EPRDF Congress Heralds a Brighter New Year [editorial] (allAfrica.com)

Ahead of the new-year, the ruling party of Ethiopia conducted one of its vital Organizational Congresses. It was between August 28 and 31 that the Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) held its 10th organizational congress in Mekele 783km north of Addis Ababa, under the theme “To Live up to Peoples’ Trust Utmost Growth and Transformation.

It was a grand occasion attended by over a thousand voting and other non-voting members of the party. It was also a moment of solidarity attended by representative of twelve foreign political parties. These allies of Ethiopia’s developmental path came from as far as China (the Communist Party of China (CPC) and South Africa (the African National Congress (ANC) to the close by Sudan (the National Congress Party (NCP). Ruling parties in the region, Uganda-NRM, Namibia-SWAPO, South Sudan-SPLM, Rwanda- RPF, Sudan- NCP, Angola- MPLA, Mozambique- FRELIMO, Djibouti-RPP, and Tanzania-CCM, were present to reiterate their commitment to consolidating political and economic ties and boosting bonds between their peoples and the peoples of Ethiopia.

The importance of the occasion was described by EPRDF Chairman Hailemariam as: “We are holding our 10th organizational congress at a time when we are further committed to strengthen our renaissance journey. This Congress is taking place at a historic juncture when we are preparing to launch the second Growth and Transformation Plan. While implementing GTP I, we have acquired enormous experiences from planning big to breaking the impossible mentality that in turn is instrumental in consolidating our renaissance journey. Thus, we draw practical lessons both from our successes and weaknesses.”

The congress was held at a time when the double-digit growth continued for more than a decade and the impacts on human development indicators impressed the world. Just four months ago, in the fourth national and regional elections, the Ethiopian people rewarded EPRDF by a landscape victory. It was certain that EPRDF’s dominant party status has become sustained with the blessings of the peoples of Ethiopia.

Nevertheless, the Congress didn’t waste time congratulating itself. Instead, it focused on how to improve good governance for the betterment of the lives of Ethiopians and make the socio-economic gains lasting to ensure that Ethiopia joins the middle-income countries category by 2025.

The objectives of the Congress were to evaluate the party’s and the country’s performance in meeting its goals during the first Growth and Transformation Plan. It comprised consideration of progress on structural transformation, job creation for the youth and women, gender equality and women empowerment, pertinent political matters such as good governance, dealing with corruption, improved transparency, socio-economic problems, the party’s succession plan, the goals and directions of the GTP II as well as crafting the road map for the next five years to ensure Ethiopia’s Renaissance and join the country to the list of middle income countries by the year 2025.

The congress held general as well as group discussions discussed on the achievements made in GTPI and challenges, in which participants raised numerous issues and put forward many sharp criticisms and comments. The Congress subsequently recognized the results made in education and health sectors and in agriculture which had helped enable the country to register double digit economic growth. It also appreciated the achievements of so many of the Millennium Development Goals. Equally, the Congress also underlined the importance of ensuring quality in education, of scaling up experience in all sectors and accelerating structural transformation, of taking agriculture as the basis of the economy and future transformation. It underlined that attention should be given to export-led economic activities. Much discussion also centered on the need for a paradigm change on governance issues, on transparency and above all on accountability, as well as on the need to maintain the peace and stability of the country.

Detailed discussions also centered on the goals and directions for the Growth and Transformation Plan II which will provide the roadmap and directions for development over the next five years. The GTP II objectives will be decisive in speeding up the transformation and renaissance of the country. They have been designed to ensure citizens will participate and benefit equally in the development process as well as contributing to building a developmental political economy and a common politico-economic community. Overall, strenuous efforts will be made in the next five years, to reduce the rate of poverty to 16 per cent, and work to eradicate it ahead of the international community’s plans to eradicate it by 2030. The rate of unemployment in rural and urban areas will be reduced by half. Efforts will be made to eradicating obstacles to the participation of women in the educational sector, and expand quality of education. Similar concentration will be made for expanding the coverage of qualitative basic health service to reach 100% and lower mother’s and child mortality rates even further.

Agriculture, with both smallholder farmers and pastoralists, will continue as the main source of development. The aim is to double productivity and quality of strategic food crops, with special attention to high yield industrial inputs and export products centering on development corridors. Irrigation will be a priority. Main strategic food crops need to grow at an annual average rate of 16 per cent.

On this basis, the GDP growth could reach 12.2 per cent based on an upper case scenario. Agriculture will continue to be the main source of growth in the GTP II. All-round support will be given to educated youth and local and foreign investors to participate in modern agricultural development focusing on production of high yield products and strengthen exports. This will involve removal of obstacles over provision of land for floriculture and horticulture in development zones, and challenges in relation to rent-seeking attitudes and practices. Communities in these areas will be assisted to participate in technology transfer and production activities, with people assisted to go into modern animal husbandry and fishing resource development as well crop production. This will be speeded up by designating areas for ranches and quarantine centers to serve as sources of input and technology. Market coordination will be encouraged

The GTP II’s goals include an economy growing at an average of 11%, which will be sufficient to ensure the structural transformation of the economy. Efforts will be made to stabilize the macro-economy, to ensure a healthy and sustainable economy, keep inflation in single digits, and stabilize foreign exchange rates to facilitate the competitiveness of foreign trade. By the end of the GTP II foreign trade is expected to account for 41.3 per cent of GDP. The sectoral distribution of economic growth, based on a lower case scenario of an annual average of 8 per cent growth, is expected to be Agriculture – 8 per cent, Industry – 24 per cent and Services – 10 per cent.

The most important component of this Congress had been good governance. As Dep. Chairman of EPRDF, Demeke Mekonene, noted, though directions were set previously to pave ways for good governance they were not that successful in crystallizing sought-for results. “Cognizant of this fact a system will be put in place to strengthen accountability. Follow up and support will be made a point to ward off opportunistic mind bent among administrative bodies at every echelon,” he promised.

According to Redwan Husien, Minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office and EPRDF Executive Committee member, the Congress deliberated and agreed on the need to fight rent seeking tendencies so as to maximize the benefit of the public, good governance and development.

As Chairman of EPRDF, Hailemariam Desalgne, said at the end: “As fast as possible getting on the ball we have to roll the ball pertaining to wholeheartedly seeing to the implementation of the strategies and decisions passed in the conference. There is a call for a concerted effort on the part of the leadership at every layer in discharging the responsibility entrusted to it.”

The decisions and directions set by the Congress are pivotal in the lives of each and every Ethiopian. The developmental path embarked on a decade ago will now board on a new phase with the GTP II. The efforts to attain good governance and weed-out rent-seeking will now be taken to a new height with new directions, renewed commitment and sense of urgency. The existential struggle for a transition from a political economy dominated by rent seeking to one that is characterized by developmentalism will be waged full-scale in urban areas with quality-oriented supports to dry up its sources.

EPRDF’s Congress indeed made this New Year a special one by heralding the shift to a brighter season not only in terms of weather but also in terms of politico-economy phenomenon.