By Hewan Akalu
Tigrai Online, October 17, 2013
Earlier this month, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn updated the public about the social-economic stride and ever-deepening political stability and security of the country that he received from the Great Leader Meles Zenawi.
In an open press conference to all local and foreign journalists, PM Hailemariam touched on several issues that are of public interst. Of which, I will discuss the main ones.
The primary point of focus of friends and enemies of Ethiopia at this time is the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) performance.
The GTP is an almost a Trillion Birr budget plan "directed towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Ethiopia's long term vision and sustaining rapid, broad based and equitable economic growth anchored on the experiences that have been drawn from implementing pro-poor and pro-growth development policies and strategies undertaken since 1994".
The plan aims at four main objectives: (1) maintain at least an average real GDP growth rate of 11.2 percent and attain MDGs (2) expand and ensure the qualities of education and health services and achieve MDGs in the social sector (3) establish suitable conditions for sustainable nation building through the creation of a stable democratic and developmental state; and (4) ensure the sustainability of growth by realizing all the above objectives within a stable macroeconomic framework.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn disclosed that the ruling party EPRDF has conducted performance evaluation of the implementation of the GTP. Though the Agriculture and Industry sector did well, compared to last year, the growth of the service sector has shown some reduction.
Still, in general, Hailemariam noted that the nation is experiencing fast economic growth and this growth is the result of the government's role in the economy.
One of the demonstrations of the progress in the GTP is in the energy and water sector, as Minister Alemayehu Tegenu elaborated a week earlier.
Minister Alemayehu disclosed that the government planned to raise the nation's electricity coverage from 41 to 65 per cent in the past three years and access to electricity has now reached 52 per cent. Which is a 53.5 percent success of the target set by the ministry and 52 percent of the GTP target.
In terms of hydro-power projects, out of the 10 Mega Power Projects that are currently underway, four of them (Gibe II, Beles, Fincha Amerti Neshe, and Tekeze) has been finalized and started generating power.
As a result, Ethiopia managed to generate 2,178 MW from its plan of 3,117 MW in the past three years and plans to generate 10,000 MW by the end of the GTP.
With regard to supply of Potable Water, it was noted that in 2012/2013, over 10 million people became beneficiaries of clean water service and the Ministry plans to raise water supply coverage to 98 per cent in rural and 100 per cent in urban areas.
The government also planned to distribute 5.07 million improved bio-mass wood-saver stoves in the past three years and managed to accomplish to distribute about 4.91 million stoves. The Alternative Energy Expansion Development plan of the GTP sets the target at 9.415 million wood-saver stoves to be distributed.
PM Hailemariam clarified confusions about the frequent power outages, which many doomsayers exploited to project an eminent collapse of the Ethiopian economy.
The Premier re-assured the public, in general, and investors, in particular, that his administration is committed to resolve the disruptions that occur in the supply electricity.
The Premier recognized the public’s frustration and pledged to address most of these issues very shortly. There is no problem in either producing or distributing of electricity, Hailemariam said, explaining the causes of the service disruptions, that:
“Power overload is creating outages in the capital and one reason for this was that in some residential areas, excessively high power-consuming machines for non-residential facilities had been installed illegally.
Another cause of power disruption is the deliberate sabotage by sub-station employees of the government utility provider EEPCO in a bid to offend the public."
The Prime minister underlined his determination when replying to queries on whether the government would delay mega projects due to shortage of foreign currency.
Hailemariam underlined that:
“We secured ample foreign currency than we planned for the fiscal year. This is the fact. And it is crystal clear that all our projects but the Grand Ethiopian Renascence Dam (GERD) are executed with foreign aids and lone. Thus, worrying about shortage of currency would be baseless,...
the question should be framed directly as 'Do you have intention to slow down the construction of GERD?' and our response short and clear, "No", it never be slowed down, under any circumstance. This we would like to be clear for our friends and foes alike.”
While admitting the serious challenge shortage of currency poses in completing the GTP, the premier cited past years experience as a showcase, Hailemariam noted that: "We revised many plans due to foreign currency shortage and we managed to reached the intended target".
"The problem will probably be with us for the next 20 years. The main issue is how we use the foreign currency we have at hand. Our plans put our foreign currency sources into consideration and that enabled us to meet our targets in the past year."
Reiterating the governments record of advocating, prioritizing and vigorously perusing development, he assured that all the development projects of the government would be maintained.
Another critical issue, where Hailemariam emphasized his resolve is the role of private sector in the national development and the issue of bank loans.
The prime minister emphasized the government's role in bringing about Ethiopia's fast economic growth by its policy of involvement when there are market gaps (market failure) in replying to claims that the private sector's role is diminishing due to lack of credit and government over involvement in the economy.
Yet, that doesn't mean the government competes with the private sector and it doesn't get involved in areas in which the private sector is functioning.
He underlined that:
“The government has privatized more than 280 companies to focus on major infrastructure projects that are crucial to industrialization and the government will move to other areas when the private sector becomes able to participate in these areas.”
The Prime Minister confirmed the government’s policy of prioritizing the agriculture and manufacturing sectors of the economy and he emphasized that the government had “made adequate capital available to finance private sector projects in these priority areas”.
He disclosed the government is trying to support local investors into participating in the manufacturing sector by providing credit via Ethiopian Development Bank.
He underlined that:
"If there is an investor who is unable to obtain credit in this sector, my door is open”.
The Prime Minister was uneqivocal regarding the maintenance of peace and security. Hailemariam disclosed that the nation's peace and security is at a reliable stage and this is chiefly ascribed to the people at large and to the efforts done by the security apparatus of the nation.
There was success in strengthening this tendency with all neighboring countries (except with that of Eritrea) that Ethiopia have strategic relationship with.
Pertaining to the maintenance of lasting peace in Somalia, Hailemariam noted:
"Ethiopia is supporting the government in Somalia through making regional and federal forces work in harmony. The efforts Ethiopia is exerting in cooperation with AMISOM and other international partners is bearing fruits".
In his comments about the recent terrorist attack in kenya Hailemariam emphesized that the horn region is highly prone to terrorism and it demands the joint work of each nation in the region.
The Premier noted:
“The atrocity witnessed recently in Nairobi is not only the issue of Kenya and Kenyans, it is also our issue. Thus, we work with East African states in a more stronger bond as we want such inhumane act not to happen anywhere again.”
Hailemariam was bold in revealing that "Ethiopia has been successful in fighting terrorism.” He underlined:
“This is due to the keen cooperation of the society and security apparatus of the nation. Terrorists have nowhere to hide but in the society and when the society denies them this shield they could not make themselves invisible. Moreover, terrorists have their own political agenda. And they try to give it a religion colour. However, religion and terrorism have different goals. Radical and extremist forces cover their agenda under a pretext of religion consciously to confuse the faithful. In doing so, they try to make the faithful their instrument of destruction.”
"The main goal of some major extremist groups is to establish religious government. Establishing religious government in Ethiopia is totally unthinkable and those that promote this agenda should cease this unconstitutional agenda."
Premier Hailemariam added that “combating religious radicalism and fundamentalism is a political struggle. At the same time, however, the government had drawn a red line which people were not allowed to cross. Those that tried to do so would face the full might of the law. Extremism winds up in terrorism. Hailemarms seizes the opportunity to convey the message to youth of the need “to detach themselves from extremists”.
Last, but not least, the Prime Minister underlined Ethiopia’s consistent and principled stand regarding the International Criminal Court.
Hailemariam noted that Ethiopia had never signed up to the Rome Statute and has never supported the ICC even since the time of Emperor Haileselasei as it viewed the ICC as having many flaws from the outset.
The way it operated had left “a very bad impression in Africa.” the Hailemariam stressed and underlined the serious and growing concern over the continent’s relationship with the ICC.
"The stand i promote against ICC is on my capacity as the chairman of the African Union. If you ask for my personal view, my answer is same with the view of Africans. So this is the collective stance of Africans. We Africans have a shared view that this institution instead of promoting justice and reconciliation and contributing to peace and stability, it appeared to have become a political instrument targeting Africa and Africans. The fact that this is a shared African view should be duly noted."