The first potentially divisive policy on strategic affairs appears to have surfaced…




Ever since the passing of their chief priest back in August 2012, the first potentially divisive policy on strategic affairs appears to have surfaced in the camp of the Revolutionary Democrats, gossip revealed. It is about the speed in which the nation’s economic frontiers need to open to foreign competition, claims gossip.

It all begun during the executive committee meeting of the ruling EPRDF, held back in September 2014, according to gossip. EPRDFites had begun discussing the second generation of the growth and transformation blueprint when chairman of the party, Hailemariam Desalegn, tabled a policy white paper, claims gossip.

Ensuring “industrial transformation” at the core of its theme, the paper emphasises the importance of establishing special economic operating zones and industrial parks to create a globally competitive nation, according to gossip. That much is agreed upon by almost all executive committee members, gossip claims.

Where opinions differ is in the place that the document gives to foreign economic operators, which many in the executive committee view as contrary to the party’s core ideological convictions, if not the wishes of their late leader, gossip disclosed.

The EPRDF’s top brass see their party as a force to effect the transformation of a subsistent agrarian society into an industrial one, with this being their utmost priority. They see this could be achieved through the hyperactive involvement of the state in massive infrastructural development, and the promotion of micro and small enterprises which are hoped to evolve to medium and large national firms in due course. Encouraging the domestic private sector to own the national economy follows, while foreign direct investment is considered an important supplement to injecting capital and will bring technology as well as skills.

Many of them strongly believe that it is this ideological conviction which can ensure economic growth while maintaining social justice, according to gossip. Their investment code, which imposes a series of restrictions on foreign investors, and shelter domestic businesses from foreign competition, is justified by this conviction, so they believe. If there are exceptions to the rules, the Council of Ministers used to grant waivers, yet, there are those in the leadership who remain dismayed with a recent amendment to the code which gives such authority to the Prime Minister, as chairman of the national investment council, and its deputy Arkebe Oqubay (PhD), claims gossip.

Such odd combinations infuriated some in the leadership when the white paper was presented, gossip disclosed. Unable to reach consensus, Muktar Kedir, chairman of the OPDO, suggested the committee sleep on the matter until the next meeting, gossip revealed.

Hailemariam might have felt another meeting, more informal and including non-executive committee members who are veterans in the party, was in order, to attain a broader consensus in the meantime, claims gossip. Held few weeks ago at the Prime Minister’s Office on Lorenzo Te’azaz Road, it was Arkebe who made the presentation, and was supported by Hailemariam, Sufian Ahmed and Teklewold Atnafu, claims gossip.

This meeting was described by those at gossip corridors as an “emotionally charged” moment, where words were exchanged. Alas, this meeting did not help the top brass of the Revolutionary Democrats reach a consensus, claims gossip. Voices speaking out against the proposition, which was deemed a reversal of the party’s core convictions, came from Abay Tsehaye, Addisu Legesse, Bereket Simon, Azeb Mesfin, and Beyene Mikru, gossip reveals.

They contended, gossip claims, that the proposal amounts to a change of policy rather than a matter of devising strategy, and thus needed to be discussed in such context. Proponents of the proposal were not seen daring to go thus far in their argument, so retreated, for the time being, claims gossip.

Neither was this an issue raised during the latest executive committee meeting of the EPRDF, held over the weekend, gossip disclosed. It had rather focused on its appraisal of the Growth & Transformation Plan (GTP) which will conclude during this Ethiopian fiscal year, and the upcoming election, indicating that political battle is ahead of them when the GTP II resurfaces anytime soon, claims gossip.



Published on DECEMBER 21, 2014 [ Vol 15 ,No 764]


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