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In his first half year report of 2014/2015, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn briefed parliamentarians on issues such as preparation for election, the end of the GTP and social performance were major happenings of the past six months.
Recently the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) has banned the splited Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ), and All Ethiopian Unity Party (AEUP) from participating in the May election.
Girma Seifu, the only opposition MP and member of UDJ declares that the measure taken by NEBE is ‘a historical mistake’ and he held the government responsible for the action. Prime Minister Hailemariam strongly disagreed with the accusation.
Despite some negative comments against NEBE, it is working to serve all in equal and fair manner, the prime minster had said.
“As is stipulated in our electoral law, every party should respect the national electoral board, which is instituted by parliament. We have observed that some parties choose to blame the national electoral board for some mishaps, while the problem was their own fault. Instead of trying to resolve their problem, they invested their time in blaming the board,” Hailemariam criticized opposition parties.
“I find it very stunning that Unity for Democracy and Justice (UDJ) Party has any reason to blame the board. A rift among its leadership troubled the party which resulted in formation of two different groups. While this is the fact they try to shift the blame to the board, but citizens know very well that the division arise from an internal discord and there is no reason to blame the national electoral board. Rather the national electoral board has been trying to mediate the two factions according to its mandate it is given by law,” Hailemariam explained to the MPs. “The only thing the board did was to enforce the bylaws of the party in accordance with the mandate it is given by the electoral law. What has happened is a mere application of UDJ’s bylaws,” Hailemariam further added.
NEBE repeatedly called the two parties to reconcile their differences. “Contrary to what is presented by the UDJ MP, the board did not appoint a leader to the political party,” he added.
“The disagreement arise as the two factions are being led by different groups, one being led by forces in oversees countries and the other led by people residing locally. What can the electoral board do to resolve these differences? The most important thing is for the parties to assess their own problems internally,” he said.
“We should appreciate the patience shown by the board, despite the name blame campaign directed against it,” he said. “I think the board should take measures to stop these parties from tarnishing its image because it is tantamount to disrespecting the Ethiopian people. We cannot tolerate this campaign. And we need to consider this point very well,” he stressed.
Girma has also complained that the court had refused to accept their appeal. “I have no knowledge of the UDJ’s rivaling factions’ submission of a case to court,” Hailemariam said. “But the court can only see the case after the national board gave a final decision.”
He blamed the planned demonstration that was called on 1st February in Addis Ababa. The demonstration was disrupted by security and police forces.
The opposition parties have argued they are only responsible to inform the relevant body about the demonstration as is stated in the constitution. They said that the measure taken by the security is against constitutional right.
The PM said that one of the election observers would be the African Union and it will send a team drawn from different commissions of the AU. The PM said representative of the public and civil organizations will also observe the election.
Prime Minister Hailemariam announced that the first four years of the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) has seen good performance turning in a 10.1 percent economic growth every year on average.
The agriculture, industry and service sectors are fields where good outcomes have been registered, showing a respective 5.4, 21.2 and 11.9 percentage growth in the stated period, according to Hailemariam.
At the end of the 2013/2014 fiscal year, the country’s GDP has reached 1.1 trillion birr (USD 55 billion) while the per capita income has also increased to USD 632.
The economic structure has also shown some changes in some sectors, according to Hailemariam. The agriculture sector’s contribution has dropped to 40 percent in the past fiscal year from 45 percent in 2010/11. On the other hand, the industry and service sectors’ share of the economy has increased by three and one percentages each from a 2010/2011 turnover standing at 14 and 46 percent. The five year development roadmap gave priority for the manufacturing sector with the aim to make it the major economic pillar for the country.
The prime minister said, in the past four years the manufacturing sector has registered an average of 13 percent growth. He said, to enlarge the sector, augmenting the capacity of existing industries and attracting more investment is necessary. The current performance observed in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors fall far shorter behind the government’s target. To accelerate the growth, particularly the manufacturing stream, the government has been introducing several stimulant interventions including restructuring and establishing government institutions. The government wishes to interconnect the agriculture and manufacturing sectors to speed up electric power supply and agro processing industries that are labor intensive.
Textile, leather, commercial farming and agro processing are the areas the government wanted to enhance in the past five years.
The government has established an agency, Agricultural Transformation Agency, at the beginning of the GTP which would be the lead to stir up agricultural production and marketing in 81 benchmark Weredas in five regions.
“According to the forecast, the economy will grow by 11.4 percent in the current fiscal year, and the agriculture, industry and service sectors will register 8.7, 23.7 and 9 percentage growth respectively,” Hailemariam said.
According to the PM, Ethiopia has earned USD 60.3 million or 4.6 percent higher hard currency from export in the past six months compared with last year’s similar period.
The GTP forecasted over ten billion dollars earning from export at the end of the five years plan that ends in July, 2015. However, the achievement falls shorter than the projection. Over the past four years of the GTP, export has brought in lesser hard currency.
Similarly, manufacturing sector could not reach a forecasted earning of USD 2.5 billion exhibiting very low performance.
The prime minister said that even though earnings from coffee, oil seeds and flower export has increased from last year’s similar period returns, the textile and garment, leather, gold, vegetable and fruit and other sales registered lower accomplishment.
“This shows that we need to improve the manufacturing sector’s capacity to achieve our target,” he added.
Lack of inputs for textile, and lack of market links for leather products are hurdles for low performance of the two sectors, according to Hailemariam.
In the first half of the current budget year, the country has imported USD 10.8 billion worth of goods, which is 42 percent higher than the import for a similar period in 2013/14.
“The country foreign trade balance has increased significantly, which create havoc on our economy, so we pay attention to it,” Hailemariam said.
“We have to maximize our export to shrink the margin in the trade balance, and to rise the hard currency earning,” he added.
Construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is being constructed according to the schedule and 40 percent of the project is accomplished. Construction on Gibe III, Genale Dawa III and Adama II Wind Farm projects is speeding up and will be ready in a short time, according to the PM.
At the launching of the five year plan in 2010, the government had a vision to generate up to 10,000mw electric power from various renewable energy sources by the end of the GTP. The current power generation capacity is about 2300mw. Some promising projects are expected to kick off in the beginning of July. Even though some of the electric projects that were set to commence in the GTP have not yet started, Ethiopia’s power generation capacity has moved a step ahead in the power sector.
The country had endorsed an attractive law for private operators to invest in the power sector and some foreign companies have commenced generation from renewable sources while several others have shown interest.
Recently, officials at the Ethiopian Electric Power told Capital that they are already planning to expand the country’s power generation capacity to 15,000mw by the end of the second development plan that runs from 2015 to 2020.
The Prime Minister said that the Sebeta-Meiso-Dewale 656km railway project will commence operation in July 2015. Hailemariam revealed that over 70 percent of the work is done.
Construction on the Awash-Woldya-Mekele 400km railway project has also commenced, and the Addis Ababa Light Rail Transit (AALRT) 34km project is 87 percent completed and a test run has begun.
The government planned to construct about 2,000km cross country railway lines, however the achievement is below the projection. The cross country projects will not be completed during the first period of the GTP. It is rather the Sebeta-Meiso-Dewale project which will connect the central Ethiopia to Djibouti ports that is near to realization.
The railway lines administrator Ethiopian Railway Corporation has previously announced that the AALRT project would be finalized by January 2015 and would be ready for commissioning. On Sunday February 1, 2015 with the presence of the PM the AALRT has commenced test drives.
According to the plan, the AALRT is expected to commence operation before the GTP expires in May of 2015.
The rural access road project that was expected to cover two third of rural areas is another lagging project. The PM said that until now 40,000kms of rural road was constructed, which is 56 percent of the GTP’s target.
The main roads development assignment which is managed by the Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA) goes beyond the target. ERA has achieved its targets and the main access road coverage is currently registering significant growth.
Fertilizer, sugar and housing
The PM said that fertilizer and sugar production projects are yet another delayed tasks.
Ten sugar factories were supposed to be constructed and start production during the first GTP. However, construction of many of the factories is beyond schedule except for three of them.
Recently, the government had disclosed that most of the one billion dollar loan that was secured through a first international bond sale will be used for the sugar factories.
Hailemariam said in terms of housing, the government has targeted to construct 150,000 condominium houses in the capital city, while the achievement is higher by six percent with 159,213 houses being constructed.