At the House of Peoples’ Representatives session held on Thursday October 19, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn clarified the newly elected president Dr. MulatuTeshome’s presentation of the government’s main guideline for this budget year.
The president had laid out the plan during his introductory speech at the opening of the joint session of the House held on October 7. Responding to queries from the MPs, Hailemariam explained in detail, his government’s plan and deeds from agricultural performance to the ambitious housing project of the city. He also lashed out against the opposition parties claiming that they are headed in the wrong direction.
MP’s, including the lone opposition party representative Girma Seifu raised points of concern on the President’s presentation that they think should be amended or commended
PM Hailemariam asserted that the government’s plan introduced in the agriculture sector in the previous mid- year season has managed to mobilize all the Kebeles all over the country and is expected to bear fruit in the next harvest season. “The President’s recognition of farmers and development stationworkers is commendable as the forecast for the harvest season shows a big boost in production,” Hailemariam defended the President’s claims, which were questioned by the MPs.
“Nowadays regional governments are installing modern irrigation systems on their farms. This has come from years of hard work and we are pushing forward to make it more modern as we want to develop the back bone of the economy,” he pointed as an example.
Hailemariam is also confident that the ‘green revolution’ is on the right track and will be achieved in the sector.
Hailemariam also stressed the need for boosting the manufacturing sector. He said that it is the government’s focal point to help reinforce the economy in a dramatic way this budget year.
“We are now intensifying our push to get investors involved in the manufacturing sector. The government is creating a conducive environment for investors that will be involved in the sector,” Hailemariam noted responding to MP Girma Seifu’s inquiry.
“We are also calling for investors to use our agricultural products as their major input for manufacturing as that will directly boost the capacity of farmers in the country. In this scheme we are focusing on facilitating the proper channels so the two sectors can cooperate in a way that helps both,” Hailemariam added.
“The manufacturing sector will be vital to the growth of the economy in the near future and the role it plays will be a major one.” “We don’t want to import items that can be manufactured here easily,” Hailemariam said stressing the primary focus the government is giving to developing the sector quickly.
As to questions raised in connection to the growth of Small and Medium Scale enterprises, Hailemariam affirmed that SME’s are creating job opportunities benefiting the lower class population. “These enterprises are manufacturing various things. They should be supported more, so that they can grow to a bigger level of manufacturing,” Hailemariam said.
Defending the government’s program on SME’s to claims that people are using the loans provided for SME’s for their personal use he said,“some people who are included in SME’s programs are rotten oranges. The main thing is to differentiate these rotten oranges from the good ones. But the main thing is that most of them are really growing. But there are some that cannot be good enough for the public. But these few cannot be considered as a failure when we see the majority of SME’s.”
“My government and I believe that the housing projects will greatly ease the housing problem in the city. The government is subsidizing the total investment for the construction of these houses,” Hailemariam said stressing the project will be completed according to plan and is not a way of collecting money from the public to be transferred to fund other mega projects.
“For example when we take this year’s statistics, the public managed to save 2.5 billion birr but the government will subsidize the rest of the7.5 billion birr that will be used for the construction of the houses under the 40/60 and 20/80 housing loan schemes. These figures do not include the lease prices of the plots the houses are to be built on,” he said.
“The main aim of the government is to solve the critical housing problem.We have already constructed 285,000 houses in the past few years. We are confident that we will complete the housing project according to our plan in the coming two years as we have looked into the obstacles we faced during previous construction projects and identified the problems that deal mainly with management,” Hailemariam added saying a council has been set up to solve the issue in a professional manner.
The Premier also responded to the criticism of offering units to the Diaspora community that can afford to construct or buy houses in any part of the city, without the support of the housing scheme. “The Diaspora community in China, Philippines and India greatly contributed to the development of their countries. We have to use their methods and try to attract the Diaspora community to our country.
“For instance 300 doctors are planning to construct a state-of-the-art hospital here in the country on a plot allotted for them. This alone will help the country in skilled man power and technology transfer in the health sector,” Hailemariam said. “So we have to offer these Diaspora communities some incentives that will increase their commitment. It’s not the money they send that we want, it’s their expertise. So we should take such kinds of initiatives and encourage it more and more,” Hailemariam added.
He further noted that his government is praised by other governments for its programs and projects that subsidize sectors that support the lower class of the population. “One of these projects is the housing project,” he said.
The President, in his opening speech had said that focusing on creating awareness should be maximized so as to minimize the migration by creating more job opportunities in the country.
Starting from the last budget year the government has aggressively tried to address the issue of migration and creating awareness among the public. Hailemariam said that the government is trying to reverse the severe problem created in the country through different initiatives.
“26 percent of the total population is living under extreme poverty. It is not exceptional if people are migrating in large numbers. However the migration sometimes does not relate to economic issues. Even well educated and skilled professionals will migrate because they are not interested to work and develop the country together with the general public,” Hailemariam said.
“Although huge milestones have been reached, we did not totally eradicate poverty. We have to work harder and focus on areas where we can be doing more,” he added.
Eventhough the administration claims to have 80 percent coverage within the city of Addis Ababa, the supply of potable water remains a big challenge for the residents that complain they are sometimes out of water for several days. Despite severe water problems and common cases of water shortages in the city, Hailemariam claims that the water coverage in Addis Ababa is increasing over time and that now 65 percent of the population gets supplies of potable water 24 hours a day. “The other 20 percent of the population gets five days of potable water in a week and the remaining 15 percent get access to water once a week or in a fortnight,” Hailemariam asserted.
“As we are working to solve this problem, we are finalizing the study for the construction of the Gerbi Dam,” the Premier announced. “This project [which has been lagging for the last ten years and is located around Sullulta] will solve the problem of water in the city,” he asserted.
“This year we have devised a detailed plan to resolve other infrastructural problems in the country step by step. Our plan is vast and it is back breaking but we are determined to complete what we have started. The public is also supporting us in every project we are implementing. It also criticizes our failure when we are wrong, but we will solve the problem with the public together,” he added.
Hailemariam also gave details on the government’s plan to earn five billion dollars from exports. Last year’s revenue performance was very poor and the country managed to collect 3.1 billion dollars out of the target of 4 billion dollars in revenue.
“Last year we intended to earn 4 billion dollars from exports. However, the weaker world economy heavily impacted our performance. For example,the price of our main foreign exchange earner,coffee, plummeted on the international market. Even though our exports have increased in quantity, the low price it fetched on the international market affected the earning heavily. This is beyond our control and we cannot do anything about it,” Hailemariam said further detailing his government’s plan for this year. “The trend this year also shows signs of a declining price for coffee but we aimed to earn 5 billion dollars this year. Our main focus is the manufacturing industry. Most industries in the country manufacture below their capacity and we are now supporting these industries to manufacture more and export their products more. With this plan we can achieve our target.”
The 2015 Election and opposition parties
Hailemariam gave a stern warning to opposition parties that are ‘trying to destabilize the development activities of the country’. “Registered opposition parties have their ways of undertaking their activities. Illegal parties that are labeled as terrorist organizations also have their ways. The government also has its way to prevent these actions accordingly”, Hailemariam said.
“The government will respond in the same way when terrorist groups try to oppose it. However the government will work with legally registered opposition parties in conducting a free and fair election,” he added advising the opposition parties to back away from their ‘recent activities of creating chaos’.
“The government considers it a great opportunity for the opposition parties to exist. Their existence will support us in the endeavor of building a democratic nation. The opposition parties should convince the government that they are committed to the process of building the nation,” he said.
Still, he insisted the opposition parties should agree and sign the code of conduct with the ruling party so as to work together. “Otherwise it will be useless to talk again and again,” he said. “We know for a fact that some opposition parties are trying to create havoc in the country by collaborating with terrorists. This will not help the development strategy of the country,” Hailemariam said stressing that the opposition should not interpret his speech as a sign of fear.
“The government has not been afraid of anything and will not be afraid of anything. We want to collaborate with parties that are legally registered, and that’s the whole message,” he cautioned.
Hailemariam also said that there are no opposition leaders or activists jailed in the country. “Those arrested are charged with terrorism and terrorism is the most horrible crime against humanity, so they don’t deserve a pardon,” he affirmed, explaining that the government has the responsibility of upholding law and order in the country.