Can the new PM Abiy Ahmed crack the code: the first step in the political, social and economic freedom, rights and development reform is the people right to know their affairs to make public institutions transparent and accountable?
By Teshome Debalke
February 16, 2019
Tragically and contrary to the scripture’s verse ‘a man can’t live by bread alone’; contemporary elites and their donor partners wanted us to believe people need no spiritual nor political or economic rights and freedom and can live by bread alone. Yet, they won’t even allow the people to produce the very bread they supposedly live by and, promise they will provide it for ‘free’ and expect development’ to happen at will.
Unfortunately, the over used-and-abused words of ‘development’ like many misused and abused words like ‘democracy’ became the only way the political elites feel they can remain relevant promising to deliver freedom and ‘bread-and-butter’ in the near future that never arrived for centuries.
Once again, after all the political, social, economic crises and insecurity instigated by the ruling member party TPLF elites backed by foreign ‘donors in the last 27 years, the same empty promise of ‘freedom’ and ‘development’ remained a convenient word to circumvent the public right to know their affair to make informed decisions and reform institutions that violate their freedom and democratic and economic rights to engage in sustainable democratic rule and development.
Regrettably, foreign aid and investment led development backed by the same elites’ propaganda machine delivered talking point that brought the very crises in the first place at unimaginable cost to lives, rights, freedoms, resources and, yes, scarcity of ‘bread’ continued making the loudest noise to divert the necessary discussion on institutional reform from taking place.
What went wrong and who is responsible became a dillama on its own as the elites fail to sort-out the lawless peers in their mist and continue blame each other on nonissue that never attend the underline problem– the lack of the public right to know their affairs to make informed decision on what need to be done and who is responsible in public institutions that affect their freedom and rights .
In fact, it gotten so bad overtime, many elites now believe; the solution for the problem is not democracy, the rule of law, transparency nor accountability but pleading for more charity from peoples and institutions in democratic nations to remedy the problem the people at home or lately, solicit more foreign ‘investments’ from anywhere willing — essentially creating a banana republic in their favor.
The elites’ delusion even goes as far as believing, foreign investment is charity interested to produce bread-and-butter to feed their poor compatriots rather than what is profitable to feed those with the almighty dollar.
Therefore, any reform that burst their bubble is like a thunderstorm that would wipe out the house of illusion they built on sand in the alternative universe created specially for them that fuels corruption, nepotism, crony capitalism… at the expenses of the people at large.
No individual articulated the African ruling elites’ dilemma that sustained despotic regimes’ marriage of convenience to expand the poverty economy with foreign donors and increasingly foreign ‘investors’ that undermined democratic and economic reform than Andrew Mwenda. The Ugandan journalist and a stanch critic of the 30-years-old Museveni despotic regime and its foreign aid financers lack of transparency and accountability in his unprecedently candid presentation at Ted Talk Global of 2007 titled Aid to Africa? No thanks’ nailed the issue by asked the forbidden question to his western audience. “How many people you know — a person or relative that became wealthy receiving charity?” No hand was raised. Mwenda followed up with another consequential question; “how about a country that developed because of the generosity and kindness of others?” Again, no hand except the lone hand of the infamous Irish U2 Rockstar Bono was raised and replied his country of Ireland.
Unfortunately, Bono by some estimate that worth from 700 million up to a billion U.S. dollars is the Chairman of One Campaign, a fund-raising NGO for African poor based not in his home country Ireland where he claimed charity developed but the USA. He is also investor of several private equity funds in many ‘poor’ countries including Ethiopia from offshore based tax heavens to avoid paying his share to his country of Ireland.
The poster boy for Western celebrities’’ fund-raising for the African poor nearly for four decades, Bono like his fund spending counterpart businessman turn philanthropist Bill Gate of Microsoft Corp and the Founder of the Gates Foundation are known to contradict themselves on the meaning of governance, helping the poor, development and yes transparency and accountability in countries under lawless despotic regimes they choose to operate verses their respective democratic home countries adapting any model suitable for their transgression or interest.
Bono’s reported contradiction range from tax evasion of his home country Ireland to investing in poor countries with his offshore private equity funds to avoid taxes from his home country as well as poor countries he invest as well as his questionable fund-raising practice through his U.S. based One Campaign NGO full of contradictions bordering criminality.
Nevertheless, with tone of helplessness glazed with humor, what Andrew Mwenda articulated in short-and-pointed presentation exposed; foreign aid led development is part-and-partial of the problem undermining democratic reform that sustained and empowered autocratic regimes unprecedented expansion of the poverty industry with far more consequence in the future to come including massive migration.
Mwenda put it politely to his mostly responsible audience saying;
“the problem with African continent and the problem with the aid industry is, it has distorted the structural incentive facing government in Africa.”
In short, what he meant was, African government incentive to work for their people is corrupted by foreign donors’ money and increasingly foreign investors as regimes scramble to give away any public resource in sight including land without the consent of the people. Unfortunately, he didn’t mention guns and bullets in the name of security and stability for donors and investors not the people.
Incidentally, two craven Ethiopian expats came after Andrew Mwenda on Ted Talk to do the exact opposite — solicit foreign aid and investment in the name of helping their poor compatriots and developing the economy.
The first was the infamous Queen of Poverty Dr. Eleni GebreMedhin’s presentation of 2008 Ted Talk Global titled A Commodity Exchange for Ethiopia. AS.She eventually became the Founder and CEO of the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange financed by the usual donors that includ the Gates Foundation, USAID, EU and UNDP and reached a celebrity status by NPR documentary as A Market Maker.
At present GebreMedhin is the Founder and CEO of Eleni LLC, a Nairobi based foreign private equity fund management firms investing in the agriculture sector throughout Africa that includes Bone’s offshore private Equity investment with the help of the IFC of the World Bank and Morgan Stanley Capital Management with $7 Million start up. She is also the Founder and CEO of Blue Moon Ethiopia, Addis Ababa based private equity fund investing in Agriculture sector with the help of European Investment Bank (EIB).
Ironically, she not only manages private equity fund investment of Bono’s 8 Miles but, seats in the Advisory Board of his One Campaign fund raising NGO for the African poor where the Former USAID Administrator Gale Smith joined as President few days after she left her USAID post when President Obama’s term in office ended.
Gail Smith is no stranger for fund raising to help the African poor either. Her whole career began since she started her relationship with late rebel leader of Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) turn PM of Ethiopia Melse Zenawi in the early 80s’ famine in Northern Ethiopia as ‘freelance journalist’ and the worldwide celebrities’ fund-raising effort that followed reportedly net $100 million involving her new boss Bono and his close associate Irish rock star country fellow Bob Geldof, an investor in Ethiopia in two winery bought from the Privatization Agency for undisclosed amount. 8 Miles private equity fund ‘invest exclusively in Africa’, according CFA Institute Enterprising Investor.
Almost four decades later, Smith joined Bono’s One Campaign as President to continue the endless fundraising effort to help ‘the African poor’. Under her tenor, USAID put out a Press Release on Power Africa: A 2017 update Fact sheet for immediate release chronicling the $54 billions Western nations’ commitment to power Africa led by U.S.
In the eyes of Smith and her Western and African elite associates, Africa is not a continent of 54 independent nations of over a billion people but one big nation to fit their fundraising industry’s narrative of helping the African poor.
Her latest appearance as President of One Campaign on CBS’s Face the Nation in her effort to raise more fund from the newly elected democratic majority U.S. Congress for ‘HIV prevention in Africa’ and to ‘prevent Ebola in DRC from spreading around the world’ speaks for itself and reviles; the poverty industry will remain a permanent fixture in African economy for the foreseeable future.
The second ‘Ethiopian’ expat that appeared on Ted Talk Addis in 2015 was Daniel Ged with presentation titled Mining Gold from Dirt. The long-time TPLF operative and Ponzi investment salesman’s pitch ‘you want to be Millionaire’ by investing on cheap land provided by TPLF led regime attracted many scrupulous investors in Ethiopia including himself with MetroLux Flower Farm and Omega vegetable Farm. In one of his public appearance to tell his experience in the State of Orgon with his American sponsor family owned Omega Farm at young age in the early 70s he claim shaped his business que that brought him back decade later to Ethiopia.
Known to claim Ethiopia never existed but, a collection of ethnic chiefdoms as early as in mid-70s when he was Indiana University student inline with TPLF warlords’ ethnic apartheid plan for Ethiopia, he is now a ‘successful’ diaspora investor in one of the Southern Nations and Nationalities ‘chiefdom’ (Region) his TPLF enablers envisioned for Ethiopia.
For instance, Gad that is offering ‘Mining Gold from Dirt’ in Ethiopia in 2015 was quoted in 1975 by Hoosier State Chronicles according to Indiana’s Digital Historic Newspaper Program > Indianapolis Recorder saying;
“Historically, Ethiopia has never been one country. It has been a collection of chiefdoms. Every little province had a king and they all paid tribute to one central or more powerful king.” Eritrea is not the only trouble spot in troubled Ethiopia. The Territory of Afars and Issas, with its port city of Djibouti, is a point of dispute between Ethiopia and Somalia, Gad said. The Republic of Somalia claims the territory and so does Ethiopia. Complicating the situation is the claim by the French that it is a French colony.”
The ethnic apartheid peddling TPLF operative in line with the old colonialists’ plan turn Ethiopian ‘investor’ and snake oil salesman Gad is not alone preaching ‘there is no Ethiopia’ when it serves his political interest and there is ‘a pie-in-the-sky in Ethiopia’ when it serves his economic interest. But, if one care to observe, his 1975 statement was in line to reduce Ethiopian history to 100 years to concede with the Fascist Italy invasion and eventual defeat of 1896 under the legendary King Meneilk II.
Likewise, many of his once hardline Marxist-separatist turn crony capitalists in a self-serving Revolutionary Ethnic Apartheid Democracy and Developmental State regime with the help of their foreign enablers have been at it for over two decades that brought the ongoing political, social and economic crises the new PM is dealing at present.
No one know what TPLF operative turn Ethiopian diaspora investor Gada and his associates do in the ongoing reform initiated by the new PM. We shouldn’t be surprise if we see them say again Ethiopia never existed all over as the retreating TPLF warlord are doing from their enclave as we speak.
But, helping the poor and developing the economy is a big industry for aid agencies like Bono’s One Campaign, Bill’s Gates Foundation and African warlords turn oligarchs from the diaspora like Daniel Ged as well as employment opportunity for many elites. Like any industry with entrenched interest group, it is becoming increasingly innovative to maintain and defend the status qua TPLF enablers envisioned for one of the oldest and independent people/nation in the world as they fight tooth-and-nail to undermine democratic reform.
Mwenda is not alone raising corruption and nepotism of autocratic regimes and aid agencies and associated elites and being attacked as anti poor and development or ‘promoting evil’ for challenging status qua either.
The straight-talking and controversial figure Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo in her best-selling book ‘Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is Better Way for Africa’ was flaked by foreign aid advocates including the Irish Rockstar Bono and the infamous American philanthropist Bill Gates for articulating the same lack of accountability they enjoy in the respective poor countries ruled by depots they choose to operate. Moyo’s simple argument — despotic regimes of Africa are beholden to the aid agencies rather than to the people they rule with iron fist marred with corruption and nepotism didn’t phase them much to do the right thing but resort to personal attacks.
A good example is Bill Gates’ close-and-personal attack on Dambisa Moyo saying; she “didn’t know much about aid and what it was doing in Africa,” adding, “books like that are promoting evil”. But, in reality — the IT guru is willfully ignorant about governance and the consent of the governed, the rule of law and development he is privileged to live under and prosper to be donor as oppose recipient of aid to fall in love with any ‘evil’ regime that made mockery of democracy, human rights, freedom, justice, the Free press and the rest.
For instance, in an interview with AP about censorship of the most important information tool of the 21st century (the internet) he enjoy, ‘Gates said; each country “decides what the rules are going to be in terms of pornography, hate speech, what is allowed and what’s not allowed” — a rather lame excuse coming from IT guru defending censorship of one of the worst despotic regime in the world he chose to intermingle with in the name of helping the poor.
But, the most consequential ‘expert’ advocating foreign aid and expanding the industry in the name of ‘poverty reduction’ and development of poor countries is the infamous Colombia University Economics, the Director of Earth Institute and the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Professor Jeffery Shacs that professed wealthy nations to cough up billions of dollars for the MDG project he helped underwrite to reduce global poverty in half by 2015 (postponed for 2030).
Shacs is no stranger to facts he willfully ignores to spent donated (some say extorted money) in partnership with his chosen despotic regimes one village after another. A decorated economist turned aid entrepreneur, his personal attack on his Former student Dambisa Moyo was unprecedented for academician that deals with hard facts, stating;
“the biggest opponent of aid today are Dambisa Moyo, an African-born economists who reportedly received scholarship so that she could go to Harvard and Oxford but sees nothing wrong denying $ 10 in aid to an African child for anti-malaria bed net.”
Granted there are many pro and con arguments on foreign aid, the ferocity of the most consequential personality in poverty industry for criticism and public scrutiny is summed up better by Prof Easterly Williams book titled The Tyranny of Experts: Economist, Dictators and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor (2014).
Regardless of the merit of Moyo’s ‘Aid is Dead’ argument, for a person of Shacs’ caliber and responsibility to resort in cheap shot to defend what is obviously a failed model reviles; his intention was to obscure the reality than the main issue of transparency and accountability of aid agencies and despotic regimes under their payroll she raised. Moreover, no one knows what distributing anti-malaria bed net has to do with accountability of despotic regimes and their donors and experts like him to further reviles; Shacs’ reluctant not to rattle the ‘snakes’ nests’ that feeds him in his line of work like many of his peers than the subject matter.
Moyo’s response in kind reinforces that reality when she said;
“I think that Professor Sachs is being slightly intellectually dishonest. Because as I said, I took his course, where he spent all of his time talking about the virtue of market for Europe, Poland, Russia, Bolivia. And then somehow, he has dedicated his life in the last few years towards pushing more aid to Africa, which is a model he didn’t support when he taught me.”
Ironically, Prof. Shacs’ closes associates in MDG village projects is Awash Teklehaimanot, the low-profile operative of the Ethiopian ruling member party Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) and a ‘Professor of Clinical Epidemiology at Colombia University as well as the Former Ethiopian Health and Foreign Minster and member of TPLF politburo Tedros Adhanom that turn up to be the World Health Organization (WHO) General Director with the help of Prof Shacs and Bill Gates.
A closes friend of the late PM Melse Zenawi, Prof Teklehaimanot is the Founder of donors financed Center for National Health Development in Ethiopia where Shacs led MDG and the Gates Foundation’s Global Health project depend on to show off their projects’ success in partnership with the ruling member party TPLF owned and operated corporations including Addis Pharmaceutical.
Shacs public record reviles he is ‘one of the leading experts in economic development and the fight against poverty in the world’. What is not known, how his journey from market fundamentalist of Keynesian tradition to advocate of foreign charity as instrument poverty reduction and development. But to his credit or possible demise, he brought the dyeing poverty industry back to life, thanks to the new and innovative unholy partnership between despotic ruling regimes’ affiliated business enterprises and foreign aid turn in to private investment in what is now conveniently referred as Public-Private-Partnership (PPP).
But, unlike Mwenda and Moyo’s argument — foreign aid under despotic African regimes is dead end, Professor William Easterly, the Director of Developmental Research Institute at NYU in his pioneering book Tyranny of Experts put the blame squarely on self-serving experts like Prof Shacs and Prof Awash that made mockery of transparency of governance in development. As the result, Easterly also became a villain of the donors not to be invited on any international development forums dominated by the big players including, the World Bank he once worked that cough up billions of dollars in the name of helping the poor and developing their economy.
Prof Jagdish Bhagawi of Colombia description of Shacs and his colleague Prof Stiglitz as “academic entrepreneurs” and “unacademic professors” for coddling during with their controversial late PM Melse Zenawi of Ethiopia at Columbia University in Aug of 2010 sums up Shacs’ career transition from academia to the poverty industry.
Why donors and despotic regimes’ chosen experts are terrified of democracy, the rule of law and accountability, free speech and Press can not only be attributed to human greed but, there is more sinister agenda behind beyond our understanding. Regardless, that is where the problem of poor nations began and remained until the people that suffer most from it find a way to end the experts’ unholy partnership with despotic regimes and donors that sustained poverty and underdevelopment for far too long.
Can the unholy marriage of donors and despotic regimes’ and their designated experts bring about development remained the million-dollar question unanswered as they venture in to uncharted waters of foreign aid financing oligarchs, speculators and black marketers in the name of the over used and abused term of the ‘private sector’.
Interestingly, when people talk about begging they often associate it with street panhandlers that solicit for change to buy basic necessities. But when begging is done by experts wearing suites and dresses with their laptops in the name of helping the poor and investment to help themselves it is called innovative partnership in development and poverty reduction. Lately, the same beggar-experts became private investors themselves and, by some ‘divine intervention’, the new and innovative Public-Private-Partnerships in global development was born with no one noticing the implication.
The PPP arrangement is what the infamous technologist and data guru turn philanthropist Bill Gates’ is known for when in reality; it is the PR stunt of putting the same ‘medicine in different bottle’ that reinforces further what Mwenda’s ‘Aid to Africa? No thanks’ presentation, Moyo’s ‘Dead Aid’ and Easterly’s ‘Tyranny of Experts’ argued to make them all villains of poverty elites’ shire arrogance – development without freedom, justice, democracy and absence of the public right to know their affairs that is impossible and illegal in their respective countries is possible in Africa.
The irony is, whether Bono’s alleged corruption in his business and hypocrisy in One Campaign Charity fund raising practices as well as the alleged money laundering allegation through offshore tax heavens or Bill Gates unholy ‘Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa’ (AGRA) with multinational fertilizer and seed companies and his Global Health partnership with multinational pharmaceutical giants is compatible with development is yet to be unravelled if only the public right to know was possible.
Paradoxically, One Campaign has Transparency and Accountability Manager so the Gates Foundation proclaims to ‘information sharing policy and transparency’ but, contrary to the claim; nothing worthy is found on both official websites on Ethiopia or any country they operate.
The question is, should the aid agencies with high profile Western and expat elites be allowed to circumvent economic principle and institutional transparency to undermine reform all depends on how much their peers are willing to ignore their transgression or tolerate the poverty industry at large that undermine the political, social and economic freedom and rights of the people and the social fabric of poor nations.
The Ethiopian Agriculture Transformation Agency (ATA) case illustrates the die-hard foreign aid and experts’ determination to sustain the poverty industry indefinitely, this time around in the name of Public Private Partnership (PPP) with littlie resistance from their peers or demand from the world Media and community for accountability.
The late infamous depot Melse Zenawi and Bill Gates initiated and the Gates Foundation financed ATA is led by the Former Senior Program Officer of the Gate Foundation Ethiopian American CEO of ATA Khalid Bomba. According to the official website, before joining the Gates Foundation Bomba “served as the Regional Director for Africa at the Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative, an organization founded by the United Nations ICT Task Force. He has also held senior level and executive positions in various public and private sector institutions and began his career at JP Morgan, where he spent ten years working on corporate finance and sovereign debt issues” — reviling his transition from corporate sovereign debt finance to foreign aid finance – a rather peculiar career transition from Wall Street to Poverty Street with untold story of its own.
Quite frankly, ATA should be a case study for every policy, economics and development students in every university across the country on what is wrong with a one-party developmental state regime financed by foreign aid and private equity fund and the danger for the economy thus the survival of the population.
For those familiar with corporate finance and sovereign debt, it isn’t a mystery why Bomba joined The Gate Foundation. But, for whatever reason it may be, for sure it can’t be to help poor Ethiopian farmers to be productive and prosperous as we are led to believe and as the nonexistence of data and thee lack disclosure reviles.
For unsuspecting, ATA under CEO Bomba bankrolled by The Gates Foundation looks a normal African government agency in a typical despotic regime ruled nation established to appear transforming the important sector of the Agriculture economy for benefit of poor farmers. But, in reality ATA inception was to consolidate the agriculture sector in the hands of party affiliated oligarchs and foreign aid/investment partners where the landlord, input providers and output exporters, policy makers and enforcers are one and the same with party affiliated enterprises to produce export commodities to the world market to maximize profit in dollar for the usual suspects.
For instance, ATA on its official website prides in Agribusiness & Market Program with “10 projects geared towards rapidly developing the agribusiness and agricultural marketing sub-sectors. Projects range across four programmatic areas: Rural Financial Services, Private Sector Development in Agriculture, ICT for Agricultural Services, and Market Infrastructure. Of these, one projects is planned to be completed and handed over to the long-term government owner during 2011 E.C., and two projects will complete the design phase and begin full implementation during the year” – practically outsourcing the marketing of commodities to the ruling party that controls everything – from policy to the means of production and finance to legislation and policy of a nation.
What is even more fascinating, ATA under Agribusiness & Market Program is The Private Sector Development project defined by the CEO where the ruling member party TPLF is in business – redefining private sector to elude the most savvy businessmen, academicians and policy experts let alone Ethiopians blindfolded with no data and access to information to portray there is worth private sector to partner with as oppose party affiliated oligarchs.
How foreign aid and investment advocates claim private sector can be developed in a nation without democratic institutions and private property rights with no access to public data can bring about development except create a banana republic in favor of politically connected oligarchs and their foreign partners is the million-dollar question the well-educated elites in the poverty industry refused to confess for the obvious reason.
Therefore, unlike the status qua wanted us to believe, the most practical assessment of what went wrong with foreign aid financed pubic agency projects is better articulated by the Former Afghanistan Finance Minster Ashraf Gahani and the Co-author of How to fix a Failed State. He and his colleague Clare Lockhart and the co-author of the book Summary Analysis of how public finance in failed states operates is where the problem began and how to fix it with little chance for implementation under corrupt despotic regimes and indifferent donor agencies that sustain them.
But, the most compelling historical case on economic development comes nonother than two littlie recognized economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson of University of Chicago in their 2012 book titled Why Nations Fail: The Origin of Power, prosperity and Poverty that chronical the political, social and economic institutional process within a nation-state and regions of the world. The eye-opening book unlike any reviles; not only democratic institutions are prerequisite for political right and economic development, but private property rights and laws that protect it is the fuel that runs the engine of individual’s wealth creation for sustainable development to occur.
In that regard, no single economist advocate property rights as the most important ingredient in political rights and economic development of people and nation than the legendry Peruvian economist Hernando Soto and the author of the The Other Path and the Myth of Capital. The Founder and President of Institute for Liberty and Democracy, a think tank established in Lima, Peru to promote property rights is credited for ending the civil war that engulf Peru by ending state control of land.
Richard Tren in an opinion piece of April 2018 on Business Live Media of South African titled How Peru Provide lesson on private property summed it up as;
“SA has abundant natural resources, but the most important resource is its human capital. As the government contemplates expropriation without compensation, it would do well to learn the lessons from Peru and other countries that are advancing, and choose the right path, where basic institutions such as the promotion and protection of property rights and the rule of law are respected.”
It is not a rocket science for foreign aid and investment advocates to “choose the right path, where basic institutions such as the promotion and protection of property rights and the rule of law are respected’ that made them donors as oppose recipients of aid in their respective nations. Yet, they chose to pour more money on despotic regimes that neither respect property rights nor the rule of law not to mention violation of any conceivable civil liberty imaginable. The answer is obviously clear.
More disheartening is the exponential rise of beggar culture among the African elites fueled by foreign aid to make career in the name of helping their poor compatriots by helping themselves. They not only lost the concept of the consent of the governed and what it takes to develop an economy beyond their daily bread colluding with despotic regimes but abandon every democratic and economic principle to peruse a dignified livelihood creating as oppose extracting wealth out of their poor compatriots on behalf of their enablers.
The recent Vison Ethiopia conference in Addis Ababa that opened can-of-warms on what went wrong and who is responsible among the elites holding the political, social and economy rights of the people and the development of the nation hostage on behalf of the ruling member TPLF party affiliated oligarchs and foreign donors and investment partners in the last 27 years.
The six part conference (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6) on ground zero for the first time in history is the best thing that happened to the people of Ethiopia since the establishment of the Ethiopian Satellite Television Network (ESAT) that made it possible, thanks to PM Abiy bold decision.
But what stood out in the six parts conference than any is what Professor Befekadu Degafe and few on panel and in the audience said in Part 3 about the missing public data that would make-or-break every political, social and economic reform facing the people of Ethiopia blindfolded primarily by responsible government ministries and agencies led by the Ethiopian Statistic Agency should remind us what the author of ‘Poor Numbers: How we are Misled by African Development Statistic and What to do about it’ Professor Morton Jerven articulated on African Argument.
The irony no regime in Africa nor their donor partners won’t hear what Morton Jerven argued on the nonexistence of reliable data in Africa says more; maintaining the status qua that benefited the usual suspects is a priority than helping the poor or ‘developing’ the economy as they wanted the world to believe with empty slogans. M
Quite honestly, Vision Ethiopia’s conversation should all be about the missing political. social and economic data of the nation held hostage for the last 27 years be available to the public as the conference attendees kept guessing to make their case where no one knows the tale end of the nation’ data may be. After all, what good is the ongoing democratic reform or conferences without public data available and the public right to know guaranteed?
But what was startling was the presence of the infamous Zemedneh Negatu that masterminded TPLF led crony economy at Vision Ethiopia Conference. Known to hoard and inflate public data for over two decades as an inside man, he should remind every Ethiopian what the author of The new Confessions of the economic hitman (2016) John Perkins described in his own words how poor countries are swindled out of their resources by economic hitman like him and the right course of action to take to remedy it.
Unfortunately, the Ethiopian version of economic hitman Negatu continued refusal to confess his sin when asked the hard questions on privatization of public enterprises’ data raised by the conference panellists and audience further reinforces; the first priority of any conversation on the ongoing reform effort the new PM initiated should have been making public data available and accessible to figure out what is going on and who is responsible playing Ethiopians for fools.
Negatu, the self-proclaimed ’practical’ consultant turn private equity investor that claim to have ‘no ideological preference’ confess one thing right – no matter what kind of regime, ideology or laws or reforms are enacted, he is in it for the money and will continue to use self-serving statistic and PR stent in evaluating the economy on any platform available before he run in hiding when the reality is reviled.
In that regard, on one of his latest staged appearance on ETV’s ኑሮና ቢዝነስ-የኢትዮጵያ አየር መንገድ የስራ እንቅስቃሴ with the CEO Twolde Gebremariam and dozens of self-proclaimed ‘businessmen’, he pitched the privatization of the Airlines with the usual data and talking points on behalf of the predetermined ‘domestic investors’ to the blindfold public. The staged drama, as embarrassing as it was for the participants further exposed who-is-who among the business elites insulting the intelligence of the people of Ethiopia in the middle of the ongoing reform led by the new PM.
Likewise, In recent staged interview on the infamous The Reporter Media titled ‘Addis Ababa Stock Exchange’, the infamous Former Earnest Young East Africa Managing Partner based in U.K. and the present Global Chairman of U.S. based Fairfax Africa Private Equity Fund of mysterious individuals, Negatu once again proposed the establishment of a stock exchange under one-party ethnic Revolutionary Democracy and Developmental State regime that produced the ‘fastest growing economy in the world’ as a good thing for the people of Ethiopia rather than to his private equity fund investors with insider information awaiting to legitimize gabbling up more public enterprises particularly the Flagship Airlines and Telcom that generate $$$ without data available to the public.
In all fairness to the self-described ‘practical’ foreign investment consultant turn foreign equity investor with ‘no ideological’ leaning that confess; conflict of interest and insider trading is not a crime under existing laws and, exploiting the opportunity presented to him and associates to maximize earnings in the almighty dollar is legitimate under existing law. Unfortunately, he is right.
Therefore, Negatu’s appearance on Vision Ethiopia was to make sure the reform does’t make insider trading and conflict of interest illegal ever or at least until he gabbles up the prized public enterprises, he prepared for two decades as foreign investor.
Once again, ‘ESAT is the best thing that happened to the people of Ethiopia’ unmatched by any yet for making Vision Ethiopia possible. The more it exposes the political, social and economic hitmen to Ethiopians and the wider world, the more reform in public interest become reality and the more democratic institutions emerge to make one-and-all accountable. After all, isn’t that what a Free Press (Forth power) particularly in one party state where the executive, legislative and judicial power is one and the same?
At the meantime, the grassroot political solution that would lead to sustainable individual freedom, rights and development came from none other than Patriotic-Ginbot 7 Movement for freedom, justice and democracy as expected.
In the recent public conference in Addis Ababa, what the Chairman Prof Berhanu Nega and the General Secretory Andargachew Teige outlined in front of a packed auditorium (see Part 1 and Part 2) like no other political movement did in the history of Ethiopia since Kinijit is an eye opener even for the political elites that remotely understands what real democracy is all about — a surrender for the consent of the governed.
The line is clear between the elites that kept the people of Ethiopia as their political pawns to fulfill their enablers agenda and those that want to emancipate the people to enjoy freedom, justice and democracy like every society that embrace democratic rule.
The ‘Dawn of Freedom’ is upon Ethiopians as the Former Kinijit leader and the present PG7 Chairman book title stipulated from prison. For those who were afraid of Woyane to touch the book let alone read it, you should read it now.
Time-and-time again, the people of Ethiopia proven to be way too civilized than their elite compatriots that made mockery of the consent of the governed and the public right to know their affairs for as long as the last and this generation can remember. The question is, can the people ever make the offending elites surrender for the consent of the governed than the other way around all depends on how and where to start the political, social and economic reform process that continue to bog down the political elites.
The Chinse proverb, unlike their one-and-only communist party that ruled them with iron fist and elaborate propaganda for as long as they remember says; ’a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step’.
Can the new PM Abiy Ahmed crack the code: the first step in the political, social and economic freedom, rights and development reform is the people right to know their affairs to make public institutions transparent and accountable?
Notwithstanding the PM is trapped with the rogue TPLF regime and what Loretta Napoleoni refer Rogue Economy with the complex political, social, economic as well as security crises it brought coupled by ethnic apartheid and crony capitalist and Developmental State of the China Communist Party financed by public fund, foreign aid and debt, he can ill afford to overlook; real reform that matters to the average Ethiopian starts or ends with the public right to know their affairs to reform public institutions.
Therefore, entertaining “the cart before the horse’ policy in his reform effort inline with old guard policy that made mockery of the people’s rights to know their affairs not only will undermine the very reform he accomplished so far but, doesn’t address the cause of the problem – the elites’ feeling entitled to decide or negotiate on behalf of the blindfolded public as oppose by the consent of a well-informed citizens.
The PM yet to prioritize what comes first in his economic reform effort and what role the ruling collation party (EPDRF) he chairs, the member parties that claim to represent nine ethnic regions that formed the Federal government of Ethiopia representing over 70 ethnic groups of Ethiopians he preside over as a Head of State and the unconventionally redefine ’private sector’ as defined by the dominant ethnic ‘minority’ ruling member party TPLF and affiliated enterprises that control the means and ways of the economy should play and how to separate if not dismantle them to institute check-and-balance and accountability – indispensable for political and economic reform to institute democratic rule he vowed to implement.
His mixed message to entertain the grassroot demand for democratic rule and the ethnic oligarchs and their partners demand to maintain their economic dominance as a compensation for their loss of political power is not helping.
For instance, on the 70th anniversary of the foundation of the Flagship Airlines that was set up for privatization by the dominant ruling minority member party TPLF in the name of ‘unleashing the ‘private sector’ of its operatives PM Abiy not only endorsed its privatization for predetermined domestic and foreign investors but, its expansion in many other businesses including a $375 millions luxury hotel that opened recently that will be followed by 1000 room hotel construction on public land financed by public fund, foreign debt and investment as well as the establishment of stock exchange for the Airlines to offer share for domestic and foreign investors without making the data available to the public – unprecedented for anything resembling economic reform.
Unfortunately, it appears the Former Earnest Young East Africa Managing Partner and investment adviser for the late PM and the Flagship Airlines Negatu that design the privatization scheme with the Airline CEO pitching privatization on multiple platforms has something to do with PM Abiy’s endorsement for the benefit of his Fairfax Africa private Equity Fund based in the USA where he is the present Global Chairman.
By the way, It is not clear how $1.1 dollars per room luxury hotel owned by the Airlines and financed by undisclosed investor and additional public debt on the top of the undisclosed existing debt of a publicly owned enterprise under the same leadership is priority for a PM that solicit fund from the diaspora to help poor compatriots in health, education, water, sanitation facilities… and a whole more as outlined on the Diaspora Trust Fund Advisory Council’s official website replicating what foreign donors do for half a century.
When it comes to the PM’s foreign engagement, his open-ended promise at the World Economic Forum participants to help with aid and investment coming out of a PM in transition to democratically elected party doesn’t sound a commitment the people of Ethiopia elected party to decide the long-term foreign investment policy but a declaration; the same China modeled one-party developmental state to continue making foreign investment policy beyond his mandate and contrary to his reform commitment.
But more telling was the PM claim — ‘Ethiopia is the fastest growing economy in the world and expected to grow on an average 8% from 2018-21’ inline with his old party narrative. Unfortunately, no one knows where the PM’s data came to make such a bold and unverifiable statement except the same questionable government agencies data outsourced to the World Bank or IMF the PM pledged to reform.
The PM doesn’t appear to appreciate – not disclosing the source of the data of his claim as well as the background of the people involved in collecting and disseminating the data determines the beginning or the end of all reforms. Nor, he seem not to understand; foreign aid and investment financed development without reliable data and institution transparency is not sustainable for many reasons described above including what Andrew Mwenda’s argued on the nonexistence of ‘a country that developed because of the generosity and kindness of others’ Likewise, foreign investment under China modeled one-party developmental state regime without disclosing the data to the public and the separation of the three branches of government is anything but not development that benefit the people of Ethiopia. The best such undertakings can achieve is create a banana republic void of economic and governance principle for that attract crony capitalists as proven in the last 27 years.
Take for instance WTO reported $ 3.16 billon Merchandise Trade of Ethiopia for year 2017 with over 105 million population and compared it with say Botswana $5.898 billion Merchandise Trade with the population of 2.3 million and South Korea $573.694 billion Merchandise Trade with a population of 52 million. After 100s of billions of foreign investment, aid, debt and remittance spending in the last 27 years what does the fastest growing economy in the world means for Ethiopians? And, what difference applying for membership to the WTO that is pending since 2003 would make?
Regardless of why the PM chose not to open the public data for scrutiny by the general public as well as public intellectual he invited to help with his reform effort, the struggle to make sense of what the reality may be with no public data in hand continue at the cost of the reform effort thus, the fate of the people of Ethiopia for the foreseeable future to come as witnessed on the recent Vision Ethiopia Conference in Addis Ababa when public intellectuals gathered to help the PM reform scramble where to start with no data in hand blindfolded to find answer – the price of the same top-down developmental state of one party rule that started the grassroot revolution.
The irony is, the lone ranger that orchestrated the one-party developmental state economic policy with insider data presence at Vision Ethiopia conference rambling to pitch privatization of public enterprises and the wonders of the Ethiopian economic growth miracle was the same Zmedenh Negatu that feel empowered by the data known only to him and associates and appear to be the unofficial advisor of the PM.
The fact he is all over the select Medias to push the same old contaminated data claiming it is from World Bank and IMF or his own out-of-pocket data reinforces not only ‘Poor Numbers: How we are Mislead by African Development Statistic and What to do about it’ as Prof Morton Jerven put it but, the public data remain hostage by the same TPLF insiders to undermine the very political, social and economic the PM is attempting to reform.
Awkwardly, the World Bank and the IMF officially deny (in fine print) they have nothing to do with the Ethiopian statistics nor, they publicly reject the data useless for obvious reasons. But, like many opportunists in poor countries, investment guru Negatu that pride to be the Former world renown investment consulting and advisory firm Earnest Young of U.K East Africa Managing Partner of siting World Bank and IMF as a source of Ethiopia’s economic standing and the double-digit economic growth miracle as oppose the Ethiopian Authorities to entice investors speaks volume what needs to be reformed first.
For instance, the June 2018 IMF’s Press Release of the 2017 Stuff Report — Article IV on the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Communication reviles, the sources of data as “Ethiopian Authorities and IMF Staff estimates and projection.” And, in a footnote disclaimer it claims; “based on data from Central Statistic Agency (CSA) except for current account balance, which is based on BOP data from the National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE)” (see footnote 1 on page 5).
Yet, for the last 27 years, the ruling party, its operatives including the guru of investment consultant Negatu and party affiliated Medias as well as mainstream Western medias use World Bank or IMF as proof of the legitimacy of the economy data reported. Nor, there was any official protest from the World Bank or IMF their names are misused nefariously to mislead the world but play legal fussy with fine prints and footnote disclaimers.
Whether poor numbers, no numbers or out-of-pocket numbers, where is the real data and who is holding it hostage or hoarding it to mislead the public and the world at large and undermine reform remained the million-dollar question every intellectual and citizen must demand from the PM now than later.
Unfortunately, PM Abiy at several occasions including at the recent World Economic Forum used the same data without reviling the source is his own government agencies particularly the Central Statistic Agency (CSA) awaiting major transformation in the reform effort.
The bold and courageous PM Abiy reform team thought Ethiopians one unforgettable lesson we all should be grateful for. That is, the ruling party elites and surrogates have no legs to stand on when challenged by the rule of law. But what he failed to do so far in his reform effort is to challenge the rest of Ethiopian elites (including himself) their very relevance to find solution to the pressing problem of Ethiopia rest on the public right to know their affairs to consent for anyone to decide for or rule them.
The PM either don’t understand the first order of democratic reform is the public right to know their political, social and economic data or he is trapped by China one-party Developmental State syndrome that kept contemporary political elites’ the cart before the horse’ solution for the blindfolded public.
Granted what the old colonialist led crony capitalism did and continue to do to peoples and nations of the world for centuries is well documented, nothing summarizes the flaws of the new China Developmental State regime with no public data and empty propaganda narratives African regimes are scrambling to adapt than the Dec 2018’s Guardian article by Lousia Lim and Julia Bergin titled Inside China’s Audacious Global Propaganda Campaign,
The article concluded;
“As Beijing and its proxies extend their reach, they are harnessing market forces to silence the competition. Discourse power is, it seems, a zero-sum-game for China, and voices that are critical of Beijing are co-opted or silenced, left without a platform or drowned out in sea of positive messaging created by Beijing’s own media imperialism is on the rise, and the ultimate battle may not be for means of news production, but for journalism itself.”
From monopoly of public data and Media platforms to create false narratives on the reality of Developmental State i.e. forced labor, land grab, mass detention… currency and trade manipulation behind closed doors to avoid accountability, China’s one-party regime’s # 1 export to Africa and elsewhere became what the American political analyst and author Hilary Matfess in her article titled ‘the new politics of Africa Strong Men’ refer as Developmental Authoritarianism in regard to the Ethiopia and Rwanda regimes.
The sooner the PM team in particular and Ethiopian elites in general understands; the old colonial ethnic apartheid driven politics and crony capitalism economy disguised as Revolutionary Democracy and the new Developmental State of the old one-party communist party, the sooner they get rid off the residue that undermine democratic reform and teach the rest; the one-and-only road for sustainable freedom, justice and democracy and economic development as long and winding journey it may be starts with the first step — the public right to know their affairs. Without it, everything is a hype of the ruling elites posed as democratic political and business leaders at home and foreign investors from abroad the people of Ethiopia can ill afford to ignore to own their democratic destiny.
The writing is on the wall. Prime Minster Abiy’s reform impressively brought Ethiopians under one roof to accept peaceful political engagement and to respect ‘the rule of law’. What he failed to do so far; bring the people of Ethiopia on the same page to accept reality and respect the public right to know by enacting Freedom of Information Act (FIA). He
For whatever reason the PM dragging his foot not to do it or why didn’t do it first regardless of the cost to him and his party, the sooner he enacts Freedom of Information Act before it is too late the better for him and his party and more importantly for the people of it would be.
Frankly, the old rejected ethnic apartheid politics and Developmental State economy instigated by TPLF enablers and crony capitalists that surrounded the PM have everything to do with his mixed message and reluctant to break the stalemate in his reform effort.
At the meantime, playing fussy with the people basic right for democratic rule is a sign; the elites’ continued refusal to confess their sin against the people of Ethiopia. Who better exabit the attempt to get away with ‘murder’ but, the ethnic revolutionary democracy peddling elites of TPLF crying wolf threatening to undo the reform from their hiding enclave where they started their crimes against the people of Ethiopia four decade ago just because they were forgiven of their past sin and told to surrender for the rule of law?
The complexity of TPLF elites’ enablers led Ethnic Apartheid Federalism and one-party Developmental State that confront the PM is not simple to reform and ignore as its reality began to trickledown slowly in the ongoing reform. What the charismatic history lecturer at Della University and political analyst Meskerm Abra’s described in her interview with Gezan Leggse host of ESAT program Ethiopia Nege add to the layer of the reality.
What stood out among many problems the ruling party EPRDF’s ethnic apartheid and developmental state caused on the people of Ethiopia she eloquently described was; the ‘tyranny of the political elites’ that feel entitled to rule before any vote is casted and to have power over the people and resources. Like their ‘tyranny of experts’ counterpart of the donors that feel entitled to decide what is good for poor peoples/nations before the people say so, the people of Ethiopia or Africa in general are caught between a rock and a hard place i.e. marriage of convenience between tyranny of domestic and foreign elites.
As the African Union (AU) annual Head of States convened in Addis Ababa this week for their annual meeting led by the new Chairman Fattah El-Sisi of Egypt, one can’t help wonders to watch when they make a mockery of the rule of law and democracy. As expected, the big agenda was the refugee crises (the symptom) tabled by nonother than donor countries not the cause (the illegitimacy of majority of the rulers of African countries) as described on Al Jazeera’s Inside Story by three African scholars.
Until the illegitimacy of the marriage of most of Africa despotic regimes with donors’ and their tyranny of experts’ divorce is finalized, ‘the cart before the horse’ solution will continue to the benefit of the usual suspects and at the expenses of the peoples’ right to know their affairs and governed by their consent.
It is not clear yet where the transitional PM Abiy stands on democracy through his actions than his words. So far, his goodwill to mitigate the damage the ruling collation ethnic apartheid party EPDRF caused on the people of Ethiopia in the past got him the admiration of Ethiopians and non-Ethiopians alike.
But, without the public right to know their affairs guaranteed, no democratic rule will see the light as we are led to believe and never did. In that regard, he failed to enact the Freedom of Information Act and left the people of Ethiopia blindfolded and embroiled ‘tyranny of experts’, political elites and crony capitalists to remain relevant.
Can the new ‘reformist’ PM Abiy change the paradigm shift on democracy all depends on abandoning the cart before the horse policy.
This article is dedicated for the youth of Ethiopia torn apart by the ruling elites’ indifference to the rights of the people to know their affairs to be governed by other than the representatives of their choice. The people rights to know their affairs determines if they will be on the table to decide their fate or remain on the menu for others to decide it for them.