Just this week, the Tourism Council, chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam…

Just this week, the Tourism Council, chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, launched its new national branding of Ethiopia as a “land of origins”. But there are many who would describe Ethiopia as a “land of contradictions”. Both may have their own justifications; but, recent incidents show that, to a large extent, Ethiopia is indeed a land where reason and logic, or even common sense, are defied, claims gossip.

Simply, look at the economy; the worst drought in 50 years threatening the lives of close to 20 million people has occurred during this Ethiopian fiscal year. All the major grain-producing regions are hard hit as a result.

By the Administration’s own admission, export earnings have declined, worsening the structural crunch in foreign exchange provisions. Imports of merchandise have been severely affected by the shortage of forex. There is a climate of business slowdown, as evidenced by the empty shelves of major supermarkets, gossip observed.

Nonetheless, here is an administration oblivious to the major causes that impact macro-economic stability, but declared an expansion of the GDP no less than the boom years. It is as if the economy is immune to the adverse effects of natural calamities and the downturn in the global market, claims gossip.

Ironically, Hailemariam’s declarations before Parliament of continued growth may be taken with a certain degree of scepticism, for he ought to put up a brave face on to keep the nation uptight, claims gossip. To his advantage though, he is vindicated by the market, if the financial sector can be of any indication, according to gossip.

Naysayers across the gossip corridors of the city may believe whatever statistics the Prime Minister invokes are generated by the federal agency, which many suspect is good at manufacturing data, gossip says. Whether the numbers are doctored or not is a subject of endless debate among people within the gossip corridors, although some are good at cherry-picking statistics from the same agency according to their convenience, claims gossip.

Interestingly, the numbers coming out from the dozen banks cannot be suspected of manipulation to fit the Administration’s narrative of growth, says gossip. Not only are the commercial banks owned privately, but they are too many to fall into the alleged plot to mislead the public to serve a political interest, claims gossip.

The banks too appear to be oblivious to the downturns in the national economy, gossip observed. It seems to matter little that the state is slashing 27pc of their deposit mobilisations to finance its investment priorities, forcing them to buy bills two percent lower than what they pay for depositors. Nor does it matter much that the forex crunch has affected their largest sources of profit: commissions from provisions of foreign currencies and service fees while processing letters of credit. Contrary to earlier fears that this year would be bad for banks, almost all commercial banks have enjoyed a bonanza when closing their books for the fiscal year on July 8, 2016, gossip disclosed.

A private bank has reached a billion Birr milestone in gross profit, surpassing the “record high profit” held by its competitor, claims gossip. Others, relatively young around the block, have made profits of over 200pc when compared to their last year performances, gossip disclosed.

This may cause jubilation among the tens of thousands of shareholders of these private banks, for it will be a time of awesome paybacks, claims gossip. But to those few who have been struggling to carve out a space in the banking industry with less regulatory burden by the Central Bank, the news will not necessarily be seen as helpful, says gossip. It will only fortify regulators at the Central Bank to further tighten the noose. This could mean, for instance, increasing the amount of bills that banks are compelled to buy far higher than the current 27pc, gossip foresees.

Published on Jul 19,2016 [ Vol 17 ,No 846]



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