Prime Minister Hailemariam answers questions from MPs on President’s speech Oct 17, 2014


Prime Minister Hailemariam answers questions from MPs on President’s speech


(MoFA) Oct 17, 2014 - The House of People’s Representative held its second ordinary session on Thursday this week to discuss President Dr. Mulatu Teshome’s speech at the opening of the joint session of the House of Peoples’ Representatives and the House of Federation on October 6 last week.  The House approved the motion in favor of the President’s speech with Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn giving explanations and presenting the Government’s stand on a range of economic, political and social questions raised by MPs.


The Prime Minister said that the economy grew 10.3% last Ethiopian fiscal year and it is estimated to grow 11.4% this year. He said agriculture had led the growth last year followed by the service sector, and he noted that the continuous robust growth of the agricultural sector, which amounted to 300 million quintals a year, had made the country food self- sufficient. Equally, there still remained much to do in addressing problems related to securing a balanced diet at household level. The manufacturing sector had grown by 18% but this had still left much to do to meet the targets set by Growth and Transformation Plan. Capacity, he said, remained the major bottleneck but overall the 10.3% growth achieved so far had been remarkable and it was above African average. Recently, the IMF, using different parameters, had for the first time in decades, also confirmed an 8.5% growth. The Prime Minister indicated that shortcomings in capacity would be improved through time by learning on the job.


The Prime Minister highlighted the progress of the major projects being undertaken, taking the country’s railway projects as a case in point. He said some 1500 kms of railway out of a total planned 2095 kms were currently under construction. The 800 kms Ethio-Djibouti line was more than 50% complete and by next year it would be fully operational; and the design of the 700 kms Mekele-Awash line had been concluded, contractors had been selected and construction would begin soon. He indicated that as the investment needed for the rail sector was beyond the country's own means, it had been planned from the outset to involve foreign resources. These two projects involved aid from China and Turkey respectively. The Prime Minister noted that following the global economic downturn some of the funds promised for various projects had not been released on time to commence certain projects. This was not unexpected and had been allowed for in the Growth and Transformation Plan. Equally, he said, the Government was making every effort to finish all the mega projects on time. He said those who criticized any delays should understand the magnitude and investment needed for these projects. Concerning the sugar factories, he indicated that there had been some delays. But, he said, seven of them would be completed this year and start exporting sugar.


The Prime Minister noted a variety of problems ranging from energy fluctuations to logistics and customs that had affected the growth of the manufacturing sector, and pointed out that the weakness of private sector participation had aggravated the situation. The private sector had refrained from involvement in manufacturing because there were alternatives where they could make fast money, he said. He indicated that the Government would work to close these alternatives to encourage long term investment in the manufacturing sector. He said the Government was aware of the complicated problems an un-industrialized nation could face, and it would be renewing its efforts this fiscal year to increase the transition to an industry-based economy. The Prime Minister noted that the broad-based growth necessary needed huge investment and the Government was therefore working to increase the country’s level of internal savings, focusing on the large population of farmers and urban dwellers. He said a lot had been achieved in this regard, bringing saving institutions and microfinance facilities closer to the population. Technological saving mechanisms like mobile banking were also starting to play a role in increasing savings. He said the GERD bond and the housing projects could also play a vital role in increasing internal savings. In addition, he said, the country would make every effort to keep its low level of debt; agreements had been reached with international organizations in this regard.  


With regard to the upcoming election, the Prime Minister said preparations were well underway to make it fair, free and democratic. He said the EPRDF, as the ruling party, would continue to encourage awareness of the policies and strategies of the country. He noted the Government had encouraged a national consensus on several issues in its recent discussions with the university population, and had been able to achieve full understanding and support for the Growth and Transformation Plan. He insisted on the importance of the differences and discussions of ideas between political parties to promote democracy and to make alternatives available for the electorate.


The Prime Minister confirmed the Government’s commitment to the peace and stability of the country and he warned those involved in any form of terrorist action or who preached ethnic and religious extremism that the Government would not tolerate this in any way. He pointed out that the Government was well informed about any such activity. Anyone who participated in or supported a terrorist group, or who initiated violence created conflict between nations, nationalities and religious groups would be held accountable whether he was in the government, in political parties or in any profession. He reiterated that there would be no safe haven for those who encouraged conflict and tried to destabilize the country’s long standing culture of tolerance.


The country’s foreign relations were, he said, focused on minimizing its internal vulnerability, a vulnerability that had been largely caused by poverty. The diplomatic activities were therefore centered on economic diplomacy in which intensifying trade and investment was the focus of diplomatic efforts. Ethiopia, he said, would pursue its international responsibility of making the world a better place for all its inhabitants.


The Prime Minister said that almost all of the millions of Diaspora Ethiopians supported the nation’s economic policies, participating in different investment areas and in knowledge transfer. There were, however, regrettably still a few people like those responsible for the recent incident in Washington where some “mercenaries” who took orders from Asmara and some terrorist groups had tried to pull down the Ethiopian flag at the Embassy. These were people who were determined not to change even when the opportunity was available. The Prime Minister also mentioned that the Government was working to stop human trafficking. Studies had been carried out to ensure that citizens went abroad with necessary skills and training and bilateral agreements were being made with some countries to ensure people were properly treated.


The possible threat from the Ebola virus was also raised. The Prime Minister said Ebola had become a global concern of health as well as an issue of security. He said Ethiopia had set up a national committee comprised of representatives of all relevant sectors to ensure the disease could not spread if it appeared. Intensive awareness training sessions had been conducted for those who would have to respond to the threat first and for public health care workers. A procedure had been put in place and medical facilities were set up to deal with any Ebola case on arrival. The Prime Minister also said that the Government, as a gesture of solidarity with those countries most seriously hit, would facilitate a volunteer program to enable Ethiopian health workers and members of the armed forces to assist in countries highly affected by the Ebola virus.



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