15 February 2014

Ethiopia: Easing Hardship Induced By Poor Service Delivery, Rising Inflation

Several infrastructure development projects are under way in Ethiopia as part of its 5-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), which is due to run to 2015.

Unfortunately, the successful accomplishment of the targets set out in the plan and accelerate the country's rapid growth has been beset by poor service delivery and the inexorable rise in the cost of living as described hereunder.

Frequent electric power interruption Although Ethiopia's electric power production is envisaged to reach 10,000 Megawatts by the end of the GTP period, the distribution of the 2,000 Megawatt that it is currently producing leaves much to be desired. Medium and heavy industries, which were projected to play an important role in the GTP's success, as well as service-sector enterprises, are incurring loss because the frequent power interruption is forcing them to operate under capacity, spend a considerable amount of money on running generators and default on their bank loans due to declining sales revenue.

The impact of the power outage is not limited to the economy alone, though. It also has serious social ramifications and compounding the hardship families are facing in fulfilling the needs of their children.

Therefore, it is incumbent up on the government to see to it that the power supply is consistent. How can we expect to grow when power is interrupted for weeks?

Patchy telecom service:

The problems attending the telecom sector are increasingly becoming more troubling by the day and marring the country's image. From citizens who rely on mobile telephone to earn a living to the staff of diplomatic missions everyone is irked by the patchy state of telecom services.

In particular mobile telephone and internet connectivity has deteriorated to a level that is not befitting a city that is the seat of the African Union and other international organizations and a country that is undertaking huge infrastructure projects. Unless the concerned government agencies take a concerted measure to tackle the problem it is bound to throw the country's growth off course. While the telecom expansion project that is due to get under way soon is believed to improve telecom services throughout Ethiopia, this does not justify ignoring the responsibility of ensuring that the existing network functions properly. Hence, the necessary remedial measures should be taken posthaste.

Water supply disruption:

The impact of the recurring water supply disruption in both Addis Ababa and other towns despite the increase in coverage cannot be overstated. It is proving to be a nuisance which is subjecting families, hospitals, factories, hotels, restaurants, etc to an unnecessary ordeal. And it is quite saddening to see time that could have been spent on doing something productive wasted on searching for water.

As a problem which gives no time, the disruption in water supply has to be dealt with urgently. Otherwise, it will have a dire consequence on the public at large.

Road closures:

Access to roads has been curtailed in several parts of Addis Ababa owing to the construction of the Light Rail Transit line and other roads. This has exacerbated the already sad state of mass transport in the city prompting a large number of commuters to clamor for taxis and buses during rush hour as well as preventing employees working in government offices, medical institutions, banks, insurance companies, hotels, shops and the like from arriving to work on time and provide the services expected of them. Though the problem will be solved once the light rail transit project is completed, the necessary mitigating measures need to be taken immediately. The suffering commuters are undergoing has to be addressed without delay. Rising inflation prompted by fuel price hike

The steep hike in fuel price over the past decade has translated into a debilitating rise in the price food items, commodities and services. Without detracting from the Ethiopian government's efforts to rein in the rate of inflation, citizens are frustrated by the escalation in the cost of living inflation induced by the soaring fuel price. Although we do not subscribe to the idea that the government must directly subsidize fuel prices, it ought to facilitate the conditions whereby it is available to consumers at a fair price. Accordingly it is incumbent upon the concerned government agencies to devise mechanisms which help to counter the effects of the rise in inflation and shortage of supply that are bound to occur in the wake of the recently introduced increase in the price of petrol and diesel oil.

The problem areas identified above are making life hard for the vast majority of the public. Granted that the road ahead will not be a bed of roses while executing an ambitious growth and transformation plan, it would be irresponsible to wait until problems get out of hand or attempt to rationalize them as "necessary sacrifices". The fruits of the growth that the country is touted to register have to be savored. If, however, there is no end in sight for the trial and tribulations citizens are going through, despair and disgruntlement will set in. It is imperative that all of us do whatever we can to avert the dire consequences of these ingredients for failure.

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