Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

9 December 2012

Ethiopia: Makeshift Reforms

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The Ethiopian peasants have experienced farming for thousands of years by timely plowing, seeding and cultivating the land in order to garner a good harvest. They are accustomed to it in that they know what a strong farmer needs to perform in keeping the seasonal requirements of farming.

The law of the farm states that success in any human endeavor is analogous to a good harvest.

After all, harvest comes from properly plowing the fields, planting the seeds and tending the crops. There is no shortcut to it. Similarly, if there is short cut to success, it is in hard working.

One has to be ready to learn, acquire the required skills, act responsibly and avoid irresponsible behaviors to be successful.

It is analogously true that the EPRDF-led government has carried out massive reforms in public institutions, in a bid to bring about good governance to the ultimate achievement of economic development. Some sectors have witnessed results that could be unthinkable in the past. Processes that take one to oscillate between offices have now been replaced with one stop shops.

For instance, provided that one could present proper documents, she could get her vehicle ownership certificate signed and sealed in one shop. One does not need a law practitioner to prepare a document to authorise someone to act on his behalf. That may appear simple to some, but from what we have been through in the past, it is a like a sprint.

The bitter struggle carried out to change the old attitudes towards work have also shaken the old practices expressed through irresponsible behaviors, such as serving individual interest rather than the public, inefficiency, lack of transparency and accountability. There, now, is little complacency on job security.

Despite these undertakings, the issue of good governance is still lingering behind public expectation and, in some sectors, it is worsening.

As it has been the case in the last decade, the young workforce is eager to join the public sector in masse. Yet, it is not well trained to serve. Hence, the rising inefficiency, suspicion, conflict and indecision.

In addition, transfer of knowledge from the experienced staff to the young ones is not properly done. And the work culture does not motivate new entrants to release their potential.

The rampant knowledge gap that remains to swarm the public sector, coupled with lack of proper human resource auditing, makes the implementation of reforms very difficult, to an extent of impending reforms in some places. Furthering the problems is poor training provision.

Adding to the problem tree is the continued dismissals and replacement of managers that breeds fear and indecision. A popular belief that, "authority in EPRDF's government is like slumbering in a tree", also alerts some officials to frantically engage in corrupt practices.

The lack of confidence observed in some public offices is a concern in that it renders them to collaborate unwittingly to persons with fraudulent behaviors who appeal to authorities for their personal end.

Further, a gross salary increment made in some sectors, which made experienced staff to have equal base salary with new ones, discourages experienced minds and pushes them out. These and other employee placement and promotion polices often disguise skilled minds, whereas it leaves organisational ladders for incapable hands.

It is clear that the current knowledge base is not adequate to solve our big problems, largely relating to poverty. Therefore, the packages for quality education must be strengthened. After all, training could not replace education.

It is not the end, though. Oganisations need to establish training centers to equip new entrants with the necessary skills, and acquaint them with relevant procedures so as to enable them perform their activities effectively. They should also strive to create a fair ground in which employees compete fairly and be rewarded for their achievements.

A new leadership has to be cultivated from the lowest levels, in a way that inculcates capacity and commitment. Even nature teaches us that learning goes from simple to complex.

Living the law of the farm, which advocates for a success based on hard work, is at stake for the Ethiopian public sector.

Yohannes Abebe Works At the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE)

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