State of the Union Signals Intent

Beginnings always hold promise - new hope of things to come and one must wish the country continued peace and prosperity. While the new appointees can be congratulated, the public has the responsibility of vigilance to ensure that the ministries and authorities are transparent and accountable in executing their mandates.  As the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so these must quickly translate to effective action if, indeed, youth and women are to be mainstreamed in development. As Fortune staff writer, Dawit endeshaw learns, good governance must go beyond cosmetics if there is to be meaningful engagement that enables the voice of opposition to be heard at the highest levels of decision-making. Especially now, it cannot be business as usual in the execution of GTP II. 

In his State of the Union speech delivered to a joint session of Parliament and the House of Federation on Tuesday, October 6, 2015, President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) addressed the government’s direction over the coming five years, when priority will be given to women and youth in opening up opportunities for job creation. More youths could be organised in Small and Micro-enterprise (SME) to generate income and have access to credit. The government has reported that in the first Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP I), it organised 4.9 million youths in SMEs.

But young people like Melese Worku,24 do not seem in sync with that.

He graduated from Dilla University last year with a degree in Applied Biology and is still struggling to find a job. He has not even found a reason to follow the speeches and the formation of the new cabinet.

“I only know that the parliament has started its new term, but I am not so keen to know the details. It is so important for me to spend my time reading the newspapers where I can find job vacancies,” he said firmly, making it clear what his priorities are.

Though the youth may not be following closely the new government  has introduced some changes both to the institutional arrangements and faces representing it through the five years.

In its amended proclamation which defines the power and duties of the executive organ, Parliament has added new ministerial structures and dissolved existing ones. The Ministry of Youth & Sport (MoYS) is one that was formed once again, by taking Youth from the Ministry of Women, Children & Youth. The new Minister of Youth & Sport is Redwan Hussien, former head of the government’s Communication Affairs Office. In that role he has been replaced by Getachew Reda who used to be a special adviser to the Prime Minister (PM). MoYS is mandated to follow up and evaluate the preparation of policies, legislation, development programmes and projects by federal government organs to ensure that they give due consideration to issues of youth.

The opening session, Parliament, now fully occupied by the ruling EPRDF and its affiliates, first re-elected Abadulla Gemeda and Shitaye Minale as Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House. Following his election as PM of FDRE government by the House, Hailemariam Desalegn presented his nominees for ministerial office along with heads and directors, to the House.

The nomination of Abadulla was made by Debretsion Gebremichael (PhD), Minister of Communications & Information Technology and Parliament approved it by acclamation. Abadulla has become the second Speaker to serve two terms after Dawit Yohannes. The one term gap between Dawit and Abadulla, 2005 – 2010, was filled by Teshome Toga.

Prior to the joint secession between the two houses, the House of Federation also elected Yalew Abate, Speaker of the Amhara Regional Council, as its Speaker, and re-elected Mohammed Reshed as his deputy. Yalew has replaced Kassa Teklebirhan, who has just been appointed Minister of Federal & Pastoralist Development Affairs.

With the sole purpose of adjusting ministries, PM Hailemariam has forwarded the initiation to amend the Proclamation on Powers and Duties of Executive Organs. His new government’s five additional ministries has brought the number of ministries to 25. The Ministry of Livestock & Fisheries (MoLF), Ministry of Public Enterprises (MoPE) and Ministry of Construction (MoC) are also among the new ministries.

Among those leaving their ministerial positions is Kebede Chane, who was replaced by his deputy, Yacob Yala, as Minister of Trade. Kebede will be serving as an adviser to the Prime Minister. The Ministry of Trade, under Kebede, was criticised for failing to meet export targets in the last GTP.

Alemayehu Tegenu has retired from his position as Minister of Water, Irrigation & Energy. That Ministry has now become the Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Electricity, with Motuma  Mekassa as its minister. Motuma, who holds a BSc in Statistics, was head of the Oromia Water, Mines & Energy Bureau.

In addition new faces Aysha Mohammed (Eng) from Afar has been appointed Minister of Culture & Tourism, Sleshi Getahun from Oromia is the Minister of Livestock and Fisheries, Abiye Ahmed again from Oromia, replaced Demittu Habbisaa as Minister of Science & Technology, and Ambachew Mekonnen (PhD) from Amhara, is the new Minister of Construction.

From the old guard, Sufian Ahmed, the long-serving Minister of Finance & Economic Development (MoFED), has been replaced by Abdulaziz Mohammed, deputy president of Oromia Regional State, and the ministry has been re-named Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation. Belete Tafere, former Minister of Environment Protection & Forestry, has left that position to Shiferaw Teklemariam, who will head the new Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change. Yinager Dessie (PhD) has replaced Mekonnen Manyazwol as Head of the National Planning Commission.

Demittu Habbisa will head the Ministry of Public Enterprises, which will be in charge of all public enterprises, except the big ones, including the Ethiopian Airlines, Metal & Engineering Corporation (MetEC), Industrial Parks Development Corporation and ethio telecom; these will remain accountable to the Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Communications & Information Technology, respectively.

Ethiopian Airlines has a reputable financial performance and corporate governance record because of which the government has decided to keep it under the Ministry of Transport, Hailemariam said. The same argument was used for keeping the other big enterprises out of the new ministry.

The amendment gave the new ministry, which replaces the Privatization & Public Enterprise Supervising Agency, the mandate “to oversee and assist the corporate management and financial performance of the public enterprises accountable to other supervising authorities.” There will be over 60 enterprises under its auspices.

A study conducted by the government ahead of forming the new government has recommended that the power and duties of the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) and Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU) be transferred to a new corporation, which is going to be established as the “Electric Corporation”. But Debretison says that the two institutions are not going to re-merge into one. A new supervisory team will be established, which is going to oversee them, he said.

This adjustment was decided in order to rearrange the executive organs in accordance with the context of the country, its abundance of resources and its security and defense elements, according to the study.

The new administration has come after criticism by the public and self criticism by supporters and members of the EPRDF at its Congress held in Meqelle a month ago, which focused specifically on areas of good governance. It was at the party’s Congress, that such critique on maladministration gained momentum.

A heated debate was held in among core elements of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) during its Congress, following which the party seems to have arrived at consensus to work on good governance, the rule of law and address gaps in the practice of the justice system. This, in response to the need to solve the problems reflected by participating cadres and government officials.

“I hope the next administration will work on good governance,” said Tesfa Shiewaferaw from North Shewa, a MA student at Addis Abeba University, who has been working at wereda administration.

The government also called opposition parties, none of which are represented in Parliament, to attend a meeting it arranged for October 9 and 10; the invitation was sent from the Prime Minister’s Office on October 5. The parties were given copies of the GTP II document only days before the meeting to prepare themselves, according to Wasihun Tesfaye, executive committee member of the Ethiopian Democratic Party (EDP).

Parties reported receiving the invitation with mixed feelings.

“Though we were given the document for discussion at short notice, we are going to appear at the meeting with all the discontent we had over the process and the results of the May 24 general election and multiparty political system,” Wasihun said to Fortune on Thursday, October 7.

Blue Party and Medrek did not attend the discussion.

In its reply to the Prime Minister’s Office, Blue Party indicated that it would attend only if some conditions were met. The letter, signed by the party’s Chairperson, Yilekal Getenet (Eng.), demanded solutions for problems in multiparty democracy, human rights and free media, as well as a national consensus on security and unity of the country.

The call is just a deception and propaganda in the face of the international community, Yilkal commented.

He also criticised the new cabinet as an indication of the failure of the ruling party to create stable institutions. This has been done over and over and it is not a new thing to see dissolved ministries coming back, he said. This approach affects stability of experts in government and causes information to disappear.

By Dawit endeshaw
Fortune Staff Writer

Published on Oct 12,2015 [ Vol 16 ,No 806]



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