Fine Line: There is little as magnificent …

There is little as magnificent, glaring and dedicatory in illustrating the energy and determination of the Revolutionary Democrats than the Addis-Adama Expressway, gossip observed. Sceptics of their rule might have felt that the late Meles Zenawi had his head in the clouds when inaugurating the construction of the six-lane super highway, thereby heralding his project on Ethiopia’s renaissance, back in November 2010, gossip recalls.

He may have passed rather untimely before seeing his dream come true, yet his successor, Hailemariam Desalegn, and his entourage, had a debut on the toll road a couple of weeks ago, gossip disclosed. It won’t be his last, claims gossip.

He will have to accompany Chinese Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, whose government has provided nearly 800 million dollars in loans. He is due to visit Ethiopia for two days during the first week of May, beginning on the 4th, gossip disclosed.

Among some of the projects companies from his country are building in this country, he is scheduled to visit this expressway built by China Communications & Construction Co. (CCCC), which shortens the driving to Adama down to 45 minutes, gossip reveals. The two prime ministers will no doubt inaugurate the road and open it for public use subsequently, claims gossip.

Yet, the days of Chinese generosity in “no-condition attached” loans availed to Ethiopia – unlike development partners from the west – appear to be numbered, claims gossip. The signs that the Chinese government are holding onto loans have been felt for quite some time, according to gossip. Partly due to restructuring within the Chinese government and its ruling communist party, and influenced by growing concerns over Ethiopia’s ability to sustain anymore debts, the Chinese are wary of handing out more cheques, gossip claims.

The administration’s point man on the issue, Finance & Economic Development Minister, Sufian Ahmed, had a sojourn to Beijing a few weeks ago. Not only did he meet with his counterpart; he was also given an audience by big bosses of the Chinese EXIM and development banks, in a bid to persuade them to continue providing more loans for his country, with average interest rates of three percent on LIBOR, and a 12-year maturity period, gossip revealed.

He came back with little in the way of good news, claims gossip. The Chinese have stood their ground and have little reason to take any more risks when it comes to Ethiopia, according to gossip.

Nonetheless, the door has not been totally slammed shut, gossip claims. They have pointed out to Sufian that should his government be prepared to offer guaranteed export items and provide concessions on natural resources to their extractive industries, they may offer additional loans, gossip disclosed. Unfortunately for him and his administration, the finance obtained in such an arrangement may not exceed half a billion dollars a year and the interest rate could be a little higher and the maturity period shortened, claims gossip.

Subsequent to his return, senior staffs at his Ministry were seen busy trying to determine what sort of natural resources are available in the country to be handed out as a concession, in order to collateralise loans – quite a common practice of the Chinese elsewhere, according to gossip.

Thus, the visit of the Chinese Prime Minister to Ethiopia in May is seen, in the gossip corridors, as being beyond the simple ceremonial cutting of the ribbon on the modern expressway, claims gossip. Hailemairam and his macroeconomic team will have to use the opportunity to implore on Jiabao that Ethiopia is indeed bankable, and with a historically positive reputation on its commitments to its creditors, whether they come from the west or the east, gossip claims.

Published on April 20, 2014 [ Vol 14 ,No 729]



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