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