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Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn blasted the business community saying that they had made mistakes and that their demands for change were invalid.
During the Third Public Private Partnership Forum led by the PM, he responded to questions from Solomon Afework, President of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association (ECCSA) and other members of the business community for two hours.
Hailemariam criticized the Association’s methods saying that the business community needed to cover the cost of the Chamber of Commerce to obtain successful results.
“You have to undertake the studies to accelerate the business atmosphere instead of hiring foreign financers and consultants,” he said.
“You have to manage your own association by yourself… why are others studying your issues,” he asked.
He said that some of the questions raised at the forum did not come from the business community. “Some of the interests are not yours, instead you raised the interest of others that we rejected when they came to us previously,” he said.
He mentioned that international organizations have recommended policy reforms which the government refused to accept.
“This is not the Association for the World Bank it is an Association for Ethiopians,” Hailemariam strongly underlined.
The chamber head presented that the 27 percent bond purchasing procedure for banks would be easy and interest rates would increase.
A few years ago the government imposed a 27 percent bond purchase with three percent interest on every loan approval.
The private actors and international organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) expressed their concern about the bond purchase because they said it would reduce the capacity of banks to provide adequate finance for the private sector. The issue has been raised during every similar event since it implemented about six years ago.
“You repeatedly ask for increased access to finance for service and trade while devaluing developmental projects. You have to cease from raising this question,” he said.
The government argued that the finance secured from this bond is going to developmental projects via the Development Bank of Ethiopia (DBE). He also rejected the request that the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) restart working capital loan.
“DBE is our policy, while CBE is undertaking the usual banking service and has to compete with others,” he added.
He also commented on the current arrests in Bahir Dar and the corruption crackdown.
The arrested business community in Bahir Dar in relation to the boycott a few weeks ago occurred when they were arrested based on a detailed investigation. “They have been involved in pushing the youth for instigating violence,” he added.
The PM strongly cautioned the business community to keep themselves from committing criminal offenses. “We are now prosecuting those in the private sector who are engaged in illegal activities, you have to conduct your business legally,” he said.
He expressed his dissatisfaction with the business community about not being forthcoming about illegal activity they are aware of. “You are close to those who are engaged on illegal activities and construct buildings in the town but tips are coming from the general public not from you,” he said.
“When the arrests began Bole Airport was very congested and the airplanes to Dubai were full, after news broke about the corruption crackdown.”
“We know the corrupted members of the business community have money and houses abroad, but most of their assets are here. You saw that when we froze the assets of those suspects,” he said.
He also said that the contraband business on coffee is run by the suppliers themselves. “Suppliers that run contraband have to stop their activity. We will use our all efforts to cut this contraband business,” he said. “I have formed a team to smash the chain.” he added.
He also commented on the tax evaluation for the level C business and accepted there needed to be improvement on the government side. He said that the city revenue office will be run by the city itself. Six years ago the city administration transferred tax collection to the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority.