Ethiopia: On Corruption and Rent Seeking
(Aigaforum) Aug 14, 2017
Corruption is perpetuated by those in power. Rent Seeking on the other hand is perpetuated by everyone else in the community. Both are nemesis to development and a country’s political and economic health. Ethiopia like any other developing country is facing both nemesis at the moment. From time to time the government has tried to tame the rampant corruption and rent seeking behavior of its officials and citizens. Lately,the government has unleashed a deep campaign to weed out corrupt officials, contractors and traders. But, why is corruption rampant and why is rent seeking behavior widely spread in Ethiopia?
Although, the government has been trying to stop corruption and rent seeking using the legal tools available, the end result has been dismal so far! It seems more and more officials are becoming prone to be corrupted! All campaigns against corruption and rent seeking by the EPRDF government have ended up with failure. Thus, why the campaign is still going 26 years in to EPRDF government!
Many people we talked from the construction industry told us the reason such campaigns fall short are too many. However, the most spoken reason is the many open loopholes in the law that governs the construction industry. Similar is true with import and export trade industry. Basically, many we spoke told us the government must review its own rules and regulations that are being used as an excuse by its own officials! Then and only then the fight against corruption will succeed.
In the case of the construction industry, the government needs to revisit the laws governing the industry and eliminate the loopholes. Fix the law that allows contractors and government officials to bypass existing laws in order to enrich themselves. Existing laws and policies that apply to big projects must somehow be translated in to small projects without creating a burden to small contractors. A person knowledgeable with the industry told us there is a significant difference between laws that govern big projects and medium to small projects. In most cases it is such difference that is causing officials and contractors to be corrupted! Otherwise said the person we talked, the current campaign will also fail to achieve its intended goal.
We suspect the government must be in pain to be jailing so many people right now! It cannot be pleased to see such rampant corruption today after what it had done in the name of Tehadeso for the past 15 years! Unless there is serious loophole in the law there is no way so many Ethiopians would be involved in such unethical and sinful act.
It is worth to investigate why people break and exploit the law! Throwing people to jail alone will not solve the problem.
In short the best tool the government had to stamp out corruption and rent seeking is to strengthen the laws that govern government contracts and to close loopholes that have become tools for cheating officials and rent seeking contractors.
That is what we think but what about you? Have Your Say.
You are right. In addition to closing loopholes, the government must educate its employees, contractors and the public on the impact of corruption to the development of the nation. It has also pay its employees a living wage so that they will not be tempted to be involved in corruption. It has also have a criminal justice that has actual teeth that bites.
I remember two years ago, I was visiting my mom and she and her friends have not received their pension for six months. even though, I can support my mom, I was worried what the others who don’t have any means of support are doing. I drove my mom and her two friends to the agency around Stadium where they usually go. They were told, their letter has not come from head office
( remember, with the exception of the last six months this is where they received their pension) and were told to go to another office. I pretended to be a stranger and asked why? I was not given any explanation. I took the guy to the side and gave him $100 and I saw immediately a change of attitude. He told us to come in the morning and all will be ready. We went on the next day and they received their six months pension on the day promised. This is the type of sharks the government is not paying attention.
Not sure what it contribute to say here but as far as the oppostunity is given, let me say few words.
It may be true there should be some loopholes in the law but that is not the case.
I have heard in the past (I said heard), EPRDF officials force you to be bribed and sometimes they put that aside for later time to accuse you.
Second, it is not a secret, we all know that the corruption is fromt he higher officials.
When the newly appointed Sugar industry building manager came to parliament and he testified that the generals are warning him and the Nothing happen, then you can see where these loopholes are.
I don’t want to blame any one here but the first responsible is the leaders who should be hold acocuntable.
A manager cheat some millions and you fire him??? normally not only firing him but the minister should be also fired.
What a good topic Aiga!
As you said there are things the government can do to stop corruption besides jailing people. First the govt must ask why are people breaking the law? Why are people paying money under the table to bypass laws?
My understanding is corruption and rent seekers will always be there but with powerful laws and iron clad rules the effect can be minimized.
The easiest thing to do is eliminate rules that are easy to be manipulated. Like asking for some one signature. Have a form ready and leave no line left for the official to decide that way there will no room for favour!
Have the rules apply across and leave no room to allow officials to make rules!
Have one stop shop for all Investment much like the current industrial hub process.
Review ever year and do not let officials suspected of wrong doing long on the job.
Make sure projects are reviewed regularly.
Have most services government is providing to private company. Like university feeding program!
Contractors must be monitored for how they manage government projects. Check if they are paying subcontractors in time. That will tell if the contractor is reliable.
I can list more but I hope this tells the govt more is to be done than jailing people.
”why is corruption rampant and why is rent seeking behavior widely spread in Ethiopia?” The answer is simple: the politicians want it. If the high ranking politicians really want to end corruption, they must start from themselves, from party officials. The question which comes is: what were the ministers and director generals doing when lower officals were embezeling in billions of birr? whwn contructers were looting the state? Why are they not accountable? Up to now we haven’t seen any higher official asked why. Don’t they know about the loopholes in the laws? They know. Don’t they know about the maladministration in the different sectors? They know. It is the higher officials who created the fourable environment for the lower officlas and the rent sseekers (the thieves) to trive, to behave the way they do.
Is it so difficult to draft loopehole free laws or difficult to teip the loopholes unitntentionally created? Is it so difficult to introduce a follow up machanism for projects (both big and small? Why are the laws, even the bad ones not functining properly or not impemented? No, it is not difficult, if the party and the government really want? There is a saying in amharic: ”yemir kalkesu imba igedem”, meaning if you really cry, tears would come with out problem”. The main question is: why are they not willing to deal with the problem from the roots? May be they are not clean themselves. I don’t know. It is shamefull to come up after a year of the so called ”tehadiso movement”.
In any case cutting some infected cancer cells wll not cure the cancer unless you cut part of the body wich is infected by the cancer so that it cann’t spread any more. So arresting som small officials and business people wouldn’t solve the problem.
What needs to be done is revise all the laws in the country, be it in anouncing and rewarding contracts or delivering services, so that they are clear and transparent. The laws should be respected by EVERY ONE, including party and government officals. No one should be allowed to be above the law. Which means the court system should be independent and corruption free (pay them enough and create a checking mechanism for the courts also). Every sector should have to develope a simple and transparent working mechanism, easy to follow by the citzen. Officals should be held acountable for what they do and not do. Corruption is not only about money. It is also about time. The government should have to make sure that the citzens get right services in time with out being forced to bribe any bodey. Civil cervants need to understand why they are there or bear full consequences if they don’t do their job properlly. Make sure that the Ombudsman function independently and effectively.
Yes educating the civil servant is necessary, but not enough. Even upgrading their competence is necessary.
To sum up ”if there is a will there is a way”. The party and the government should have to decide before it is too late. I wouldn’t want to live and see what will happen otherwise if they don’t take decisive actions soon.
It is not too late but I am still warid because the people in jail they’ve large amount of money and property outside of the country so they may courapt the jajes and all law enforcement and if you can make it faster so we can go back to normal life
DEAR AIGA , IT IS COTEMPORARY TOPIC ,it is timely and esential .
THE TURMOIL and mayhem in different parts of the country was caused by
Rampant ,RENT SEEKING, BAD GOVERNANCE, GROSS CORRUPTION.
THE PARTY OF EPRDF IS INFILTRATED BY INSIDOUS GROUPS MOTIVATED BY INFECTIOUS GREED ,MALICE AND plundering PUBLIC FINANCE and property.
CONTRARY, TO THE DOCTRINES OF THE FRONT RENT SEEKING IS A PUBLIC MENACE AND IMMEDIATE DANGER TO THE COUNTRY.
RENT SEEKING IS SOCIOECONOMIC FOMATION BY ITSELF. IT IS A SYSTEM BY ITSELF. IT IS GOOD BEGINNING TEMPORARY RELIEF .BUT IT SHOULD BE TACKLED AS A SYSTEM.
The government must continue to meet head on those corrupted. It is naive to expect people will behave. Let alone in a poor country even rich countries have corruption issues. However the government can help itself if it can privateized many of the services it unnecessarily render.
It will also be helpful if it can broadcast some of the egregious corruption case so the public is educated.
Wish the country a bright future.
The problem is tribalism not corruption. When a minority regime wants to stay in power, it needs to benefit its minority followers. Corruption comes into play to achieve such objective. If a minority regime does not provide special incentives to its minority followers how is is going to stay in power? Hence as long as TPLF wants to dominate the army, the economy and politics, corruption will stay in place. If not the trusted soldiers will not see any benefit in sustaining a minority regime and will stop supporting it. It is vicious cycle. I hope you understand the major problem. Stop treating the symptom while missing the problem. After the recent uprising I thought you would be smart enough to chance course. I have not seen that yet. That means the end is not going to be good.
The breadth and depth of corruption in Ethiopia has exponentially grown over the past 15 years. Corruption in Ethiopia has created its own unique value-chain. On the lower end of the value chain, there are bookers whose job is to link the person seeking justice or favor with the next tier of brokers. Each broker is a member of a brokering network that eventually leads to one powerful government official. Different government officials have their own network that connects them with lower-level officials, party functionaries and different tiers of brokers. Almost all parts of the government including those that are entrusted to prevent corruption have become corrupt making the criminalization of corruption a very difficult task. Corruption is systemic in Ethiopia and it is VERY difficult to make meaningful changes that would root out corruption. The way I see it, corruption became pervasive over the past 15 years by design. The logic is simple– if government officials and party functionaries are benefiting from the system, they will protect the system—and they let their functionaries know that “corruption is okay if you are not caught” (we know who said this without naming names). The current wave of arrests is commendable, but I suspect that this is a manifestation of one network of corrupt officials trying to dismantle another corrupt official’s network due to irreconcilable entanglements of the networks. Time will soon tell if my hypothesis is wrong.
Corruption is indeed so rampant!
To begin with, there was/ is no viable strategy and tactics to weed out corruption ! Now corruption has extended itself to ubiquitous one now it seems it has definitely lost in translation!
I think the mechanism adopted to stamp out corruption is /was metaphorically flawed to begin with ! Mostly corruption is the function of bad governance it has nothing to do with laws! This is not to say effective laws are. It helpful!
What is it then? Why again the government has been talking without walking the walks? The authorities ( government )seemed to have focused on the vague definition of corruption without identifying its systemic manifestations and cycles over the legal and transparent system where the country is having drawn into !
Public authorities have failed to even understand the whole skeletal Framework of identifying, measuring and assessing its full effect including its contextual reference and meaning within definite time!
We can take experiences from countries such as Bolivia , Georgia , and even Kenya’s experience gave judicial agents to bring back pubic confidence back by focusing on systemic applications which has helped the country shape in the right direction in reducing corruption can be exemplary packages !
Corruption is not only taking physical money , land, capital, theft of entrepreneurial talent! It is also the systemic inability to nurture capable structure!
You CANOT contain corruption through binocular laws, civic,commercial ,financial and other performance laws of the land!
The down side of regulatory laws is the stifle influence of innovation and CANOT even stamp out the said magnitude in our country!
I am not against Aiga forums lead recommendation for the laws ! I am showing other approach parallel to the suggested approach!
Corruption can be curtailed through educational system , amplitude moral values systems, epithelial layers of public discourse and academic discussions .
Ethiopia’s Audit system does focus only on financial audit and material audit which focuses on physical and tangible properties.
Most of the corruption comes through the in effectual or non-existent performance audit ! There is no meaningful Performance audit of projects whether they are construction service enumerated projects! They mingled out rent seeking, as an entirely corruption phenomenon which has given a false cover for the big scandal of finance and property misappropriation Rent seeking is the lower form of market structure where by the end justifying it means indicates that rent seeking develops in to an oligopolistic market structure over a long term eating competition from the market which again precludes certain wealth creation by selecting specific interests as a corporate finance !
Those phenomenon branched out to the strategic tenets of repeated failure which keeps a gauge-mire of its own adventure!
Corruption can be tacked and tackled!
What the government has to do is create a transparent system where by the the use and instalment of public,private , government , intergovernmental , non government organisations are accountable on their accord
These offenders who are involved in the corruption must be given the harshest punishment. Short term inprisonment is not the best solution to the problem of corruption in Ethiopia. The corruption that took place in this official building costs millions of dollars from the Government and puplic projects. The crime is worth more than just going to jail for just 5-10 years of term.
Selam !!! Aigaforum,
it is interesting article. let me start by saying that can we fight corruption??. Corruption is not only about bribes. Corruption is a social evil. It germinates the good cause of the society and especially destroy the backbone of the society.
in my view, the fight against corruption demands a holistic multi-pronged approach for it to be successful.
1. if ruling party (the four elephants) concentrate on the respect of rules and regulation that govern the entity (family, enterprise,government, council, country) and systematically apply sanctions against those (whoever they could be regardless of their rank, grade or CAST) who depart from the rules, corruption will not disappear but be diminished.
2. those four elephants have to make enough space for their babies( young generation) who well keep the pillars of house.
Dear Aiga Admin,
Comments are not being posted. Presume it is unintentional, kindly fix.
Corruption is rampant so is rent seeking but why is the government trying to wrong medicine to cure the illnesses?
With meager salary and deep poverty it is natural people will try everything to survive. Therefore the government must pay reasonable salary and give benefit to officials
So they value their income more than gambling with theft.
Where in the law does it say accept or give bribe? Corruption is rampant in Ethiopia. As anywhere in the world where corruption is the norm, those close to the political power are the main actors and they are not touched yet. We don’t have free press to expose corruption. Fana and EBC are busy glorifying achievements. We are far from the rule of law. How well connected you are matters in getting justice. You are the ‘fara’ if you stick to the rules and principles.
Hello Aiga, you people never really care about anything that happens in Ethiopia. You all now, all of a sudden woke up and telling us about corruption? what were you doing in the past 25 years? Come on Aiga, be honest. Why now? because now your corrupt system is danger? I do not believe the problem is people or few officials. The problem is they system AIGA. The system is corrupt . You can not play a soccer if there is no soccer playing field. Taking the corrupt system the field and the corrupt officials and others as the soccer player. f there is no soccer field to play, there will never be soccer player. My arguments is they system is corrupt. When did the system became corrupt ? long ago, when TPLF was split and when some TPLF top of officials were murdered in Arat kilo. Yes AIGA. TPLF is corrupt, specially after the split, it become very corrupt. Campaign is just game to fool the majority. I have head TPLF officials saying corruption is okay, but it has to be minimized? what does it mean? Top TPLF officials need it for themselves. They are arresting and throwing to jail some unfortunate people, but I do not believe there is any clean person in thee top brass officials. Anyway, people wanted change guys, no amount of corruption propagand is going to stop change. Changing is coming whether you like or not. Ruled by the same people for 25 years is insane.
If you think corruption is only stealing money you are wrong. Why are the air force, the Ethiopian airlines, the national security office, the defense etc. dominated by tigreans while we are only 6% of the population? I agree that the defense may have its historical background but there is no reason to choose Tigreans over other Ethiopians for open positions available in ministries. Candidates for a positon should be selected by their qualification than ethnic identity. We struggled to defeat Amhara nepotism. After we defeated it we established a more corrupt system than what the Amharas had in Ethiopia. So, it important to ask ourselves did our struggle hurt or benefit the people of Ethiopia? We might justify that the economy is better. But what is that going to do for Ethiopians if the country is on the brink of breakdown through ethnic lines that never happened before. We have seen tigreans being expelled from Gonder, what is next? Can we establish a cohesive country while we are trying to establish ethnic apartied in every office in Ethiopia? If we want to fight corruption it should be on all sides.
if you wanted corruption to disappear, then you need completely a new system. Otherwise, if you put a new wine into an old wine skin? the wine skin will burst out. If you patch an old cloth by a new, it might work for sometimes, but the cloth is already old, and it can not last long. It is unfortunate Tigreans suffered two decades devastating war, famine, 60 000 Tigreans youth perished and 100 000 maimed to bring this corrupt system/? It is 100% betrayal, breaching a contract . Two decades time wasted, one generation of youth vanished for this? we became refugees for this system? Our family destroyed to bring this? We lost our brothers, sisters, uncles, large extended family to bring the most rotten corrupt system in Ethiopian history? It is heart-rending, heart-bleeding. This is a grand betrayal, a grand shame to the Tigreans who suffered so much.
Hello guys, for the past 5 or more years, I have consistently and bravely stated the policies of the TPLF were not good. I foresaw almost I dare say everything that transpired in 2016 few years back. But on this website, I have been insulted and given name different names. I was called Shabia. I was the son of a bitch? I was called the son of a poor ( yedha lij) and all these insults by TPLF supporters. Why I was insulted and given different names? My crimes was because I talked about things I foresaw as bad for all Ethiopians. I always expressed my opinion supported by well reasoned arguments.
I strongly rejected the following:
1. Landlocking of Ethiopia
2. The Ethnic Federalism
I still oppose this government 100%, not out of hate, but based on reasoned argument that its policies of landlocking Ethiopia is 100% wrong. Dividing people by ethnic was /is 100% wrong. Reason, both policies are illogical, irrational, even inhuman.
Whatever reason, beliefs you have on the landing locking and Ethnic Federalism is /was based on wrong beliefs. The landing locking was not only irrational and illogical, but very stupid to think port is for camels and port is for commodity and you spend billions of dollars to buy ports by refusing or disallowing or deny 100 million people their God given rights. This has not benefited anyone yet except Djibouti.
TPLF Is /as myopic, visionless, narrow, ignorant, arrogant. Their attitude is the same as derg. I do not think they have learned anything from derg and Haileslassie. For me everything is the almost the same, except more corruption now and more ethnic hatred now. I know there was more state oppression dominated by Amharas then, but there was never conflict between ordinary people based on ethnics and tribes then. During derg, Tigreans were targeted because of TPLF clad activities, but derg never had a state policy that promotes ethnicism except equality. For example, if you graduate with degree, you were guaranteed to get a job regardless your ethnic or tribe. In short, derg has different problems, but did not have Amhara or Oromo or this tribe and that tribe problems. I strongly believe that the problem in Ethiopia has cause and what we see today is only the effect of the cause. I believe in cause and effect. I always try to understand the cause of the problem before making judgments. You may not agree with me, but the problem is TPLF bad policy from day one. They came with this tribalism ideology and plus the blind idea of landlocking your own country by force is the cause of the problem.
The government or the leaders still believe ethnic Federalism is good, excellent? but truly speaking, tribalism is not never a good principle. It is a narrow principle. I know they did not think it is bad. But that is the problem. People come with their own wrong ideas and push their ideas on majority and then it comes back to bite them later. What I am saying is the ethnic Federalism has now become a threat to the country more than ever. The ethnic Federalism has polarized the country internally along ethnic line which we have seen Amhara expelled from across Ethiopia and Tigreans expelled to Sudan, 11 000 Tigreans expelled to Sudan? from Ethiopia, from their own country into another country? If that did not ring a bell yet? something is still wrong with TPLF leaders. They sleeping on their ears.
We have to be very honest if we wanted to develop our country. Because if there is no honestly? there can never be truth. If there can never be truth, there can never be justice. If there is no justice, there will not be peace. If there is no peace, there can never be development. That means nothing will change. Even what we have built will be destroyed by conflict.
I know TPLF supports do not like different view than theirs. But that is not good to anyone. I do believe the Amharas did not except the government of TPLF for many reasons: some of the reasons are the following:
1. They lost power: those are not the majority
2. They did not accept landing of Ethiopia which I agree with them 100%. Majority Amharas hate the regime because of this blind policy.
3. The targeting of Amhara by OLF when TPLF controlled Ethiopia in 1991. TPLF must have protected the poor Amharas who were hunted down by OLF across today’s Oromia, Arusi, Harare, Asusa,..
4. TPLF expelled 40 Professors illegally in 1991 from addis Ababa University because they opposed the landlocking of Ethiopia. Messay Kebede and others were driven out to exile by such action. it was ok to do that, but now those Professors are core TPLF enemies, G7s.
If TPLF had vision and patrioticism, it must never landlocked the country it claimed was liberating? you can not robe people their God given right in the name of liberation that you believe is right but wrong. Liberation does not mean you have to take away people natural right to use their God given ports and lands.
I do not know what TPLF believe Ethiopia has to be landlocked ? I do not understand and I will never understand this at all. The landlocking of Ethiopia has exposed Ethiopia to domestic and international security. The country is danger, I am not kidding. You may not like this, but Ethiopia is in grave danger right now than during derg time. i can not see sleep when I think of worst scenario. This has worried me from the day I head TPLF wanted and loved to landlock Ethiopia. Today, my fear is very clear to anyone who have the capacity to reason and think rationally.
Secondly, I am not sure if TPLF brought this tribal federalism as a divided and conquer strategy or to really empower the different ethnics? Only God knows their intention to promoting racism in the name of protecting the rights of ethnics. Giving the benefit of the doubt they introduced tribalism Federalism to protect the right of ethnics, I believe, the right way to protect the rights of groups or and individuals could have been better served by formulating an over-arching constitution that protects groups rights and individual rights instead of by dividing land by tribe based on nothing except arbitrary land partition and land assignments into 9 ethnics? Ethiopia is not made of 9 ethnics? Even of we take tribalism Federalism is designed to protect rights? where is the beef of the right protection if the whole land in Ethiopia is owned only by 9 major ethnics? what about the invisible minorities which make 81 tribes or ethnics? Where is their land? Who said the land in Ethiopia belongs to majority tribes ? How? Does not this contradict the very principle of Ethnic Federalism? Even if I accept Ethnic Federalism? I do not think it is right to divide the land to 9 major ethnics? Then the land must have divided into 90 ethnics in Ethiopia instead of into 9 ethnics. Thus the Ethnic Federalism is cracked from day one and it has cracked in real time when Amhara were expelled from across Ethiopia and it has cracked when 11 000 Tigreans were expelled from Ethiopia into Sudan? It has cracked because it has nourished, empowered the quest for brand new nation with in Ethiopia called Oromia?
The ethnic Federalism has become now a weapon against Ethiopian that can be used by foreign enemies by micromanaging Ethiopians ethnically. Egyptians are telling us they wanted to liberate Oromos? how come? Americans are telling us they wanted to liberate Amharas? Foreign agents, meddlers are effectively used this suicidal tribalism against Ethiopia. Believe me, the worst thing that can happen in a country is when a country is divided by tribalism and add to it with land which is dangerous people have to fight over border? Assuming worst scenario now? what will happen if this overnment collapse suddenly with no one take ready to take over and protect the country/? It will be a nightmare, Oromo fighting Ethiopia Somalia, Oromo fighting Amhara, Amhara fighting Oromos, Amhara fighting Tigreans, Tigreans fighting Amhara ? You may think this will not happen? but who thought Amhara will be expelled from across Ethiopia and gathered and put into so the called Amhara killil and told to live there as if they are animals and goats, sheep? denied mobility across the country, denied residence across their country? denied work across their country? Who thought 11 000 Tigreans could be deported to Sudan? Who thought 30 Tigreans could be killed in Gondere/ Even this killing is hidden by the regime? in my opinion, Ethiopia is in dangerous situation now. I believe none of the above rang a bell in the ears of TPLF leaders. They seem to push their agenda till the end?
Again: solution: reform, reform, reform, reform, reform, … people wanted change . You are comfortable on power does not mean everyone comfortable. Derg did not just disappear of TPLF and Shabia? Derg disappeared because people yearned for change and gave up on the system and they system cramped because they system was not established by the people. People wanted change. People wanted new leaders because seeing the same people for 25 years is really boring and it is liking eating Shiro only for 25 years? Imagine hearing and listening the same thing from the same for 25 years? it is boring and boredom. That means people wanted change naturally and plus all the bad policies as background for discontent.
My suggestions :
1.State Emergency is not a durable solution
2. Arresting few top or junior officials is not a solution
3. Fearing Ethiopian people is not a solution
4. Keeping the same bad policies until Jesus’s second coming is not a solution
5. Ethnic Federalism did not bring good things except too much hate and too much polarization and too much corruption, people to people conflict.
6. Landlocking is wasting Ethiopian billions dollars which could have been used to for job creation. Even we assume we spend 1 billion dollars each years, that money is huge which could be used to run one big national project Youth development and entrepreneurship. It is a huge money wasted irrationally.
7. i think the ethnic Federalism must either be dissolved into non-ethnic Federalism or the country must be divided into 90 ethnic regions , but not into 9. The right thing to do is to divided the Ethiopia into the old province and apply the Federalism to those old provinces and protect the rights of groups and individuals by laws and constitution, not by ethnic segregation.
8. Stop taking donation or aid from countries that meddle in Ethiopia using their donated money as leverage or string or remote control. Stop taking money from everyone. Stop corruption and uses that money to compensate than begging and giving to remote manipulation by USA.
9. Allow genuine home grown opposition that is not based on ethnic or but based on provinces, merit must be the guiding principle, not tribalism.
10. Let Ethiopia form National Civil Council without government and call Nation conference across Ethiopia and outside Ethiopia,
11. Do constitutional reform, throw the crab article 39
12. Formulate National charter of rights, freedoms, duties, responsibilities for groups and individuals and groups
13. Do social reform such as outlawing Female genital mutilation, many bad cultures such as metet, jealousy. You may not believe me, but the majority of diaspora is sick with metet and because people put on them metet so that they will not work, study . This is a national burden.
If you live in the real world as I do, you can’t and will not be able to stamp out corruption once and for all. What you can do, however, is to tinker around its edges and reduce its negative impact on economic growth and development. And the gov’t of Ethiopia has done just that in the last two decades. The results are mixed, in the sense that the corruption has not gone out of control in Ethiopia. Corruption has not adversely affected economic growth since the country has registered double digit economic growth in the last ten to 15 years. That means the economic growth of the country has progressed considerably. One would ask where the country could have been in an ideal socio-economic system where corruption is unheard of. We may not be able to answer this speculative inquiry.
In fact, I would argue the gov’t’s effort at combating corruption has had some positive aspects. Compare to its neighbors, Kenya comes to mind, for example, Ethiopia is doing much better, although greed, nepotism and other characteristics are equally prevalent in both societies. What Ethiopia has that Kenya is lacking is the tradition of a strong polity that helped to rein in the insatiable greed of people in power. There is corruption in both countries. Kenya is probably epitome of corruption in the neighborhood. I visited Kenya on business at least three times staying one month each visit. My experiences as I recall them now have been grim.
Generally, I would argue corruption is rampant wherever there is weak political apparatus, poor gov’t structure to control individuals’ access to unlimited power, as the maxim of Lord Acton has it, “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The root cause of corruption, particularly corruption committed by gov’t officials who use public office for individual gain has to do with accumulation of power also. In these circumstances, transparency and accountability are altogether lacking or thrown out the window if they initially existed. The governmental structure is not endowed with these tools.
In essence corruption can have various forms. The use or abuse of political power for individual gain is one. This comes to mind when the issue of corruption is the topic of discussion. However, the other form that is equally pernicious which has also the potential to retard or inhibit economic growth is the unlimited power held by individuals who exercise power in the name of the State Apparatus. This form of corruption does not receive the attention it deserves. The unchallenged power of tax collector and assessor in some regional government in Ethiopia is a good example to cite here. For instance, if you have an extra room to rent and you wish to rent it for a certain amount of money to a lessor in order to obtain some Birr to make ends meet is challenged by the regional state’s tax assessor collector who has the power to nullify the agreement signed between the lessor and the landlord.
Instead the tax assessor collector comes with an arbitrary value imagined by him or her that the room is worth more to rent, thus the tax is assessed based on this imagined value of the official with no basis in reality. The action of the tax assessor collector is done in the name of the state, although their actions are equally pernicious and deters economic progress, he or she is not considered as corrupt, because it is performed in the presumed interest of the state apparatus.
The proliferation of state regulations hamper economic progress. Regulations in themselves may or may not be the roots causes of corruption. But unhindered regulations can give rise to corruption. Here I don’t want to sound like a member of the Republican party of the United States that denounces regulation and taxation in all its forms. Regulation as well as taxation is public police in the service of the common good. But they can be abused in their implementation if and when corrupt officials use them for their individual gain.
Thank you Aigaforum, for bringing up this important issue for discussion. I can’t ignore the opportunity to express my view on such critical agenda.
Because of our long ignorance, corruption has taken deep root in our country. The scale of the practice is frightening. You find it in all walks of life and you feel as if it has become the norm in this country. I don’t want to be pessimistic but with this trend increasing from time to time, the fate of our country is grim. We are losing fast our traditional values of honesty, trust and law-abiding that nurture and holds together the people of this nation for centuries. Though unintentional, I fear we are building a generation with deep moral crisis. We need to take a break and give serious attention to this social evil and moral crisis that is engulfing the nation at unprecedented level before it is too late.
For the rampant corruption that we see in our country today, the major problem is not related to loopholes in the regulation though it is undeniable that good rules and systems create better transparency and contribute to reducing corruption. The existing rules are still sounds as long as there are officials willing to respect and abide by them. If we see many of the grand corruptions that were investigated recently, they were all done against outright violation of government’s exiting regulation for contracts, procurements e.t.c. These officials were clearly violating the rules for years but no one was holding them accountable for their abuse on time. The government knows well that projects involving Multi-million budgets are often soft target for corruption and need to be put under close scrutiny. What is amazing is why the government failed to handle such obvious targets properly in the first place. It is always difficult to understand why the government prefers to be sluggish when it comes to taking action. Hence, it is not as such the rules where we need to pay due attention but on close monitoring of our projects and taking timely actions.
Another critical are we need to pay attention is to the issues of what is driving our officials crazy for corruption at such scale? Of course, in any society, there will be few of those who are naturally greedy and whatever you do they can’t control their corrupt behavior. But when it is happening like a plague involving many, we have to ask why. I believe the salary scale at place in the government institution must be checked. The scale is so small to the extent one wonders how government’s employees are sustaining their life with such a small amount at present. I suspect such a situation might be the key reason pushing many to take bribes and engage in corrupt practices.
Thanks for raising this point. Below are my sincere takes.
I don’t think the problem is with laws or lack of them. So, the solution does not lie somewhere around closing loopholes or disciplining individuals. Never. Corruption and rent-seeking are rather symptoms of a rather deep-rooted problem, as others have also hinted in this blog. The problem arises inherently from the so called ‘developmental state’ and a party apparatus trying to implement it, replacing state machinery and institutions, including the legal system and the rule of law. Period. And, let me be clear, i don’t have problem with the essence of pursuing a ‘developmental state’ framework in Ethiopia as long as it’s consistent with and compatible with the right economic incentives, one that does not replace state institutions, one that does not weaken the legal system, one that is democratic and upholds popular participation (one that upholds rule of law and accountability). The kind of developmental state being experimented in Ethiopia is far from these all. Simply saying, it is the power that is excessively concentrating in the executive wing that derives state machinery. The executive executes and at the same time checks the execution, hence corrupts! When corrupt officials are at the top, this takes its worst form. More than the corruption they do, they send that corrupt signal to their subordinates and all collaborate in corruption. The judiciary is weak to handle this. The media is not there. The parliament is nominal to hold these corrupt official accountable. Even worse is when the very parliament itself is led by corrupt officials. Why would you expect everyone else not to take their share? But why would the kind of developmental state in Ethiopia exacerbate this problem? Slowly, the essence and thinking of developmental state in Ethiopia recently (possibly after Meles) has gone awry – it’s going to the extreme right that even Meles himself would not have tolerated. The state is now not just the biggest investor, but simply everything! The state controls trillions of investment funds, billions of bank loans, billions of foreign exchange and it is these weak party officials running it and decide where these all needs to be allocated – somebody somewhere in the state apparatus, the executive has to ration them – hence the developmental state. Rationing is inherent in developmental state, making developmental state inherently open to corruption and rent-seeking. How has the East Asian Developmental States (Japan, S.Korea, Taiwan, and China) managed to overcome this problem and why is it different in Ethiopia? In East Asia, mainly in Japan, S.Korea, and Taiwan, the state took appropriate actions to institutionalize mechanisms for deepening accountability and governmental transparency. Checks and balances of the state were put in place (except in China, which took a different root, whose fate is not yet clear). Mainly the judiciary, but also the media, the parliament and other control institutions were given the hand to govern – all of them nonexistent in Ethiopia now. There is enough evidence that the East Asian developmental state was also rather dynamic and adaptive to changes in the economy and political systems. The private sector has also played critical roles in Asia. There is no dynamic private sector in Ethiopia (because of the reasons mentioned above) and the role of the private sector in the Ethiopian economy is dwindling by the day and narrowing down to a small group of big investor and business men who have the access to the trillions of public resources left with the hands of the ‘corrupt’ officials without effective control in place. EPRDF relies only on their benevolent commitment and party allegiance which most do not own these days. All of these add to bad incentives to individual party/gov’t actors leading to corruption and rent-seeking. Any surprises? This behavior itself kills competition and prevents new entrants or existing ones from expanding. This way, the corrupt officials and the few big business men have found an amazing fertile ground to play around these resource allocations – the rationing process, leading to rampant corruption and rent-seeking. Interestingly, they all keep on telling us these two problems as a challenge. That’s why I said these problems are symptoms and not the causes. Corruption and rent-seeking is normal human behavior. It is the design of the state apparatus and the checks and balances around it that keep it low. I don’t believe the state of affairs in Ethiopia now will change through what is outlined to be a solution by the ruling party! That will lead us somewhere else. Scary! Meles, kind of replaced all these institutions mentioned above and somehow managed to move forward by shaking and waking his guys. Unfortunately, that is now history. Weak state capacity as well is playing into this. I don’t need to outline the solutions therefore, it’s all clear if there is anyone out there with the ear to listen. Period.
I am not sure what you mean when you say “your comment is awaiting moderation”. It is not clear to me. If you may can you spell out what that means.
Dear Aigaforum Reders, Relatively speaking corruption is not a problem in Ethiopia and will remain there in various degree and can be contained through proper administration and rule of law. The problem seems to be we do not have a productive human capacity that implements rules and to even effectively produce and distribute goods. Everyone seems to engage in an errational idea of becoming rich at any cost. No sence of honorable contract, only enriching one self at the expense of another citizen.
Let’s not miss the big unifying factor Meles articulated, eradicating poverty and developing human capacity. The older generation leaders succeeded because they had a unifying big idea and vision. Let’s us learn from past mistakes and avoid harmful divisions.