18 October 2017

Ethiopia: Make Hay While the Sun Shines

editorial

In Ethiopia, we have been sporadically witnessing seedlings of every stripes of radicalism. Therefore, the government has identified religious fanaticism as a threat that could undermine the country's democratization and developmental effort, and hence it has vowed to work hard to undermine every tendency of extremism.

The malign controversies and fierce ideological battles we have been observing in the last few years can pose threats to the time-tested peaceful and harmonious coexistence of the Ethiopian people.

If we fail to address these problems wisely, then we will surely be driven off-truck and end-up blowing out the candle of hope that is flickering in our heart. If we do not check this trend very soon, and leave the sporadic ethnic frictions being observe among and between the different groups to its fate, we may face frightening challenges that could eventually ruin our nation and its people.

Tolerance, our most enviable and unique heritage, can eventually be eclipsed by stripes of fanaticism. The social fabric that bound Ethiopian society together is being ruthlessly demoted by some radical elements who are consciously engaged in obstructing the democratization effort. The remarkable peaceful coexistence and harmony of our culturally and religiously diversified society must be protected from the brutal assault of these fanatics.

This agenda is increasingly becoming a big concern for those who eagerly wish to sustain the current trends of economic growth and social developments. Thus, we must work hard in shielding ourselves from the muggings of radicals of all stripes who wish to enervate the priceless social and cultural heritage that served as bedrock for the peaceful co-existence of our people.

We should make no mistake to allow these groups to have "a-free-ride" and to gain strong foothold where they would promote their fundamentalist or militant ideologies. Hard-liners of every sort are nowadays trying to elicit supporters to advance their sectarian agenda. Thus far, we have managed to contain the thrust of these radical groups for we have put in place a constitutional and democratic system that guarantee the full expression of cultural and ethnic identities, which in turn promote the unity and peaceful co-existence of the Ethiopian people.

Nonetheless, radicals groups are out to bulldoze our constitutional order and to snatch the hard-won victory of the Ethiopian people. Hence, we need to contain this trend soon enough, before it would gradually transform itself into a monster that would swallow the promising fruits of the progress we are enjoying now.

Many commentators are not only impressed by what Ethiopia has done to sustain its economic growth, but was also struck by the most egalitarian nature of this economic growth that made possible an equal distributions of income amidst the world suffering from a high levels of inequalities.

Renowned economists, like Professor Joseph Stiglitz, had expressed their admiration to Ethiopia's economic growth. According to him the growth registered in some of the developing countries over the last several years is a result of increase in commodity prices; as is particularly the case with China. Nonetheless, the success of Ethiopia clearly has got to do with an increase in the production output, diversification, and going into new areas, he argued.

The Professor had then asserted that the challenge ahead of Ethiopia will be to keep the growth it has registered for a longer period. Hence, he advised Ethiopia to ponder on how to make widely shared national cake and keep the economic growth sustainable.

In fact, in the eyes of Joseph Stiglitz and other economists, Ethiopia has one of the most egalitarian distributions of income in the world. Contrary to the case in Ethiopia, in many developing countries there were not only high levels of inequality, but also the level of this inequality has continued to increase dramatically. Even in China, which has been very successful in reducing poverty, the level of inequality has once reached at alarming point.

According to the professor, the notion of "trickle-down economy" is proved to be wrong. The belief that everybody would eventually benefit from the economic growth as long as there is sustained growth is mistaken. As a matter of fact the principle of "trickle-down economy" does not take care of the trouble in income distribution.

Stiglitz had underscored that there was no good economic theory behind the trickle-down economy and no evidence to support that claim. Therefore, an increase in inequality both within and between countries has been building up a real challenge for anybody concerned with egalitarian growth.

For instance, the number of people living in poverty has greatly increased in the US, while the US GDP has been showing substantial increase from time to time. Now most Americans are poorer than they were three or six years ago. The benefit of this economic growth has gone to the people at the very top and the growth registered is far from being pro-poor. This worrisome phenomenon is happening in many parts of the world.

Though we have heated debate on inequalities of in-come, still the situation in Ethiopia is very encouraging and there are a number of things that Ethiopia (other African countries) could do in order to help keep its growth egalitarian and sustainable.

As we know, one of the most important aspects of Ethiopia's economy is the role the state play in the developmental processes of the country. Granted, no country has been successful without having an important role from the government. Hence, at one time or another, the government will play an important role be it in the US as well as in Europe. The market failure is one area where the Ethiopian government is playing an important role in the economy.

Although there are governance problems, Ethiopia has identified its comparative advantages in the global economy and is working hard to maximize the benefit it reaps by focusing on selected economic sectors that would create huge employment opportunity for the youth. Therefore, development in Ethiopia is on firm footing and the country is trying to take its economy to the next level.

The year 2016 has been tumultuous for Ethiopia as well as for Africa largely due to a commodity crisis and the global economic slowdown. Yet there were still pockets of good growth which display the huge potential of the African continent in general and Ethiopia in particular.

Growth across the continent is averaged 5% and Ethiopia's growth rate is much higher than the African average, as IMF has recently confirmed.

Ethiopia's progress has spurred the "Africa rising" narrative. Moreover, the discourse on "African Lions" is mainly referring Ethiopia. The economic optimism we saw in the past two decades has increased productivity while creating and driving employment. Ethiopia's economic growth continues unperturbed by the widespread drought and rising insecurity and instability in the Horn of Africa. We are seeing Ethiopia moving forward rebalancing itself in every tip as it charts the way ahead in 2018 and beyond. Ethiopia is still one among the fast-growing economies of the world. However, this promising trend will only continue by stemming the eminent threats of radicalism of every stripe. We need to make the hay while the sun shines.

Ethiopia

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