Trust is the wrong word

Dear Editor,
When talking of the Nile-Ethiopia-Egypt axis, trust doesn’t come as a handy word as it was never there and will never be (In the absence of trust…Addis Standard July 2013). Since time immemorial Egypt has been working hard and continued to do so that riparian countries of the Nile never trust each other. While I enjoyed reading your fresh perspective on this very issue, I have my serious doubts that there was any intension by the Nile riparian states to truly establish what they were good at in rhetoric: “One Nile, One Basin, with One Vision.” And alleviating “poverty, environmental degradation and instability in the Nile Basin” never surpassed individual greed and mistrust among the Nile states. Now, at last Ethiopia is sitting on the steering wheel and, according to your report, PM Hailemariam Desalegn has made “a cool headed reference to the NBI.” If Egypt is not bent on, again, ruining its chance of using the Nile water, it should take a good note of the gesture before it truly is too late.

Yidenekew Merera
Addis Ababa University

Dear Editor,
A return to the Nile Basin Initiative (NBI) platforms can only be possible if the NBI itself was a worthy beast in the first place (In the absence of trust…Addis Standard July 2013). Ever since its establishment in 1998 the only platform it has created was a platform of conferences in expensive resort cities like Sharm el-Shieck. Ethiopia’s decision to build the Great Ethiopian Renaissance dame (GERD) is the only decision that is now pulling every riparian state to come to a roundtable discussion. Egypt itself has shown a remarkable willingness (though forced) to solve the issue of the use of the Nile after Ethiopia’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the dam. While I realize that diplomatic negotiations should precede anything else, I doubt if there would have been any change if the status quo have not been turned around by Ethiopia. On this occasion, please allow me to congratulate you for opting for an objective, and well thought after reporting over sensationalizing the topic.

Belayneh Geremew (PhD)
Addis Ababa

Ethiopia’s dysfunctional developmental statism highly exaggerated

Dear Editor,
I enjoyed reading your article on Ethiopia’s dysfunctional developmental statism (It’s not the model, fix the politics, July 2013). My reservations lie on the degree and extent of the institutional challenges dubbed by your article as dysfunctionalism.
Since building a developmental state is a trial and error process and that the Ethiopian developmental state project is merely a decade old, it is too early to conclude its dysfunctionalism. This is because, as Gordon White, a prominent contemporary scholar on developmentalism, aptly argues, the task of establishing a democratic developmental state is similar to soviet socialism in which the establishment of ‘the preconditions for socialism’ was supposed to go along with ‘the construction of socialism’ itself.
While contemporary Ethiopia is far from entrenching Weberian model institutions, the bureaucracy has undergone a thorough transformation compared to the predatory bureaucracies of the ancient and military regimes. After all, it is not as if all East Asian states started operating with highly trained people and effective and efficient institutions. Korea, a country taken as a model for the creation and management of state enterprises in Ethiopia, was the poorest of the lot and used to send its bureaucrats for extra training to, of all places, Pakistan and Philippines until the late ‘60s. When Botswana achieved its independence in 1966, only 100 locals had completed secondary school and only 22 had graduated from university.
Interestingly, today’s Ethiopia has a better potential than these countries. On the one hand, the long history of Ethiopia has left a fairly professional but inefficient civil service that had managed to persist under different regimes. This can partly explain why the country survived as a nation and was able to have prudent macro policy across the different regimes despite pervasive poverty, internal conflicts, and external aggressions. Ironically however on the other hand the core explanation for Ethiopia’s extreme underdevelopment underlies the influence of the millennia old and historically-shaped institutions: the set of political, socio-cultural and economic institutions associated with an autocratic regime and hierarchical society. Ethiopia’s long history of autocratic rule, followed by a brief period of a particularly militaristic form of Stalinism, combined with intergroup conflict has been hostile to long-term growth.
The changes that have occurred since 1991 constitute the first stages of a major and potentially long-lasting transition to institutional arrangements that are more conducive to the pursuit of long-term prosperity than earlier conditions. Nonetheless, the institutional transition remains incomplete and complex, thereby underpinned by significant risks of moving in directions that could be harmful for development.
With all the challenges, the art of leapfrogging is not yet dead though copycatting is not wise. Yes it is the politics, stupid! And it is not only up to the government to fix the politics! It is up to all of us!Hence, working together and engaging in a constructive debate is what we should be doing! Let’s hope that Ethiopia does not end up being a text book example of ideological lab and institutional failure.

Merkeb Negash
Lecturer, Department of Governance and Development Studies
Jimma University

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