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A year after Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia remains on track

By Muna Jemal
Tigrai Online, September, 06, 2013

It was on August 21, at dawn, the Ethiopian people learned that the Great Leader Meles Zenawi has passed away. The public media read the statement issued by the Council of Ministers which, “with deep sorrow and grief, regrets [informed] the Peoples of Ethiopia that Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who has led our country for the last 21 years with great wisdom and far-sightedness, passed away on August 20th at 11:40 pm at the hospital where he was under medical treatment”.

The Council elaborated the circumstances of the tragedy as the late Prime Minister Meles had been showing remarkable improvement, after undergoing medical treatment in the previous two months.

However, the Council said, Meles had had to be re-admitted back to hospital two days earlier due to a sudden infection, which led to his death, despite efforts by his physicians.

The statement was shocking to every Ethiopian. From the news-anchors, who read the statement, to the ordinary citizen, at home and workplace, the news was upsetting, their grief was visible.

Some burst into tears blocking traffic on streets in Addis Ababa and elsewhere. Others stared on their TV and radio in disbelief, listening to the same statement again and again, as if they were expecting a correction.

It was even more saddening revelation that Meles dedicated his time to the successful implementation of the 5 year Growth and Transformation Plan, despite nursing a serious medical condition for the past two years.

The statement was not wholly depressing, however. It noted the comforting fact that:

“Meles has left behind a solid democratic and developmental constitutional system. Today, his ideas and vision of change have become the ideas of change for 80 million Ethiopians.”

The constitutional developmental democratic system that has been left to us by a great leader is built on a firm foundation. We will always be proud of his achievements, remain confident in ourselves and nurture the unshakable belief that the efforts at making Ethiopia's renaissance a reality have indeed become irreversible.”

The Council of Ministers has also assured Ethiopians and well-wishers that the nation’s policies will remain in place and there is no power vacuum.

It noted that “His Excellency Deputy Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn will, in accordance with the FDRE Constitution, continue to carry out the responsibilities of heading the Council of Ministers”.

In October, in the opening session of the parliament, President Girma Woldegiorgis noted that: “Ethiopia is undoubtedly moving on the right path towards rapid and sustainable development. The effect of Ethiopia's progress is also “beginning to have a trans-boundary impact [and] many continue to express their hope to  see Ethiopia maintain and continue on the right path of development in a post-Meles era”.

In the same month, PM Hailemariam said that "the performance of the economy showed the country was on the right track to achieve the growth envisaged in the GTP". Again, he noted, the period since Prime Minister Meles Zenawi death has proved the institutional strength of the developmental state and the ruling party.

As successful implementation requires conducting a thorough review of the achievements and identifying areas of improvement, by November, one of the major occupations of Hailemariam and his colleagues had been a mid-term review of the party's performance and public mobilization in the GTP in the context of the 9th General Congress of EPRDF.

Besides to that, to compensate the loss of Meles Zenawi and based on a review of the two and half years performance and the works ahead, structural changes in the organization of the executive branch of government are deemed necessary for speedy implementation of the Growth and Transformation Plan.

Therefore, PM Hailemariam disclosed in November the decision to organize the higher level coordination of the GTP and related executive functions in a new way.

Hailemariam took the responsibility to directly follow up the progress in Mega projects (dams, sugar development, etc.) activities in diplomacy, intelligence and military sectors.

He also announced that the executive will be organized in three clusters and assigned three officials to coordinate each.

Dep. Prime Minister Demeke Mekonen was assigned to provide leadership for the Social services cluster.  In addition to his responsibilities as Dep. PM in general and as Minister of Education.

Given his track record and the recently signed 10.6 Bln Birr loan from World bank for Social services (Education, Health, water and the like), we can be assured that the GTP targets in this sector will be met by 2015.

The Good Governance and Reform cluster was assigned to Muktar Kedir, with Dep. PM portfolio. As Muktar's administrative skill was repeatedly demonstrated in all his undertakings in the last decade and recently as Deputy Chair of OPDO, Head of the PM's Office and EPRDF Secretariat.

Debretsion Gebremichael, with Dep. PM portfolio, was assigned to the Economic and Finance cluster. His assignment is on the expectation that he replicates across the public enterprises the same strong performance he showed in ICT expansion and the exponential growth of telecom service.

In March, EPRDF held its 9th Congress in Bahir-dar and emerged stronger and unified, and ready to accelerate progress in the developmental path.

The Congress, under the theme “with the thoughts of Meles: stronger organization and developmental forces for the renaissance”, was entirely focused on evaluating the implementation of the GTP and on how to tackle setbacks and enhance performance.

EPRDF secretariat invited journalists, representatives of mass associations, business men and prominent personalities to observe the Congress. It was also attended by 14 sister political parties from foreign countries as far away as Norway to South Africa, and from China to Yemen.

EPRDF leadership took a historic step by retiring about 1/3rd of the higher level leadership including dozens of very senior leaders resigned to make way for the new generation.

The objective of the leadership transition was to ensure the continuance of the front’s line of struggle through posterity (whereby younger party members take over responsibility from senior party leadership), as explained by the party at the time.

The Congress successfully concluded its deliberations by reaffirming its commitment to the elimination of rent-seeking practice, freeing itself from the malaise and without any partisanship towards the interest of the peoples as per the democratic developmental line.

It also noted that the growth rate of the agricultural sector was not attained as per the decision of the 8th Organizational Congress, thus set directions for the preparation and full launch of agricultural developmental armies throughout the rural area without any delay.

The Congress instructed the EPRDF leadership to curb the rising inflation to ease the pressure on the urban dwellers.. It also reaffirmed commitment to attain industrial targets by transforming small and micro enterprises into middle level industries.

The EPRDF Congress commended the major infrastructure projects, including roads, hydro power plants, rail ways, water projects, that are underway, yet noted that some have suffered delay and are sub-standard. It pledged to strive for the successful implementation of these key projects through effectively utilization of public money and by mobilizing financial resources to the projects.

It also also pledged to stamp down religious extremism bent on undermining the equality of religions and religious tolerance existing in the country since time immemorial.

The Congress pledged to uphold and pass down the legacies of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to the public at large and posterity contributing share to the efforts of documenting his contributions to the Ethiopian peoples and African cause as well.

With 5,000 laborers employed, 1,200 machineries in operation and a factory capable of producing 800meteric cube concrete per hour, the Renaissance dam project is now 26% complete!

But it was last May that one of the four main milestones in the construction of the dam had been conducted. That is the diversion of the natural course of the river.

Diverting the Blue Nile (Abay) river was technicaly necessary because the construction of the dam could not be conducted without diverting the water flow.

However, the diversion means a lot more than technical construction procedures. Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonene explained the profound implication of the work saying that:

“for centuries Abay (Blue Nile) has been flowing as it wishes. But now, Abay is tamed. It will flow in a direction we set for it. The mere fact that Abay is flowing in a direction we set for it is symbolic of the Renaissance of Ethiopia and Africa”.

Equally important is the change of attitude it created among our neighbors Egyptians.

The Egyptians led by the chauvinistic regime of Hosini Mubarak has created a zero-sum politics mind-set. That is; either Ethiopia or Egypt can use the Nile but not both. Based on that many doomsayers have been predicting a crisis even war between the two brotherly countries.

However, the Egyptians are now slowly realizing that cooperation is the way forward. It was reported in Egypt newspapers that:

“Egypt’s Ambassador to Ethiopia Mohamed Idrees described Ethiopia's Renaissance Dam as a "reality" that Egypt must cope with and added that his country's goal in its ongoing dialogue with Ethiopia is not to shut down the project, but to find ways for both countries to benefit from it.”

The fight against Corruption went to a higher level in June following the high-profile crack down that started on 10th May.

The Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission reported the detention of more than a dozen suspects including: Melaku Fanta (Director of the Federal government's Revenues and Customs Authority), Gebrewahed Woldegiorgis (Deputy Director General), Eshetu Woldesemayat (Director of Legal Directorate of Federal Revenues and Customs Authority), Tiruneh Berta (Confiscated propriety management department head of the Federal Revenues and Customs Authority), Asemelash Woldemariam (head of various key functions at the Authority and at Bole Airport branch of Customs), Amegne Tagele (Head of Adama branch of Customs Office) and other government officers and businessmen.

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The arrest continued in the following weeks with public cooperation enabling the capture of other mid-level officials of the Federal Revenues and Customs Authority, including foiling attempts to escaping into neighbor countries and to hide/destroy evidential documents.

However, despite the common perception, it was not a sudden development rather a cumulative outcome of the multifaceted systemic works conducted in the past decade.

The Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission had been fighting corruption for years. The strategic focus areas of the anti-Corruption struggle have been identified, in the past three years, as the land administration offices, the taxation agencies, public procurement, and the justice system.

In this fiscal year alone, the Commission recovered more than 21 million Birr and other assets, including cash, buildings, land, and other properties.

According to the 10-month performance report of the Commission, 21,096,806 Birr (in cash); 1,945 square meter of land; three tusks; four buildings; 23 blackberry cell phones (worth 195, 000 Birr) and other assets were returned to the lawful owner, which is the Government.

In the stated period, 23 cases involving the above-mentioned proceeds of corruption were decided in favour of the Commission, raising its performance to a 100 per cent.

As for the restraining of alleged proceeds of corruption, the Commission caused the restraining of 128,709 square meter of land, 28 vehicles, 60 residential houses, eight business organizations, and 3,012,332.69 Birr in cash.

In the reported period, the investigation of 339 files was finalized and verdict was given on 164 files, 144 of which were decided in favour of the Commission. Out of the 409 defendants that were brought to court in the stated period, 293 of them were convicted.

Accordingly, the conviction rate of the offenders calculated in terms of the number of files convicted is 87.8 per cent.

In the previous years (until 2012), it was reported that:

The Commission managed to successfully investigate 1,900 alleged corruption offenses and pressed charges against 1,545 of them.

Some 1,118 of them were handed from 3 to 23 years of rigorous imprisonment and were also fined. As for the restraining of the proceeds of corruption, close to one billion Birr was returned to government coffers.

[Note that: These figures do not include corruption related offenses handled by Ministry of Justice and regional anti-corruption commissions.]

In July,  a World bank report titled "Ethiopia Economic Update" reaffirmed that Ethiopia will succeed in transforming her economy and achieve the national vision to alleviate poverty and to reach the level of a middle-income economy by 2025.

The report re-affirmed that:

"over the past decade, the Ethiopian economy has been growing at twice the rate of the Africa region, averaging, 10.6 percent GDP growth per year between 2004 and 2011 compared to 5.2 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa".

The Bank's experts explained that:

“Two and a half million people in Ethiopia have been lifted out of poverty over the past five years as a result of strong economic growth, bringing the poverty rate down from 38.7 percent to 29.6 percent between 2004/05 and 2010/11”.

"Ethiopia follows a strategy of increasing exports to facilitate growth. This is appropriate given the limited size of the domestic market and it is consistent with the development experience of some of the recently successful countries, particularly in East Asia”.

“Growth of goods exports has mainly been driven by volume growth across a variety of product groups, implying that Ethiopia is increasingly diversifying its export base.”

“Ethiopia’s fiscal performance appears to be adequate given the current state of the economy and financing requirements for development.

The overall general government deficit (including grants) declined from 1.6 percent of GDP in 2010/11 to 1.2 percent of GDP in 2011/12.

Tax collections have been boosted by the 2010 tax reform, while public management reforms (such as program-based budgeting) have strengthened public expenditures.

Public debt is on a declining trend at 35 percent of GDP in 2011/12 and Ethiopia has a low risk of external debt distress."

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