14 June 2018

Ethiopia's Pro-Poor Policies Bearing Fruits

Recently, the Economist magazine in its article published under the title 'Ethiopia's scheme to help the poor is setting an example' narrated a story about how the country is setting an example in helping the poor through its safety net program. In fact, the magazine claimed, if the program succeeds, it would become an example to other poor countries across the world.

True, it has been a long held view by the incumbent that its public policies are directed towards ensuring the benefit the poor and marginalized groups in terms of development. And for long, the rationale for holding ownership of mega infrastructural companies such as telecommunication is to ensure that all Ethiopians irrespective of income and geographical location (residence), should have access to such infrastructural facilities. And this can only be realized when the state plays a key role in development and infrastructural expansion.

The due emphasis on pro-poor policies is not only ideological but also constitutional. For instance, article 43 of the FDRE constitution talks about the right to development. Sub article one and two state that the peoples of Ethiopia as a whole, and each nation, nationality and people in particular have the right to improved living standards and to sustainable development.

Further, Article 90 sub article one states that to the extent the country's resources permit, policies shall aim to provide all Ethiopians access to public health and education, clean water, housing, food and social security.

That is why the main development agenda of the government has always been poverty eradication. All the country's development policies and strategies have been directed towards that goal including the Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP), A Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP), Growth and Transformation Plan I and II.

The government has been effectively implementing Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) in rural parts of Ethiopia since 2005 and has benefited millions of citizens. Following the success of PSNP, it has also embarked on Urban Productive Safety Net Project (UPSP), which was launched in 2017 and is among the largest social program in sub-Saharan Africa designed specifically for urban areas.

It is planned that UPSP will eventually help 4.7m people in almost 1,000 towns. In addition to the paid work, the beneficiaries also receive training and those who want to start their own businesses are given grants.

Being preoccupied with the construction of internally funded mega projects including the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the government has committed 150 million USD to UPSP. The World Bank has stumped up the remaining 300 million needed for the first five years.

Ethiopia's rural scheme is widely regarded as a success as it lifted out many out of poverty. The program has also enabled the country to withstand the 2016 severe drought which could have had turned into a famine.

In general, Ethiopia's poverty index has declined from 38.7 to 29.6 per cent from 2005 to 2011. And most recently, the index shown significant improvement and has reached to 22 per cent by the year 2016. This has enabled the country achieve Millennium Development Goal of reducing poverty by half.

Hence, Ethiopia's pro-poor policies have brought about tangible results in reducing poverty and the success is an indicator that even poor countries can implement safety-nets and improve the lives of citizens.

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