Hawassa Industrial Park:                 Names of local industrialists constantly changing & often secret

21 Jul

By Keffyalew Gebremedhin, The Ethiopia Observatory (TEO)

The Reporter‘s Open for Business of July 16, 2016 does not disguise its ecstasy, when discussing the newly-inaugurated Hawassa Industrial Park (HIP). The main take from the article is the indication, “The park is also open for Ethiopians and so far some six local companies have been confirmed to have leased sheds inside the park while the government is in talks with more than 20 local companies.”

Days ago, Addis Fortune reported that Selina Trading Plc is one of the six local companies (headquartered in Gulf though) that has made it into the first of its kind specialized, apparel and textile industry setting in Ethiopia. For reasons we do not know, the names and identities of others have been kept secret.

Usually in a country that has adopted nepotism as its newest religion the TPLF has introduced, the very people that needed the protection must have good reasons to explain to the public why their names should be withheld!

The rumor is that most of them are Tigreans, members of the ruing Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Why the secrecy? If those TPLF members acquired the lands and loans, competing with other Ethiopians and legally, i.e., proper justifications presented to banks about their plans (including to the misnomered-Development Bank of Ethiopia DBE), there should have been no need for secrecy about the names of the local investors.

The Addis Abeba head of the company Fitsum Hagos calmly opines “Though the setting differs, some fundamental challenges will be the same … We believe that we can be competitive given the hard journey we have had and the dynamics ahead of us.”

The negative reaction comes not because of the individuals’ ethnic origin. It is out of the hatred people harbor for the TPLF, for its corruption, nepotism and the violence it has been unleashing on citizens, the greed for land, etc.

It has been destroying homes on the heads of people, throwing the young, old and the infirm to the streets to grab their lands to ensure it gets wealth to run Ethiopia and life of comfort for its members. That is the most heartless development – TPLF-led developmental state. Before his expiration, dictator Meles Zenawi argued in States and Markets: Neoliberal Limitations (2012), developmental state-led development is preferable, because it is capable of countering “pervasive patronage, clientelism, and state perdition” and utlize the resources for national development. Unfortunately, may he role in the grave restless, since he has imposed on Ethiopians the most corrupt, violent in its suppression and destructions of human freedoms through agency of the TPLF the worst form of predatory state.

What kind of development is it that imposes insecurity and wretchedness on portions of a nation’s citizens, while benefitting select ethnic industrialists and foreign investors?

In regard to the industrial parks and the agroindustrial parks fanfare, having spent much time witnessing implementation of the first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I, 2011-2015) and the dashed dreams of the regime, which by the admission of the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), has only become a disappointing fiasco, Addis Fortune now cautions, “Not so many, however, connected this leap with the existing wounded industry, marred by foreclosure at the worst and underperformance at the best.”

Look even the whetted TPLF appetite and that of their minions from the picture below, as the central figure in this undertaking cracks jokes to make the past of manufacturing to be the past.

Ecstatic Arkebe  Oqubay evoking polite laughter from officials during the inauguration of the Hawassa Industrial Park last week (Credit: Addis Fortune)

Ecstatic Arkebe Oqubay evoking polite laughter from officials during the inauguration of the Hawassa Industrial Park last week (Credit: Addis Fortune)

Of GTP I, thus says curtly and sternly IPDC board chairman Arkebe Okubay, “We know that the past five years, we didn’t succeed in fulfilling our aims”.

The Addis Fortune article also mentions that 15 foreign companies against six local firms have now contracts at the Hawassa Park. The TPLF regime has spent nearly $300 million borrowed from abroad to benefit a few select local industrialists, at a time when most Ethiopians’ life is extremely depressed by insecurity and uncertainty.

Not even the well-looped are free of the fears, as we learned from the experiences of what happened during the Gondar protests some ten days ago.

Notwithstanding the secrecy, the officials have missed that the public has sense of the origin of the foreign companies, including their names. However, the names of the Ethiopian companies have been withheld, or are known to be changing as the need arises, as if this is not official business.

Thanks to Addis Fortune , which introduces Selina Trading Plc’s owner and chairman Fitsum Hagos, one of the local industrialists, investing in manufacturing business at the park. We are told that these select “local industrialists enjoy free land, but also a range of attractive incentives”, according to the paper. Some who had the bids were told they were not ready and they have to wait until other parks are built.

In terms of details of the financial support, the paper notes, the local investor/industrialists “are said to have been offered loans of up to 75pc of the investment cost from the DBE, pay for up to 85pc of the cost to train employees overseas, a tax waiver for 10 years to those companies fully exporting their products and the slashing of fees in opening letters of credit (from 3.5pc average down to 0.5pc).”

In the Addis Fortune article, commissioner Fitsum Arega of the Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) tries to justify the selection criteria for foreign investors by noting: “Previously,we focused on facilitation and infrastructure for investment and accepted whoever came … Now, we are proactively targeting quality and efficacy from the existing international players.”

When it comes to the selection criteria for the local industrialists, he too is mum.

Finally, we came across Capital Ethiopia naming the six select local industrialists: Quadrant Investment, Nassa Construction, Akkaki Garment, Sland Textile, KJ Garment and Aster Getachew PLC. In this list almost all of them (save two) are foreign, their base abroad, and thus not real Ethiopian in the incorporation sense.

It is not clear why they are considered as local companies, even before they set up something in the country, instead of branches in the case of those that have companies in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America. Is there something kinky behind this, having to do with taking advantage of the huge loans or the tax holiday system?

Also, as can be seen from this same list, for instance, Selina is not mentioned at all. What is happening?

Not that one can be certain in matters such as this, it has come to me as surprise that even The Reporter, which has full access to all the information the TPLF has seems interested in making this zig public in the public interest!

My skepticism about this jamboree by Dr. Arkebe Oqubay is common knowledge. My last article on the subject matter speaks about A plundered Ethiopia being forced to cater to TPLF’s whetted appetite: Kombolcha & Mekelle Industrial Parks on rush to roll without let!

Most apt here is the observation by the NATO Parliamentary Delegation that had prolonged visit to Tigray from October 25-29, 2010:

“The government [Ethiopian] rules in a kind of commando fashion rather than building up strong governance institutions. This leads to a personalization of politics which raises important questions about the long-term sustainability of the current order. Ministers get involved in micro-managing policy – a practice that cannot be continued if the country does move to a higher level of development.

There will be increasing pressures to open the system up, but the ruling party is very reluctant to do so. It recognizes the need for capacity-building as such, but has yet to fully fathom that it will also have to increasingly cede some decision-making to civil society and autonomous actors in it. Western donors seem intent on pointing out that doing so can be of great benefit to Ethiopia as a whole and will help galvanize rather than impede its development.”

The TPLF has ruled Ethiopia for the past quarter century. It has rather put its noticeable mark on society by ably building and strengthening the institutions of repression and oppression. In other words, just as the NATO delegation observed almost six years ago, the Front has failed to build strong institutions of governance, friendly to societal and human development and open interaction between state and civil society!

Sadly, unable to do the right thing by the country’s infrastructures, even today, like yesterday, like the past quarter century, the TPLF is living by trying to fool the nation. Fana broadcast has been instructed to inform Addis Abeba residents that the regime has finalized preparations to implement a project that would end power interruptions! This story has a very familiar wring to it! I do not know what manufacturers that went bankrupt in the past six years would say, when they read this NEWS!

That’s why now Ethiopians are rising against deception and against the TPLF regime. For now, it appears that it is one corner at a time – although the indications are that things would get far worse in Ethiopia before they get any better!

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