By Kebour Ghenna
October 20, 2019
I don’t know about you, 2012 is beginning to feel hot?
Last week PM Abye was awarded the most prestigious foreign affairs award in the world: the Nobel peace prize, for recognition of his achievements. The award, which came unexpectedly early, elicited praise and puzzlement around the country.
What to make of it?
Has Abye Ahmed really brought peace to Ethiopia and the region? Is there really peace with Eritrea… and does he really deserve the prize, so early in his tenure as Prime Minister?
Or is this just part of the reality show?
“PM Abye has done very, very well” said one caller at one of the radio shows.
“…he has brought peace with Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, record tree planting… He’s got the DC and Ethiopia’s priests talking to each other… He is even working hard to privatize Ethiopian Airlines. He has got not just a very affable manner, but he seems to get thing done.”
Like many others, I think the award came at a time of considerable challenges for the Prime Minister, with more intense ethnic division across the nation, and no strategy for a unified Ethiopian state.
Still we all wish this young Premier the warmest congratulations.
We stop… and hold our breath.
Let us change the subject and turn back to money… Let me annoy you with my regular and some new questions on privatization:
Is it really ok for this government to auction public assets without any public debate? Is it ok to proceed without informing the public – the owner of the public assets – how much would be a “fair price” for the assets? What happens if the proceeds from the sale of, say, Ethio Telecom does not come close to the income that will no longer go to the public purse? Does the privatisation come with an obligation to make new investments? Who will pay off employees dismissed by the new employer? What influence will the government still have on strategic decisions? What happened to make the auctions imperative now? Is Dr. Abye creating a kind of Golden Age for Ethiopia’s economy?
We don’t know.
Clearly the auctioning of these companies are taking place at a time when the political dynamic on the ground, between the Federal and regional state governments are changing for the worse. The breadth and depth of the dysfunction of the government has even establishmentarian figures ready to concede that the current system of governance is fatally broken.
All of us need to be reminded that the federal government’s power originates from the regional states, in other words the Constitution affirms that it’s the regional states that ‘created’ the federal government.
Politicians and activists across the spectrum are starting to rethink the current federal compact altogether, demanding local governments to capture previously unforeseen responsibilities. Come 2020, we are likely to find that we’ve simply shifted to another gear of a perpetual deadlock unlikely to come out with much common ground between the regional and the Federal states.
A young activist from one of the regions last week tells me “we are a separate nation in our own minds”. “If we disagree with the Federal government” he said, “We will advance our own foreign policy, and make our own agreements”. If this seems like a stretch, that’s because pundits and politicians choose to ignore difficult questions.
Like almost all our actions, we will know something went wrong when a regional government contests the asset sale as illegal on the basis it did not benefit its people? Remember this is consistent with the accepted view that fairness, or rather equity constitutes part of the content of “the general principles of law of civilized nations”, one of the fundamental sources of international law stipulated in the Statute of the International Court of Justice.
Obviously the real clash is still in the future… who knows how things will evolve.
What does this have to do with peace and the Nobel Prize?
In principle in a democracy, every citizen gets to participate in the decisions that affect her or his life. But how can that be if people don’t have access to the goods they need to survive – if they are hungry or homeless or uninformed. And the reality is that when goods are rationed by the market, fewer people have access to them. Markets are places of winners and losers. You don’t get what you need – you get what you can pay for, what you can afford. That’s why our PM as a Nobel Laureate should enlighten citizens before auctioning our common assets. It’s a small cost to pay for making democracy meaningful and our continuing desire for peace.
Editor’s note : This article appeared first on the personal Facebook page of Kebour Ghenna
Another article by same author : Privatizing Ethio-Telecom now should not be an urgent economic imperative
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