Tagesse Chafo (right), speaker of Parliament, chatted with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) as they made their way out of the legislative hall, while Shimelis Abdisa, chief of staff to the Prime Minister Office, looked on. It followed one of Abiy’s sober addresses to MPs on the half-year performance of the federal government that touched upon political and economic issues.
The session on Friday, February 1, 2019, was attended by 398 MPs, and the Prime Minister took questions on the economy, security, the rule of law and the reform process. Abiy did not digress from his proposals, initiatives and views on the political and economic state of the nation that he has resolutely focused on since coming to office.
He asserted that there is more to celebrate on the political front than to disparage, including opening up the political space and the return of “90pc of the people that were displaced since the reform began.”
Abiy nonetheless accepted that there remains a long way to travel in improving the culture of discourse and containing lawlessness. Although scolding the media for not playing a constructive role, he conceded that it is a right to criticise political reforms as long as it does not pose a threat to national unity.
The macroeconomic front received similar treatment – there were good and bad developments – and he was no more optimistic. Late last month the Ministry of Trade & Industry reported to parliament that export revenues from goods in the first half of this fiscal year had slumped by 10pc to 1.21 billion dollars, the second decline in a row.
He did not hold back on the worrying state of contraband, unemployment, the external sector, state enterprises, debt levels and project delays.
“As we return from recess, we will approve a supplementary budget to narrow down the budget deficit,” he told parliamentarians.