development (growth); and we (the country’s citizens) are starting to hold our head high.
With a strong effort exerted by our government and people, our country has been able to be one of the countries having rapid growth in the world. Ethiopia with its number five economy in sub- Sahara Africa, and the fact that it has a first ranking economy from non-energy based economies, is attracting many investors.
The reason for this has to do with the government’s formulation of sound policies and strategies, and the fact that it has been able to apply these policies and strategies successfully. Of course the role of the developmental government; which follows a clear path that’s supported by popular participation and that executes leadership quality that’s in sync with current and realistic situations, in this success is huge.
However, at a time when the outside world is giving recognition to the FDRE government for recording positive results with regards to alleviating its people out of poverty and backwardness by through its own formulated policies and strategies ,there are some neo- liberal extremists with their our hidden agenda who are involved in blackening this achievement.
These forces instead of mentioning the country’s fast-growing investment sector, they choose to propagate that the government’s unwillingness to make the banking, telecommunication and electrical sectors open to foreign investors as hopeless.
Of course telling about these extremists forces’; who have long been criticizing the Ethiopian government effort out of their desire to impose their own preferred ideological agendas, exploits to my dear readers is like “teaching a hen how to lay eggs”; and the reference the local idiom ‘‘you can only be like your home, not like your neighbors’’ has to this situation.
As it can be recalled these forces had been putting pressure and trying to forcefully privatize the country’s banks, telecommunication, electricity, Airlines, City water and utilities cheaply. Also they have exerted pressure for land, a natural resource of the people, to be sold and transferred.
On top of this, these forces have tried to hinder our progress by clearly hinting at halting our country from getting foreign loan and aid that will help fulfill its developmental aspirations - although it has been to no avail.
In addition to this, they have been for years propagating that Ethiopia will not have an economic growth, if it doesn’t follow these neo liberal politico-economic thinking - although the opposite have been true. Since the Ethiopian government understood this out look’s of ‘everything has to be left to the private sector, and the government should not interfere except to make sure rule of law is upheld’ it took serious measures not to delve into it.
It was able to withstand the heavy pressure made by the neo-liberal forces; which intended weaken the role of the government, and instead established a strong developmental government.
It’s a fact that the government by withstanding, these forces’ pressure to sell land and their “prophecy” that agriculture based development strategy leads to failure, doesn’t go with the country’s reality, it has instead put the country in a rapid and sustainable growth by formulating and executing its own developmental directional (path).
As it’s known, we are seeing miraculous progress in our country in these twenty years. With this, it has been able to debunk the neo-liberalism thinking of government should not interfere in the economy. This is why, when these forces under the umbrella of neo- liberalism ideology were hit by economic crisis, our country was able to continue with its own rapid economic growth.
What we can understand from this and what other countries of the world has to contemplate is that they can grow outside of the neo- liberalism thinking by formulating policies and strategies that take their own hard realties into account, just like Ethiopia’s developmental path.
Thus, it’s important to understand why these ideology extremists want to impose their hidden agenda by highlighting issues that nadir the country’s real investment situation. As it’s known, the Ethiopian government by spending on the country’s public infrastructure, by encouraging potential investors by facilitating various incentives and by opening its doors, and by presenting the country’s (attractive) realities in various international arenas, it’s attracting many investors into the country.
As a consequence, the number of foreign investors that are involved in various investment sectors especially in agriculture, manufacturing and industrial sectors is increasing as time goes by.
So, at time when many foreign companies and investors are showing strong interests in investing their capital on the country taking advantage of the conducive investment environment set up by the government, it can’t be acceptable to say ‘listen only to what we tell you’.
I believe the neo-liberal extremists’ outlook cannot be anything more than exerting pressure our country to take in their ideology without reservation. And this is not coming from a benevolent intention, but an extremist outlook of ‘’ you only grow through our chosen path’’.
I said this because currently there are many large Corporations from China, Turkey, India, Europe, and Arab countries that are investing their capitals by taking advantage of our country’s suitable investment policy; and also large American company that’s going to invest in geothermal hydropower project, Canadian and Australian companies that are involved in minerals investment, along with other increasing number of companies with their own intentions.
Thus, the extremist forces effort to paint the government’s decision not to privatize banking, telecommunication and electricity for investment as hopeless, is not acceptable.
The Ethiopian government understood fully accepting neo-liberalism is a recipe for disaster, even before the ideology demagogues were hit by the financial crisis; so it didn’t even contemplate about the ideology let alone accepting it.
To reach to this conclusion, the government has gone through many countries experience on how policies that doesn’t’ take the respective countries realities into account forced them into downward spiral. Taking these trends into account, our government decided to formulate a developmental and democratic order that takes the country’s realities into account. With it, the government has been able to record rapid and sustainable growth that would benefit the public step-by step in its struggle against poverty.
As tailored suit, fits the intended subject perfectly, it can be easily seen from our country’s experience that policies and strategies that are in sync with the countries reality is a path to success.
These neo-liberal proponents who insists that everyone follow their path, in addition to being hit by an economic crises, they weren’t able to save the African countries they forced into following their model Nevertheless, these forces don’t care about anyone’s problem as long as their interest is not harmed. I say this because their ideology stands to benefit very few and drag many into poverty.
All in all these neo- liberal extremists should understand that Ethiopia’s chosen democratic and free market system in which the government intervened in a selective manner, does not allow foreign intervention. They should also understand that the current system and government are not easily controlled and that the government has formulated sound policy and strategy that can lift the country and people out of poverty and backwardness.
The fact that the government intervenes on selected sectors and especially the fact that it closed the door for privatization the electricity and telecommunication sector is not hopeless as they claim it to be.
Because there are many sectors that are both suitable opportunities investors can get themselves into and sectors that are in sync with the country’s realities, why only insist only government controlled sectors.
As it’s known, although our country’s economy is growing fast, with private sector playing its own share, there is no denying that our country’s private sector has limitations. With this in mind, in order to sustain the economic growth, government intervention is a must.
I don’t think our vision to enter into middle income countries will be successful without this (government intervention). As we all can understand, our country’s public infrastructure should be hugely developed; and the responsibility to lead this infrastructure development lies on the government.
It’s not a rocket science to understand that in a country where there are no sufficient infrastructures in education, health, and road etc ... selling the telecommunication and electricity sector to the private sector will be a hindrance to the ongoing economic progress. And this fact is being seen on countries that took in neo-liberal thinking without reservation.
One of the most important demands of our people for years has been a question of development. It should be also taken in to consideration the role of lasting place in answering this generations old question. This is why our country’s government and people usually insist up on laminating that guaranteeing development is an issue of existence.
What’s baffling though is the fact that it’s not the first time the proponents of neo-liberalism started to criticize the government’s own brand of free market system, as they have condemned every investors and government that are involved in agricultural sector investment. As it can be recalled, they have been downplaying the agricultural investment that’s taking place in Gambella region.
It’s not surprising really that these folks that down play every developmental works that’s beneficiary to our country, don’t wish for us to do well, in fact it’s to be expected of them.
We have all seen the economic crisis that has been unleashed upon the world for these past few years. As it’s known, its first victims were the banking and financial sectors.
The fact that these banks and financial sectors are run by private individuals has been cited as one of the reasons for this crisis. Also I don’t think it can be forgotten that it took government intervention and bail out money to get out of the crisis.
The banking and financial institutions; that are under private control, unregulated and free-for-all credit issuance has led to this economic crises. As a confluence (of their action), a huge crisis has erupted on the economies of their country and the world as a whole.
This crisis not only emanated (either directly or indirectly) from neo- liberalism thinking, but is also showed how much the thinking is bankrupt. Considering these realities, the insistence made on privatizing our country’s banking sector, cannot be anything more than trying to help others, while you can’t even help yourself.
As far as I can understand, as a result of our country’s adhered developmental and democratic government’s sound investment policy that separates works that needs to be done by the government and the private sector, we are seeing very positive results from both sides. So, blackening the country’s adhered path cannot be anything more than a sinister act to derail the country’s economic progress.
The sides that claim that our country should sell the banking, telecommunication and electric sector to the private quarter try to cite England’s experience as an argument.
They argue that following Ms Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power in 1970’s; electricity, water, telecommunication was privatized and did have a great success. Maybe the English had great success by privatizing these sectors.
However I don’t think these folks understood England’s realities at the time. One can surly tell that there is a huge difference in economic capability and infrastructural institutions between England’s (at the time) and our country’s (currently).
It should be understood that just like the English became successful by following a path that takes their realities into account; our country’s government is garnering positive results by working through a path that takes realities on the ground into account. It’s worth to learn from the fall of other African countries, who tried to copy other successful countries’ path to development.
Here it’s helpful to know that what is important is the end, not some temporary result. England which is cited as a success story for these folks was also dragged to deep economic crisis by these same policies that allows for private investors to be and do as they wish.
So, by comparing one economically strong nation to other nations that are struggling to alleviate themselves from poverty and insisting “the government should not be involved in the economy is either naiveté or manipulation.
At the time when the England government decided to privatize the banks, telecommunication and electricity, they were in a matured stage of a capitalist system. Currently our country, which is striving to enter middle income countries through the leadership of our developmental and democratic government, has to work real hard to have a strong and robust economy.
Thus, England’s economic stature (at that time) has no relationship to our current reality. It’s even safe to say that both are completely different. All in all, I think it’s wrong to assume that the private sector will work in public infrastructure building with full attention, if the government decides to transfer these sectors to it. This is because the private sector lays more attention in getting profit, rather than doing public service.
Thus, the private sector wouldn’t work to build public infrastructures on a scale the economic growth demands like the government would have, especially considering the inadequacies of Education and Health institutions, road and clean water.
So, transferring sectors like banking telecommunication, electricity to the private should not even be contemplated let alone doing it. This is because any private investor goal is to grow though gaining profit; it doesn’t have the responsibility or the duty to develop the country’s woredas and village kebele’s education, health, electricity, telecommunication etc… services to the people.
And this will not only destroy fair-based benefits for the public, but it will also severely damage the ongoing anti-poverty struggle by creating an opening to chaos and riot. And this will unquestionable reverse the strides made in guaranteeing Peace, and in reaping the benefits of development and democratic progress made for the last 22 years.
So, I think it’s best if we continue with strengthening these benefits by sustaining the momentum of our economy through carefully differentiating what’s good and bad for as.
It we don’t work to execute this policy and direction and instead follow other paths, we will end up back to the days of our suffering days. So, as the saying “we only can be ourselves …” entails, we have to strive to be ourselves.
Although these forces commented “As the country didn’t make any economic policy change after the passing of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi as expected, (the issue) has become hopeless,’’ they should realize that the government is getting more hope through its adhered economic policy.
We and our country are tomorrow’s hope. And this fact is attested (confirmed) by none other than the neo-liberals themselves along with their large institutions that we are growing and have a bright future.
Therefore I think they should understand one thing. That is, policy and strategy that are formulated by a country is based on the interest of the people of that country, not a single person’s desires. Of course, our great leader has done uncountable favors to the country and we owe him a lot. He has sacrificed his life for the people.
And his teaching will be our guide, be it for today or tomorrow. It’s better to understand that, what he adhered to his whole life was the ideology of his political party. So, there won’t be any economical policy change before or after his passing.
Whatever any one might say, the developmental and democratic FDRE government by following a sound economic policy that’s in touch with the country’s realties, is not only changing the poverty and backwardness image associated with the country, it has been able to be taken as a benchmark for the world, as result of the economic progress it gained in a few little years.
One thing should be said back to those extremists who try to give advice from their bankrupt ideology by saying if banking, electricity, telecommunication etc … are not privatized, it’s hard to attract investors; no one knows what’s good for us better than ourselves. Thus, these sides should know that “you can only be like your home, not like your neighbors”.