Ethiopia: The Difference is visible

By IndepthAfrica
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Feb 4th, 2013
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Mohammed Nassir

MUCH has been said about Ethiopia’s astounding economic development registered in the past ten years. While the vast majority of Ethiopians and many of the country’s development partners in the international community have acknowledged the nation’s economic transformation, our opposition politicians and their few allies from the west have still been immersed in undermining the issue.

These groups were also trying to confuse the general public by orchestrating groundless arguments on the concept of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Human Development Index (HDI) in their efforts to nullifying the economic development.

According to their argument the country’s GDP growth couldn’t be considered as development for it is not reflected in the life of the people. They think that the current development doesn’t yet bring about change in human development which is described in terms of health, education and other social services as well as level of in come and living standard.

Also, since recently, International organizations such as the World Bank and IMF had been questioning the economic growth being registered during the stated period.

However the reality is on the ground and the difference is visible.

Improving the living conditions and standards of the majority of the people is the ultimate goal of development. Many economists use the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to measure the standard of living in a country.

Therefore growth in GDP is an important aspect of development. According to many economists development is simply about raising Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

But there is also another way of measurement to estimate the living standard of a certain country which is known as the Human Development Index (HDI).

The HDI, which was introduced in 1990 by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) have also developed a new international measure of poverty – the Multidimensional Poverty Index or MPI. Here again education (access to knowledge), health and living standards are taken as key instruments to measuring human development.

In all the above standards Ethiopia seems to have achieved a very encouraging progress. Many international organizations and Ethiopia’s development partner countries have acknowledged the country’s dedication to pro-poor development programs which are consistent with human development factors I have mentioned earlier.

If we try to scrutinize Ethiopia’s annual budget particularly over the past consecutive ten years, we would be able to comprehend that the government have been spending more than 60 percent of its total expenditure on poverty ori­ented sectors, such as education, health, agriculture, water and road developments as well as maximized its efforts and shown the highest level of dedication to bring about pro-poor economic growth.

The current progress is considered by many as a big miracle for it has been making beneficial more than ever the most under privileged part of the society where most have little or no formal education and primary health services, as well as hit by recurrent drought and chronic food shortage.

It would be very vital to discuss the issue in order for my readers see the general picture regarding Ethiopia’s current situation in terms of the most basic factors of human development which is the ultimate goal that we all are aspiring for.

Education

Ethiopia’s education coverage was very limited in the previous régimes. If we take the primary education coverage during the military rule it was only 19 percent. This coverage was also even restricted in some parts of the country notably in few major cities.

However, currently this reality has entirely changed. Reforms made over the past 20 years boosted the overall situation of the sector.

Thanks to our government’s education sector development program implemented over the stated period, we are now able to have thousands of schools in all parts of the country. If we take only the recent data, more than 14 thousand primary and secondary schools have been constructed in the past eight years alone.

Now enrolment of children in school has increased by huge amounts, and millions are able to attending their primary level education in all over the country. Primary education coverage and enrolment increased to 95.4 percent from 19 percent during the military rule (1974-91).

The level of secondary and higher education is also drastically expanded. The number of government universities which were only two before 20 years, currently increased to 32. These universities now granted access to more than 260 thousand students.

Since last Ethiopian year the country is able to provide educational opportunities to more than 20 million children and young citizens in all levels in public owned institutions alone.

Health

Since the beginning of 1990s, Ethiopia’s health service was one of the worst in the world. The situation was beyond imagination in rural areas, where 85% of the country’s population lives. In these parts of the country accessing even basic health services was unthinkable.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), some 20 years ago problems such as communicable diseases, poor sanitation, and unplanned pregnancies were common in the country. Thus scaling up primary healthcare was a matter of urgency for the government. But due to the various health development programs carried out by the government in the past two decades, now this has become a history.

In line with these programs more than 14 thousands health institutions have been constructed in the past eight years alone in all parts of the country. And this put the country’s total number of health institutions close to 19 thousands. And as a result of this the nation’s basic health service coverage increased to 91 percent from what it was 41 percent in 1991.

In addition to this, the government of Ethiopia, in its health extension program launched in 2003, have been reaching the general public through the 40, 000 health workers it dispatched throughout the nation. These health extension workers are now providing essential preventive and curative healthcare services to all communities in the rural parts of the country.

Now all Ethiopians particularly the rural community, have been able to have access to primary health services. Most of the people living in the rural villages are currently much closer to health institutions than ever before.

These interventions enabled the country to fighting and preventing most of the common communicable diseases which were the major causes of death to its people. The numbers of children vaccinated against measles, diphtheria, tetanus, polio and other diseases in the last years increased to more than 80 percent. Public investment in the health sector has resulted in substantial falls in maternal and child mortality rates,

Since the 1990s, reducing poverty and ensuring human develop¬ment in Ethiopia have been the objectives of the Ethiopian government. The Government of Ethiopia has invested in both physi¬cal and human capital formation which could be considered as best practice to address the challenges of the basic needs of the nation.

Ethiopia is devoting 17% of its budget to farming, well above the 10% commitment agreed by African governments. In its growth and transformation plan, Ethiopia has set an overall target of at least 8.1% growth in agriculture between 2011 and 2015 as part of its goal to reach middle-income status by 2025. It calls for more than doubling the production of key crops from 18.1m to 39.5m tonnes.

The government is building huge network of infrastructures, like road, hydro electric power to connect modernize the whole country, telecommunication technology potable water for rural and urban areas.

The share of Ethiopians living in extreme poverty—those on less than 60 cents a day—has fallen from 38 percent to 29 percent.

Albeit most of these development data are obtained from the government side, their objectivity and accuracy is investigated and interpreted by other concerned international organizations and development partners too.

According to a recent World Bank report since 2004, Ethiopia has experienced strong and generally broad-based real economic growth of around 10.6 percent on average between then and 2011.

Growth over the past decade was far beyond the growth rates recorded in aggregate terms for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), which on average only reached 5.2 percent, less than half of Ethiopia’s average real GDP growth rate during that period.

World Bank Country Director for Ethiopia Guang Zhe Chen, said “Two and a half million people in Ethiopia have been lifted out of poverty over the past five years as a result of strong economic growth, bringing the poverty rate down from 38.7 percent to 29.6 percent between 2004/05 and 2010/11 and the Government target to reduce poverty to 22.2 percent by 2014/15is ambitious but attainable.”

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in its 2011 Human Development report, launched recently, has also disclosed that Ethiopia has shown a marked progress in the HDI over the past couple of years. According to the report Ethiopia’s life expectancy at birth increased by 15.3 years and expected years of schooling increased by 5.4 years in the past two decades.

The 2011 Human Development Index (HDI) which values and ranks for 187 countries and UN-recognized territories has also conformed the increase of the country’s Gross National Income per capita by about 92 percent.

Speaking at the launching of the report, UNDP Resident Representative, Eugene Owusu said in September of 2010 at the UN General Assembly, the world applauded Ethiopia’s commendable progress in education, health and other human development related sectors.

The previous year HDI report has also approved Ethiopia’s positive development. According to the 2010 HDR, most developing nations made dramatic, yet often underestimated, progress in health, education and basic living standards in recent decades. Out of the 135 countries which registered improvement in Human Development Index between 2000 and 2010, Ethiopia’s status goes up to put the country 2nd rank.

Mr. Bill Gates who visited some parts of Ethiopia to evaluate the development programs carried out with a financial support obtained from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said in his letter published on the Wall Street Journal’s January 26, 2013 edition, the development interventions have dramatically improved the lives of people in this country.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in its report launched last November praised Ethiopia for its educational sector development over the past 10 years. According to UNESCO’s report Ethiopia is one of the three sub Saharan Africa counties that are registering a very encouraging performance to realizing the international goal known as Universal Access to education.

The World Bank’s Ethiopian Economic Update report launched last December has also acknowledged the strength of the country’s economy. It said the overall general government deficit (including grants) declined from 1.6 percent of GDP in 2010/11 to 1.2 percent of GDP in 2011/12. Tax collections have been boosted by the 2010 tax reform, while public management reforms (such as program-based budgeting) have strengthened public expenditures. Public debt is on a declining trend at 35 percent of GDP in 2011/12 and Ethiopia has a low risk of external debt distress.

The recognition, extended by the international community particularly the World Bank, is the manifestation of Ethiopia’s economic policy success that mainly depended on its own domestic realities.

In my opinion the remarkable double digit economic growth and the over all progress of the nation in the last consecutive ten years, is the result of this home-grown economic road map.

This positive achievement has also helped the country to win the strong support of the whole international community which is vital to meeting its development aspirations.

I could say now more than ever the international community including the World Bank IMF recognized Ethiopia’s amazing development economic progress, without any reservation.

Also they have been supporting Ethiopia in its effort to tackling poverty. In this regard I want to mention the recent approval made by the World Bank to provide four billion US dollar in support of the country’s various development programs to be carried out in the coming four years.

Ethiopians are also enthusiastically vowed to give their support to strengthening the existing progress to the utmost best level by realizing the five year Growth and Transformation plan.

Some of the country’s opposition political parties have also started to accept this progress for they have been unable to deny the reality.

The difference is very visible. Thus we all should acknowledge the fact that it is impossible to aspiring political benefit by just falsifying the hard fact which the country at this moment is represented by.

Also the disapproval that is being made by some of our opposition political parties and few western friends should entirely be stopped now as it would be a waste of time and labor engaging in such a imprudent act.

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