Growth and Governance in Ethiopia: An Observation
Desta, Asayehgn, Ph.D.
the past decade (2003 to 2013), Ethiopia has shown a dramatic increase in
its economic growth. When compared to the regional average of 5.3 percent,
Ethiopia’s Gross Domestic Product has grown at the rate of 10.8 percent
per year. In tandem, Ethiopia’s extreme poverty line in both rural and
urban areas has also declined from 38.7 percent from 2004-2005 to 29.6
percent in 2009-2010. As planned by the United Nations, Ethiopia has also
achieved some of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in areas such as
child health services and safe water requirements. Moreover, Ethiopia has
also made encouraging progress in gender parity mainly in primary
education, as well as in HIV/AIDS, and malaria disease control
(Ethiopia/Overview, April, 05, 2015).
Given these dramatic, noticeable improvements, the cardinal
question that stands to be answered is: can Ethiopia’s economic growth
be attributable to market-enhancing strategies?
most important indicators that could used to measure market-enhancement
include: 1) government
effectiveness—measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the
quality of public service delivery; 2)
political stability—measuring the likelihood of violent threats to,
or changes in, government, including terrorism 3) voice
and accountability—measuring political, civil, and human rights; 4) regulatory
burden—measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies; 5) rule
of law—measuring the quality of contracts enforcement, the police,
and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence, and 6) control
of corruption—measuring the exercise of public power for private
gain, including both petty and grand corruption and state capture (
Kauffmann et al, 2005).
economists generally assert that market-enhancing strategies are the most
critical factors that could explain the divergence in performance across
developing countries (Khan, August 2007).Though it is possible to
generalize, it would be extremely difficult for developing countries to
achieve market-enhancing strategies because market-endeavor activities
require significant expenditure of public resources and skilled human
capital to establish and monitor their implementation effectively.
More particularly, in order to catch up with developed countries,
developing countries that are at the early stage of development may not
completely satisfy most of the market-enhancing criteria. To achieve these
goals in the short run, however, they might attempt to use a combination
of market and non-market techniques such as transferring assets and public
resources, creating semi-public industries, allocating and appropriating
public land and resources for development, direct subsidization, and they
even might be involved in prioritizing infrastructure (Khan, August 2007).
Based on the criteria given by Kauffmann's group, let us try to
analyze Ethiopia’s market-enhancing conditions.
Government effectiveness: Ethiopia’s federalism was established in 1995 to maintain unity and diversity and achieve stability. To ensure the threat of disunity that prevailed during the Military Regime, the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), using Tigrai Region as a model, vigorously redefined the political landscape and restructured the state into the contemporary Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. More specifically, Ethiopia’s polity was sub-divided into nine asymmetrical ethnic-based regional states and two cities that included Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. To further assure self-rule and ascertain confidence in the nation and of the people of Ethiopia, each region was assured the unconditional right to self-determination, including the right to secession.
currently, Ethiopia’s Democratic Developmental State is guided by the
ruling party known as the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic
Front (EPRDF). Controlling the government bureaucracy, the EPRDF is
entirely under a plan-oriented developmental process. The bureaucracy is
managed by civil servant functionaries that are primarily members of the
political system. Members of the bureaucracy that are required to serve
according to their ethnic affiliation are mainly recruited under political
pressure, but are also influenced by the ruling elites. Thus, while the
EPRDF ruling party constantly argues that it is applying democratic rules
and fair judicial practices, the various opposition groups feel that all
election processes that have been conducted since 1995 have been
fraudulent and that the EPRDF is using the term “good governance”
just for window dressing purposes.
adjustment by federal states could be very viable to ensure that more
equal living standards are maintained among its subunits. To
maintain the necessary foundation for fostering economic competition and
to enhance competitive efficiency, however, local governments of the
federal system need to be endowed with adequate resources in order to
collect taxes and administer fiscal policy. If the ability of the local
government is constrained, however, it is the duty of the federal
government to play cooperatively toward bringing about fair allocation of
resources among the federal subunits. In short, democracy and local
governance should be strengthened with fiscal decentralization without
diminishing the benefits that may arise from coordinated action at the
the lesson that needs to be learned by local governments in Ethiopia is
that it needs to maintain
equality between resource-endowed units and resource-poor units. That is,
local officials need to support their constituents and diligently
deliver the required public services instead of levying exuberant rental
income tax to prove to their superiors that their units are self
sufficient. Thus, it would be ethical for local officials in Ethiopia to
calculate rental income not according to fictitious figures but instead
use the actual rental incomes, subject to random auditing, acquired from
both tenants and landlords.
stability: To rekindle Ethiopia, which was on the brink of a
colossal failure both during the centrist feudal monarchy and the unitary
military dictatorship, the current Ethiopian federal structure needs to
grant some rights to all its citizens.
To put it mildly, the Ethiopian environment now seems to be
reasonably stable except that some Ethiopians in the diaspora are
articulating their dissatisfaction and concern that the EPRDF government
has denied its citizens free media, freedom of expression, and are hoping
that the political space that has been constricted since 2005 be widely
opened. As a result, some splintered
opposition groups and militants groups located
in some of the neighboring countries
are in the process of triggering some form of violence.
and Accountability: At the local level, local residents are hardly
empowered and they have not been able to participate meaningfully in
selecting their representatives. Except
being involved in a shameful form of election, the local people are not
given the right to choose their leaders. Though in name they are supposed
to be autonomous, the zone governors, mayors, and killel
leaders are carefully chosen from the hard core cadres of the ruling
party. A case in point is this. During the last election in 2015, some of
the federal members of parliament never went to their local areas to tell
their agendas for the future. To add insult to injury, some of the nominal
candidates never cared to listen to some of the concerns that their
constituents had. Being faithful and accountable to their political party,
as the cadres got endorsed; a green signal was given to the constituent
units to elect them. As
persuasively argued by Araia, the EPRDF does not demonstrate
accountability to the Ethiopian people. What we have in Ethiopia is a
mono-party rule that refused to reconcile democracy and government (2013).
Quality: In theory,
non-partisan, professional public service is a prerequisite to a
developmental state. Given this, the EPRDF has formulated various
regulations that permit and promote private sector development in the
country. But by any stretch of the imagination, it could be said that
there does not seem to exist any interface between the ruling party cadres
and the private sector. In
short, the ruling bureaucracy seems to be far removed from the corporate
sector. Despite the very lauded opinion that foreign investments could be
crowding out domestic investors, more recently, the Ethiopian Government
has been very busy awarding virgin farmlands, and has been giving special
investment deals such as tax holidays, tax relief on imported capital
etc., to attract foreign investors.
of Law: The
current Ethiopian constitution was enacted in 1994 and was fully
adopted in 1995. In tandem, the Ethiopian justice system was overhauled to
allow citizens to seek and obtain an affirmation of their rights as
embodied in and guaranteed by the new democratic constitution.
In addition, to adjust to the demands of the changing world
economy, the judicial system has been re-tailored several times (Federal
Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, February, 2005). Given this, it is sad to
note that neither the litigants nor the practicing attorneys seem to have
confidence in the Ethiopian justice system. The judges are generally
assigned to the court bench not because of their training and experience
but in order to fulfill the country’s quota system. Given this, the
court systems in Ethiopia are manned by inexperienced judges who have no
desire to stay for a long time, and are widely known for being given court
appointments that do not last more than six months. Most of the current
judges seem to be using their experience to market themselves when later
they become private attorneys or business consultants. No wonder why a
number of current attorneys are quick to note that they have been judges.
this, the justice system in Ethiopia can be characterized by delays in
dispensation and it lacks institutional capacity in both enforcement and
the judiciary. In 2004, the Ethiopian Government was supported by the
World Bank to enhance the effectiveness of law-making organizations and
improve the effective delivery of justice. This could help achieve
transparency and accountability through increased access to justice
information so that court judgments and proclamations could be published.
However, despite several revisions, the Ethiopian justice system has
turned from bad to worse. As illustrated by the World Bank:
of the most crucial problems in the justice system included severe
shortages of trained professionals and qualified personnel; lack of
essential facilities in institutions of justice, the inability of law
schools to produce competent lawyers in the desired number; outdated and
inefficient methods and procedures of the system in delivering justice;
court congestions and delays…and inefficient system of law enforcement
(May, 3, 2010).
Control of corruption: From an ethical point of view, corruption is
an integral part of an ailing economy. It is reprehensible and socially
undesirable because it fosters rewards for unproductive private and
government employees. In addition, powerful interest groups use corruption
to bribe government officials into making decisions in their favor and
bypass their competitors. Though not visible, there are open claims by
government officials and consultants that some government officials in
Ethiopia are utilizing public power to fatten their pockets by capturing a
large share of a nation’s income. Actually,
a number of state-owned companies in Ethiopia have been and are being
auctioned nowadays at below market prices (See Desta, 2014).
Though too late, the government of the Federal Democratic Republic
of Ethiopia (FDRE) is using its command and control strategies to combat
this socially undesirable hideous acts which might hinder development and
the proclaimed “good governance” endeavors. As a result, the FDRE has
established the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of Ethiopia
(FEACC) to investigate the various forms of rent-seeking endeavors.
Let us pray that it works.
the last decade, Ethiopia’s economy has flourished. From being labeled
as a poor country during the Derge’s era until the present, Ethiopia has
ascertained itself not only as a political stable country in Africa but is
also an emerging powerhouse because it has undertaken rekindling
strategies to strengthen export-performance through improved competition.
A number of Ethiopian youngsters who do not seem to have a concern to pay
250 birr for a plate of lunch are very optimistic about the future of
their country. This being observed, it is probable impossible that the now
flourishing economy is not likely to be sustainable because it is resting
on an unmanageable and ineffective government structural base.
actuality, Ethiopia is governed under a centralist form of government
though its adherents claim and give the impression that Ethiopia is guided
under a democratic developmental state. The citizens of the country are
not allowed to democratically elect their representatives. Some political
cadres who barely have allegiance to the country are dragging the country
into a bottomless grave. The country’s court system is engulfed with
injustices and delays in dispensation and above all, it is short in its
capacity for fair law enforcement and judicial process.
Thereby, it has created obstacles in the promotion and protection
of human rights. What is more, though corruption or rent-seeking behavior
is reprehensible and socially undesirable, being very rampant, it is
ailing the country’s economy by undermining the income of the country
and fostering rewards for unproductive private and government employees.
Therefore, if some serious, innovative, economic ideas are not integrated
into the governance structure, the government’s call for accountability
and transparency is likely a moot issue. In short, if the Ethiopian
government turns a deaf ear to the activities of the court system and the
rampant corruption that is ailing its economy, the current flourishing
economy is likely to become passé. It is sad to forecast that Ethiopia
may not endure ethical, sustainable development (economic, social, and
environmental) in the long run.
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