Prime Minister Hailemariam briefed members of the House of People’s Representatives on Tuesday (16th October) on a number of issues concerning the economy, the status of on-going projects, good governance, democracy and foreign relations. The Prime Minister was responding to questions raised by MP’s in a session to discuss and ratify a motion of thanks on President Girma Woldegiorgis’s speech opening the new session of Parliament last week.
Responding to a question on the availability of foreign currency, the Prime Minister said foreign currency generated through exports and from remittances, grants and loans had increased during the current fiscal year. There was no shortage of foreign currency at the moment, he emphasized. There had been some problems and confusion about this because of the activities of some businessmen speculating to try and get larger amounts
of foreign currency than needed. Overall, the Prime Minister said, the performance of the economy showed the country was on the right track to achieve the growth envisaged in the Growth and Transformation Plan. An average 11.7% growth had been recorded in each of the last nine years, and more than 11% growth is expected this fiscal year. He also noted that environmental protection and conservation activities carried out over the year had created a suitable springboard to build up an industrial-led green economy over the next three years.
The Prime Minister highlighted some of the activities, including implementation of quality assurance packages at all levels of education and technical and vocation training, being carried out to ensure an improved quality of education. Encouraging results, he said, were being achieved by these measures and this could be seen in the astonishing rise in the number of students passing technical and vocational schools exit exams with good results. He noted that further activities related to capacity building of teachers would be carried out this year. Ato Hailemariam also noted the importance of addressing quality of services in other sectors including the telecom and electric power sectors.
The Prime Minister expressed the government’s firm belief that its efforts to provide good governance will not bear fruit without the active participation of the public and of political parties. He underlined the government’s readiness to work with any political parties that operate within the bounds of the constitution and the law, that are prepared to uphold the constitution and which are “genuinely committed to the democratization process”. He reiterated the government’s resolve to take full legal action against civil servants who indulge in practices of maladministration, including corruption, adding that the government “will penalize them without mercy or sympathy”.
The Prime Minister also underscored what he called Ethiopia’s “unwavering commitment to peace and stability” in the region, noting the roles Ethiopia has been playing in resolving intra- and inter-state conflicts through diplomatic and peace keeping efforts. These have largely been through the auspices of IGAD. He itemized the successful negotiations between Sudan and South Sudan and the formation of a new government in Somalia as great achievements and ones in which the relentless efforts of the late Prime Minister Meles had played a major contribution. Prime Minister Hailemariam said Ethiopia would continue its positive role for stability and security in the region as the country’s development was intertwined with the development of the region as a whole. Ethiopia, he stressed, was fully ready to work towards regional economic integration to ensure lasting peace and stability.
Questioned over the growing threat of religious fundamentalism, the Prime Minister said the government fully respected freedom of religion. It would not interfere in the affairs of religion just as religion would not interfere in matters of politics. He noted there had been a few occasions when some extremist elements had tried to activate a hidden political agenda under the pretext of religion. The government, he said, would not tolerate any such politically motivated activities carried out under the guise of religion. He emphasized the government’s determination to take any necessary measures to stop such activities and ensure complete observance of the constitution.
Prime Minister Hailemariam also briefed the House of People’s Representatives on the status of several on-going major projects including the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), the sugar development projects, construction of fertilizer factories and the progress of the railway infrastructural developments. He said implementation of all these projects had been encouraging, despite some delay in the sugar projects. This had, he said, been quite manageable, and the generally encouraging performance over the past year was a clear sign that the GTP targets for the next three years were achievable. He noted that there are promising developments for the financing of these projects, with loans secured from India, Turkey and China to finance railway projects. The Addis Ababa -Djibouti railway project, which would have a major impact on the import of capital goods, had started in June and would be completed within a few years. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam was progressing according to the schedule laid down in the plan: over 11% of the dam had been completed so far. The Prime Minister said no question of international finance would cause any delay for the construction. It had been decided from the very beginning that the total cost would be covered by local finance. The country’s national savings had now reached the level of 9% of GDP and this could be used as a major potential source of finance for the project.