Revolutionary Democrats and their Ambition

The greatest ambition of the Revolutionary Democrats is to see their developmental state agenda attain a hegemonic status during their rule over Ethiopia. However, if their critics here and abroad see this as a smokescreen to ensure their self-preservation in an overwhelmingly one party system, they have only themselves to blame, claims gossip.

They are seen relentless in their drive to make their presence felt in every function of society, gossip observed. Their faith in the force of the state is fundamentalist in its strength; the Revolutionary Democrats find themselves striding along the opposite aisle to the neo-liberals, who they accuse of having an equal dose of faith in the power of the marketplace. In the process, they have recreated an Ethiopia with a state that can provide an “answer” to every ill of society, claims gossip.

From its rightful role in providing public goods in the form of ensuring national sovereignty, collective security, the administration of justice, or lack thereof, provision of social services in health and education and the building of the nation’s infrastructure to its unwise and wasteful place in retailing edible oil and sugar, gossip observes a rebranding of the paternalistic state in Ethiopia over the past two decades.

It seems that those in the office of making policy decision have a handy answer to every shortage and bottleneck in the market in a manikin of a “corporation”. Thus, Ethiopia’s corporatist state today runs all sorts of corporations almost in every sector of the economy, bar a few, such as hotels, gossip observed. The confusion is striking in that there is a parallel yet contradictory policy of divesting state owned enterprises to the hands of the private sector, while at the same time the re-emergence of state owned corporations across a wide range of sectors, from chemicals and metal engineering to logistics, public transport and sugar estate. Therefore, it is a dream of technocrats in the state enterprise network to enhance a mediocre public company into a mammoth corporation, all in the name of delivering the magic lotion to fill the gaps in the market.

In the end, it boils down to a fight over resource allocation from the public’s coffers, claims gossip. Many of these state owned but wasteful corporations are fiercely competing with the private sector to take loans from the finance industry, whether the banks are state or private owned companies, according to gossip. Today, the debt state owned corporations owe to the finance industry has reached close to 200 billion Br, claiming a significant proportion of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), according to gossip. For instance, public and publicly guaranteed – read as guarantee issued by the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development – debt was at 23pc of the GDP last year, up from 20.5pc the previous year, according to the IMF.

This huge debt is mostly owed by corporations, such as Ethiopia Electric, Metal & Engineering, the Ethiopian Railway and EthioTelecom, just to name a few.

Alle Bejimla is another effort of the state that has been lost in translation, when its officials tried to imitate WallMart, hoping to answer the woes of consumers over affordable access to merchandise, gossip observed. Today, visitors with spare time to drop by at any of these stores around the city can see how miniscule they ended up being despite their inaugural opening graced by the Prime Minister a couple of years ago, claims gossip.

More are to come though, gossip foresees. Furious with the long lines before the city’s gas stations at the end of each month due to speculative moves by station owners and occasionally exacerbated by rumours of low fuel reserves, federal government officials are now strongly contemplating an involvement in the retail market of fuel, gossip disclosed.

There is a new state enterprise called the Ethiopian Petroleum Development Enterprise, under the directorship of Asfaw Dengamo, a former minister for Water Resources. If Asfaw has luck on his side, the Ethiopian public is to witness the mushrooming of canopies with a new colour and logo, gossip claims. The all too powerful Ethiopian state may find itself running a network of fuel stations, having staff on its payroll to pour gas in to every vehicle on our roads, claims gossip.

Published on Sep 21,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 803]



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