In a nation heading toward a future of conflict & violence, Hawassa whets TPLF’s appetite: Should Ethiopians expect another Oromia or Gambella SNNPR becoming feeding tube to TPLF political cadres?

28 Apr

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

    “Planning ambitiously is mandatory. Economic growth is considered not a choice, but an existential issue”

    –   Hailemariam Dessalegn in parliament,
    –   December 25, 2015


Part I

The measure of TPLF’s huge generosity to the would-be-investors in Hawassa’s Industrial Park – up to 90 percent non-collateralized loans and credits – has become unfathomable, if not mind boggling, even to the regime’s shield-on-standby, such as The Ethiopian Reporter.

Hawassa, according to a draft government paper on the second five-year plan (GTP II), dated September 2015, is one of the four industrial parks, i.e., along with Addis Ababa, Dire Dawa and Kombolcha. While these four pilot projects are in different stages of development, we are told in late in April 2016, the airport at Hawassa has been expressly completed and that the park would also be up and running by May 2016.

Last week, Ethiopians also learned that the people of the historic city of Harar and the state were in a state of war, the state and its security forces suddenly getting ready to demolish homes throwing out residents. No amount of pleading by the sick, the elderly and the rights conscious softened the hearts of stone-hearted officials. On April 26, ESAT reported that a thousand houses have been slated for demolition in a nation where the state and people have never been on the same side on any issue – be it development, politics, economy or health, election, etc. This leaves one with certainty about the future of Ethiopia being one in which citizens must always anticipate conflicts and a sense of worthlessness on account of TPLF’s habitual disrespect for property rights and its search for righteousness in violence.

The draft paper also indicates that, under the Kaizen philosophy, seven million square meters of additional land would be made available for investors engaged in manufacturing and related services in these and other would be parks. The irony is that these are lands seized from individuals in rural and urban areas, without their consent nor with the market rate of compensation that the TPLF cadres are known to sell to others a thousand fold, if not more.

The financial institution that has been throwing good money after bad is the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE), which once again is now ready again to throw largesses to such fantastic arrangements. It means that DBE has not learned from its past mistakes during the fist five-year plan (2011-2015), which led to its latest bankruptcy.

By the admission of the regime, itself 100 thousand hectares of land allotted and loans advanced to investors on cotton farm on forcibly seized lands in Benishangul-Gumz have most similarly failed. While focussing on becoming the next China or Bangladesh in term of manufacturing, Ethiopia has finally announced that it would have to import cotton.

Of the 35 investors in the manufacturing sector that pledged to export their products and got state loans, 20 are reported to be nowhere to redeem their pledges, nor can pay the loans they took.

In addition to these sorts of production problems, corruption in all sectors has been rife and is a huge drain on the economy. Perhaps Deputy Prime Minister Aster Mamo, in charge of civil service education and management is right, when she told parliament in the course of submitting her nine-month report last week that Ethiopia’s governance problem lurks in the top leadership, which, she said, is hardly backs the principles it professes with action. The Reporter (Amharic) headlined this story as “በከፍተኛ የፖለቲካ አመራሩ አካባቢ ያለ ችግር ካልተፈታ መልካም አስተዳደርን ማስፈን ፈተና እንደሆነ ተጠቆመ“.

The cause for above-mentioned DBE’s humiliation, if at all felt, was its pumping of scarce capital on TPLF members land grabbing schemes and other ethnic economic projects. Its aim on the surface has allegedly been to promote Ethiopia’s economic and political development. In reality, however, as could be scrutinized from the bank’s years of practices has been that billions of Ethiopian birr only flocked to TPLF members and foreign investors, while ordinary Ethiopians are left to complain about being discriminated against their investment needs never addressed.

Nonetheless, DBE’s President Isaias Behre told the Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) on March 13, 2015 that the bank had forwarded in six months loans to investors of ETB 3.2 billion in 2015, of which 63 percent went to agro-processing, 27 percent for agricultural development and 6.0 percent in support of farming related activities.

It is extremely troubling that, by the admission of the regime, such investments on commercial agriculture or other lands grabbed by the TPLF rank and file cadres have not shown the desired results. Often forcibly seized lands lie fallow, the monies taken as loans gone to real estate or siphoned off abroad. And yet the TPLF regime that knows no accountability keeps on doing the same thing over and over again, as if by some miracle what it aspires would be attained.

Note that in its convoluted logic, usually untrue to its statements, DBE was looking forward to a prosperous future. Unfortunately, a year to the day Isaias Berhe first appeared on the media to suddenly announce stopping substantial financing arrangements for domestic and foreign investors, which originally was meat to incentivize them with cheap finance. As to the need for such action, the DBE president explained that for five years in a row the country has offered such cheap financing, its efforts and finance have not been reciprocated with higher productions, nor exports or the country’s capacities to earn foreign exchange have increased.

What is the story here? The strictly TPLF-run DBE has gone bankrupt, although they do not want to employ that word. Nor was anyone held accountable to date! Of course, historically we have known that the church always rewards its own.

Most surprising is the fact that, with green light from top TPLF officials who are aware that the current DBE largess has gone to TPLF members, went ahead and decided to raise DBE’s capital to ETB 7.5 billion from government coffers, according to The Ethiopian Reporter (Amharic). For that, the state was required to sell bonds worth ETB 2.57 billion.

In other words, Ethiopian taxpayers are being held by the nose to put an even higher capital level for DBE. This is intended to pay for lost funds in the ponzi scheme, monies senselessly spent by the TPLF nouveau riche, as I discussed in my article ተጠያቂነት ያላስከተለው የሕወሃት ዘረኝነትና የኢትዮጵያ ፖንዚ ፖለቲካዊ ኤኮኖሚው የተለያዩ መገለጫዎች of March 27, 2016, as much as to finance the so-called economic zones and industrial parks throughout the country, the TPLF people being the first-line beneficiaries.

What is lost in Ethiopia’s governance today is the fact that there is a huge gulf between the people and those that run the state – the TPLF. Owing to its authoritarian nature, often the TPLF must decide on everything, even before it learns to live by the rule of law, especially its constitution, in whose name and pretense it sends the nation’s productive youth and those that speak their minds to permanence in marked and unmarked prisons.

I cannot imagine prisoners of war that spend days on hard work that does not them bear any fruits and nights in concentration camps, becoming the agents of national transformation. These people are not participants in any national plan or any activities on their own; nor are they masters of their destiny as they are held against their will! That’s how Ethiopians feel today!

A short course to a relatively easier but unsafe life is one of those that try to outsmart the TPLF and its minions in their own game by taking loans and carrying out their own projects, when the Front’s heavy-handed leaders await to receive billions of foreign exchange from exports for their expensive lifestyles.

Thus, if the TPLF leaders are true to what they say about Ethiopia’s development, they should set free the media to report on abuses of power, malfeasance and corruption; allow state institutions to operate according to their mandates and the highest standards of integrity. When they fail, apply the full measure of the law and sanction them in keeping with the requirements of accountability.

Of course, in order to do that the TPLF people would have to show through their own example they themselves are accountable, which they are not!

Go check Bloomberg TV, for instance, the interview Arkebe Okubay gave in Hong Kong recently. In all honesty, I am horrified by his cockeyed lies about Ethiopia’s growth and its progress, including his claim of high degree of food security the country has achieved.

Was he speaking for the same 20 million people, allegedly on whose behalf the TPLF has now sent delegation with bowl in hand to beg for humanitarian assistance in Western capitals, as the starving now flock to the capital city in search of food? Even that, when the UN started fund-raising to fill the gap in resources, the TPLF said it did not need it, because it would affect its image.

Even that the regime started denying just this past Thursday Ethiopia has blocked UN fundraising on behalf of the nation’s 20 million drought victims, after the delegation went to Norway and Geneva, before it proceeds to the United States! They state now the story “the Ethiopian government had stopped the fundraising campaign by UN agencies” is false.” Why did they not deny that story already three weeks or so ago? Why now?

The meaning of this is that investors would shirk investing and amassing profits from a country a fifth of whose population is starving from drought-and-neglect-induced hunger!

Ethiopia could attain food security status, if only the TPLF sets free the peasant farmers from its political chains, rigid indoctrination and also allow it to work its farms with freedom.

I say this because the cause of the current food insecurity is the misguided policy of indoctrination and confusing the farmers!

The current cause for the regime’s rejection is its insincerity, its duplicity, and its dishonesty to the nation!

All that is needed of the TPLF is to get to respect the Ethiopian people, and getting right the politics and macroeconomic policies the country should follow! Today, Ethiopia follows the whims of TPLF war lords, who could not even talk to each other!

Copying something like how to install industrial parks is simple. The first five-year plan has shown that it flopped without achieving any of its targets.

In its editorial of January 11, 2016, titled Planning Without Accountability Serves Politics Only, Addis Fortune rightly observed:

    “Planning ambitiously is one thing, but realising the plans is completely a different issue. Hailemariam’s visible confidence at the last parliamentary session would have been reasonable had his government performed satisfactorily during the first Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP I). Unfortunately, that was far from the case.

    On major macroeconomic and sectoral targets, GTP I witnessed sizeable shortfalls. Annual export targets, for instance, were never been met in any of the years of the planning time. Growth of agriculture lagged behind the plan. Average annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth was lower than the base case scenario of 11.4pc.

    Power generation, mining, livestock development, small and medium enterprises development, water supply and sanitation, infant and maternal mortality, and telecom expansion all saw considerable shortfalls. Average performance in these sectors was less than 40pc.

    By and large, the ambition that donors and critics were worried about at the outset appeared a real-time dragging factor under GTP I. Latest estimates, by some development experts, show that the performance of the plan could only be between 40pc and 50pc. On agricultural scaling-up, for instance, Hailemariam admitted that only 50pc was achieved.

    It is not clear why the ruling elite wanted to go for yet another ambitious plan, while their last plan was largely a failure. They may be playing politics. But the risk of a political game that provides ready made evidence for scrutiny is indeed huge. Not even a well-established political force, such as the EPRDF, could save its skin from thoughtful examination by the public, researchers, interest groups and political opponents…One thing that seems to be missing from the policy sphere of the ruling EPRDF is the courage to admit failure.”

Is the TPLF still in love with its game of self-deception? They may continue, but the Ethiopian people have moved on!

(to be continued)

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