This is a generation that has to sacrifice – Ethiopian PM, Hailemariam Desalegn

By Elissa Jobson and Nicholas Norbrook in Addis Ababa

Posted on June 11, 2014 13:28

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn on the government’s pact with the youth to provide jobs, how to provide representation for opposition supporters, and South Sudan’s missed opportunities.

What is driving industrialisation in Ethiopia?

Hailemariam Desalegn: We are using our comparative advantage. We have a young population. Land is abundant. We have cheap electricity, and we support priority industrial sec- tors in terms of financing, at least partially, from our policy banks.

The most important thing is changing the mindset.

Developmental states in Asia were very active in managing corporations. is there that administrative capacity here?

In Japan, you had one ministry of trade and industry which was very strong. But if you look at South Korea, there are a number of institutes that support this process. We have chosen the Korean model, as we don’t have the capacity to run things through one ministry. So we have institutes to push skills development and technology transfer, to support these priority sectors in textiles, leather, food and beverages, chemical industries and metals.

We are trying to have teams that are assigned to just a few industries that can follow them carefully from the beginning to the maturation of those indus- tries. Since we don’t have much capacity at this time, we opted for bringing professionals from outside. The Korean Development Institute is helping us. India is supporting us in textiles and leather. We have institutional links with those countries who have been successful.

In south Korea, a generation sacrificed itself for industrialisation. Are Ethiopians ready for this?

You don’t need to take all Ethiopians along with you, but you need a major portion, especially the young. Look at our education system. Our higher education enrolment is 70% in engineering and science, and 30% in social science. So 70% are going for industrialisation. Similarly, nearly all those who can’t get into higher education go to technical and vocational training. There is an indoctrination process about where Ethiopia has to go and how this generation has to sacrifice to bring productivity up. The most important thing is changing the mindset. We want to bring everybody into the movement where they think about productivity and quality, which is the basis of being competitive. And we will go further in this, to high schools later on, to bring the young people into this mindset as our national agenda.

Funding the state infrastructure drive is tough. What are your options?

Firstly, we are mobilising domestic finance. If you take China and the other recent develop- mental states, their main source of finance was domestic savings. We have an encouraging trend in Ethiopia. We thought that our savings would increase from 6% of GDP [gross domestic product] to 15% by the end of the Growth and Transformation Plan [GTP]. But, remarkably, it has already passed that figure, reaching 17.7% today, before three years of the GTP had elapsed. So we have revised our plan to make it 20% by the end of the GTP [in 2015]. This is the time to squeeze our people, to have more saving and less spending.

We are constructing the $4.6bn Grand Renaissance Dam from these savings. People wanted to contribute for free, but we said: ‘You have to build the culture of saving, and you have to buy bonds.’ But that is not enough. We still have a shortfall in terms of financing, so we are also attracting investment from Brazil, India, China, Turkey, Japan and Korea. We are getting their savings invested here at preferential rates. We also want to go for commercial loans. We have to get a credit rating, so we are working on that, which is going smoothly.

we are also attracting investment from Brazil, India, China, Turkey, Japan and Korea

Do you think soldiers are the best people to spearhead industrialisation, thinking of the Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC) in particular?

In many countries, military organisations that have very good laboratories and workshops only use them for military use, not for development purposes. So we wanted to use the capacity we have in the military sectors for civil development. METEC is using that capability and discipline – in the history of mechanical engineering, much has come from the military. That doesn’t mean that METEC will be the only institution that does this, but it will be a leader. Then the private sector has to link with it. METEC is working now with big private sector engineering companies and also smaller ones, which helps spearhead the process.

Looking forward to the 2015 elections, are you expecting the opposition will gain more seats in parliament?

As far as the elections are concerned, we want to focus on the process. We have to make the process democratic, free, fair and credible in the eyes of our people. Then the result is up to the people. I cannot predict that this many seats are going to be given to the opposition or the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).

Do you feel that the process is democratic?

Our institutional process and our laws and regulations are perfect. It is not the law that hinders but the implementation of these laws. Therefore, we have put in place the code of conduct of all parties. Strictly abiding by this code of conduct will help the process to be more democratic, free and fair and also credible.

If there is a similar outcome to 2010, where only one opposition candidate won a seat in parliament, do you think that may affect the credibility of the government?

I don’t think so because if the decision is taken by the people, all of us have to agree to it. We have to accept it whether it is sometimes irritating to some of us.

Would it be useful to have an opposition in parliament that could give constructive criticism?

The code of conduct is designed in a way that it helps the shortcomings of the parliamentary election. In Addis, for example, the EPRDF has dominantly won. But out of the 3 million people in Addis, something like 400,000 voted for the opposition. The 400,000 have a voice that has to be heard, but how can you make it? In that sense, we have an inter-party dialogue mechanism. Those parties who competed in the election can come together before the parliament discusses bills or policy issues.

We always wish to have a strong opposition so that it will become a mirror to us. We need somebody from outside criticising us because that helps us to improve, but we are not lucky to have such an opposition.

They don’t have their own clear policy. They do not properly evaluate the basis of this government and what it has achieved so far, against all the odds in the region. They seek some kind of violent mechanisms to sweep the EPRDF away so that they will come to power. This is wishful thinking.

Are you concerned about the regionalisation of the conflict in South Sudan?

In the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) region, we have already agreed that we are committed to avoid any regionalisation of the conflict. There will be a deterrent and protection force that is going to be deployed to South Sudan from the region. Sudan and Uganda also agreed not to be part of this force from IGAD. That avoids any kind of regional conflict. The only thing is we have to exped- ite the implementation of this deterrence and protection force.

What is Ethiopia’s position on the Ugandan intervention? Has it complicated the situation?

It has not complicated it. It has been helpful because had it not been for Ugandan intervention, you would not see a government standing now. It would have collapsed very quickly. There are views from both Sudan and Uganda, differing views that might lead to some problems on the ground, so we want to see a phased withdrawal of Uganda and the non-involvement of Sudan in the armed composition of IGAD.

We have deployed 100 technicians and bureaucrats to South Sudan.

There was much euphoria when South Sudan became independent. Are you disappointed with how things have turned out?

We were expecting this to happen. We are not disappointed. We have been suggesting to them that this might come because they have forgotten their direction. What their policy is towards a new state has not been properly spelled out. Who is going to lead the process has not been properly [put] in place and institution building has been ignored. We have deployed 100 technicians and bureaucrats to South Sudan. We have signed a number of agreements to support them in institution building. We have agreed and signed a number of agreements on common infrastructure development. We pushed them, but nothing has happened. We have learned our lesson from our mistakes. We wanted to share our experience with them. After rebels become a government, a proper transition has to take place.

How are the Ethiopian-led African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) offensives going?

I think the game has changed since AMISOM troops and Ethiopia joined. In cooperation with other existing AMISOM troops, we have liberated a number of towns and villages from the yoke of Al-Shabaab. That is only a military achievement. We need to have humanitarian support to those liberated areas quickly. This is our demand. There is some movement, but it is not enough.

Are you concerned that because of the visibility of Ethiopian troops in this offensive there will be reprisals at home?

We were always a target for Al-Shabaab. The most important thing is that our people have to be vigilant. Our security sector also has to be active in this regard. This is our day-to-day business. ●

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