3 June 2007

Ethiopia: Opposition MPs Poke Fun At Gov't 'Economic Growth' Claim

Addis Ababa — Opposition members of Parliament on Thursday said they were not to believe reports by the government that the country's economy grew.

The MPs, who challenged the government on the matter during the House's 31st regular session, said they don't see any economic growth to justify government assertions and articulated skepticism over the matter.

"Where's is the cake if there was growth?" one opposition MP demanded to know.

They said a move by the government to distribute wheat to the public was a sign, not of economic growth, but of otherwise.

"If economic growth is achieved, why was the need to subsidize wheat for the most vulnerable class of society?" Gebru G. Mariam from United Edthiopian Democratic Front ( UEDF) Gebru also noted that Ethiopia's involvement in Somalia contributed to the inflation prevailing in the country and suggested that government "should restrain itself from spending undesirable expense." The House, which deliberated on the current economic status also debated on the motion, moved by the opposition that government should increase salaries for civil servants.

The opposition MPs who had thier "opposition day" at the Parliament said civil servants were the most severely hit by the "sky rocketing" living expenses in the country and it was necessary for the government to make salary adjustments.

"People couldn't afford the higher price of goods. So the government should consider revising salary of the civil servants, Lidetu Ayalew of EDP/Medhin said.

Lidetu also noted the recently imposed surtax by the government on luxury goods has exacerbated situations as reflected on price hike "directly or indirectly." At this point in the course of a hot debate, MPs from ruling party reacted saying the government was well in control of the said inflation.

"There is no doubt on the rise of the inflation in the country. However, the government has been attempting to inhibit this not to exceed above 10%," Sofian Ahmed, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MoFED) said.

Minister Sufian also snapped on opposition reluctance to admit the fact that the Ethiopian economy grew.

He said the economic growth in the last four years was "a plain truth that has been showed practically." But he said, "unfortunately" that only healthy people can see the country's economic achievement over the last four and five years.

"If there is anyone who believes that there is no economic growth in the country, I will doubt his or her sanity," the Minister said.

Sofian noted the real GDP reached 10%, while the money supply never exceeded the nominal GDP.

He also rejected opposition claim saying the recent imposed surtax had no bearing on the price hike.

The minister also responded to the one about "undesirable expenditure" in Somalia.

He said "our" involvement in Somalia was "totally unrelated" with the inflation.

"The Ministry of Defense did not need extra budget, other than what was allocated to it in its annual budget at the beginning of the fiscal year," Sufian explained.

He also said the increment of salary would not bring a sustainable solution.

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