Why Ethiopia fails to meet millennium development goals (MDGs)

By IndepthAfrica
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Feb 3rd, 2013
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By Binyam Shimelis

The population of Ethiopia, according to the Central Statistical Authority, is over 80 million, making the country the second most populous country in Africa. Around 80% of the population is living in rural areas depending on small-scale rain-fed agriculture for its livelihood. With an estimated 80% of the population living under a dollar a day, Ethiopia is one of the least developed and poorest countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015, Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) is numerical benchmarks for tackling extreme poverty and common end for human development reaches everyone, everywhere and cut world poverty by half. As an effort to meet the MDG, poverty reduction was the overriding development agenda for Ethiopia for the last one decade. There were Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) I and II covering the period 2000-2011.

According to Ethiopia government report, encouraging progresses have been registered in most economic and social sectors. In 2010, the government developed a 10 years Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP), with a major aim of sustaining faster economic growth obtained from Plan for PASDEP I and II in the period 2000-2011. With the double digit growth of Ethiopian economy, the incidence of poverty fell from 44 percent in 2001 to 29 percent in 2010. However the pace of change is not adequate for Ethiopia to accelerate the progress towards achieving the MDG. Besides there is no clear link between the 10 year poverty reduction plan and the current transformation plan. The current plan gives much emphasis to economic development and doesn’t give a clue how poverty issue would be addressed. Ethiopia has still low levels of income, savings and productivity in the agricultural sector, structural food insecurity, environmental degradation, limited implementation capacity, high unemployment and a narrow modern industrial sector base. The economy is threatened by the twin challenges of inflation and sustaining the macroeconomic stability is still a major challenge as it’s clearly indicated in the MDG Report.

Ethiopia is still dependent on rain-fed agriculture, small-scale and subsistence farming which is very much vulnerable to climate change. Due to lack of structural transformation in agriculture, droughts still a major threat. Although there is reduction in level of poverty in some rural areas there is increment in urban poverty. The Hunger and malnutrition are still endemic problem in the country. Despite the progress reiterated by the government, it’s clear that halving poverty by 2015 would be unrealistic. The government of Ethiopia believes that the country is heading in the right direction to meeting the MDG targets, however according to UN 2010 report, Ethiopia is one of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa where little has been made in reducing extreme poverty and not expected to achieve the MDG poverty reduction target.

Depending on the priority in the government current development agenda, there is expansion in gross primary school enrolment. Despite the impressive gains in primary school enrolment, the education sector in Ethiopia faces major challenges; low quality of education, limited resources, average pupil-teacher ratio, distance from schools, large class-sizes, shortage of teaching materials and discouraging teaching-learning process. These necessitate a balanced development across all tiers of the education system, curriculum development and expansion in supply of trained teachers. Health sector has made major expansion and has strategy to strengthen the provision of preventative and primary health care services. However, still Ethiopia has the highest maternal and child mortality and morbidity. As Ethiopia’s demographic and health survey showed 25,000 women died every year giving birth and thousands of babies died annually across the country.

Ethiopia is beset with a range of serious development challenges including: rapid population growth, high level of poverty, low capacity including skilled human resources to sustain the economic growth. Periodic droughts are causing a series of humanitarian assistance need that many million people are in need of emergency and recovery assistance. The level of unemployment in Ethiopia is high and poses major challenges in the context of poverty reduction. The rise in urban unemployment reflects the urban economy’s limited capacity to absorb the rapidly expanding urban work force. The unemployment problem is particularly severe amongst the youth as employment opportunities for school leavers are very limited.

Despite the government plan for the MDG there is the rampant corruption throughout the county, according to transparency international Ethiopia has one of the highest corruption in Africa and ranked113th out of 176 countries. Ethiopia contributes to significant portion of the capital fight in Arica; according to a research conducted by University of Massachusetts in 2012 Ethiopia’s capital flight in the last four decades estimated to be 25 billion USD. Corruption is becoming a way of living; most government officials and institutions are involved in government work and business. The country’s national and commercial banks are used to enrich party-owned and endowed enterprises and individuals. This practice is hampering the country development effort and achieving the MDG targets.

According to Human Rights Reports: Ethiopia, 2010: developmental aid goes to ruling party members and the disadvantaged and poor people are not befitting form the development effort of the county. Human right indicated that aid have been subject to distortion for political purposes. Lack of good governance and absence of fair play ground for all citizens and development partners are major problems of the country. The ruling party is in power for the last two decades and manipulating things for its own political agenda. Many people believe that the economic growth related number and other indicators are cooked data by the government to maintain its legitimacy. The government insists in its developmental state ideology and hampering inclusive and multi-party political system. The overall absence of democratic system, good governance and lack of equal participation of all citizens are hindering the development of the country and the country progress toward the MDG targets. Therefore considering the current level problem and the country entwined with many sort of issues; Ethiopia will be one of those countries which will not meet the MDG targets by 2015.

Some of the factors that contributes why Ethiopia is not meeting the MDG targets

Highly polarized political system: ‘ethnic-state, ethnic-politics and ethnic-federalism’

The current ruling party, from minority population of Ethiopia, has been in power for the last two decades. Many Ethiopian believe that there is no free and fair election which is one of the ingredients of sustainable development. The majority of people are marginalized from the political system and there is no fair play ground for all citizens. Highly educated and competent Ethiopians are living in exile as a political asylum. Due to the current political philosophy of developmental state, democratic system building as a means of achieving sustainable development is neglected by the government. According Dr Birara, an Ethiopian economist who worked at World Bank for more than 30 years, in his new book entitled, Endemic Poverty That Globalization Can’t Tackle But Ethiopians Can, stated that “legalization and institutionalization of an ethnic-state, ethnic-politics and ethnic-federalism tearing the Ethiopian society apart and destroying a sense of ownership’’. He also said that the political system was “designed to serve the ethnically-based ruling class and leftist single party is unlikely to care for the poor”. Thus in order to achieve sustainable development including meeting the MDG targets in Ethiopia there has to be equal participation and inclusive political system.

Lack of good governance and ownership among community

According to Robin Broad and John Cavanagh “Poverty is not simply an absolute condition; it needs to be understood as a dynamic. It is necessary to look at the social, economic, and political interactions of poor people with the elites. It is not a matter of “cleaning up” disease”.

There are immense efforts in order to alleviate poverty and mitigate its impact. Government and different development actors are playing pivotal role however the government didn’t build a sense of ownership among the community and there is no common understanding. The government does things in a campaign like “cleaning up” disease and there is no long term plan. Most government officers are short sighted and took office by political commitment not by professional competency. Most government offices are poorly equipped with both human and infrastructure. Ethnic representation is the main criterion for managerial position of most government office which is jeopardizing effective system and development in the country.

Ethiopian land policy

In Ethiopia the government owns the land; as most literatures shows absence of land ownership discourage individuals and farmers motivation of productive and remain on subsistence farming. Ethiopia’s economic and social problem resolving and sustainability can be achieved if there is a modification in the ownership and management of land. According to Birara, with the recent land grab close to 600,000 hectares of Gambella’s farmlands have been leased and number of farmers and households have been forced to move and work for the new investors at wages below poverty level (less than a dollar a day). According to OXFAM the new tragic land grab phenomena is described as “This buying up of land is negating all attempts to build sustainable agricultural development, it is an attack on Africa’s food, its water sources, the nutrition of its children, its women and on its states.” This shows how land ownership issues disempowered local people and made them vulnerable to wrong government policy and adversely affecting sustainable development in Ethiopia.

Ineffective use of aid

According to Word Bank, official Development Assistance (ODA) that Ethiopia received in the last 2 decades is estimated to be around 35 billion USD. World Bank stated that there is development in Ethiopia but not structural change to alleviate poverty and make basic changes. ODA assistance that the current regime has received over the years has not reached the common people, failed to achieve minimal growth and made Ethiopia to be dependent on foreign aid.

According to human right report the government use development aid as a political instrument. Ethiopia is still unable to achieve food self-sufficiency. All forms of foreign aid that has been flowing to the country directly to the government won’t improve wellbeing and reduce poverty. Foreign aid will not transform Ethiopian society from poverty to a sustainable and equitable prosperity unless the government is committed to the poor and with the right policy measures.

Lack of coordination among development partners

In Ethiopia development partners are contributing their share to the national effort of development and MDG targets. Donors, local and international CSOs/NGOs and other development partners are involved in poverty reduction, health, education, HIV/AIDS, Gender and other development interventions. However their intervention is not clear and visible. Efforts for addressing the problems are not well coordinated to avoid duplication of efforts and contribute towards common goal. Besides they are not put in the way that can galvanize actors engaged in the development of the country to fill missing gaps and enhance better contribution. There are no standard tools to measure, quantify and show their contribution. There are no means to capture data from grass-root level, bring to a national level and advocate for common goal. Even the geographic areas of intervention are not well known and defined, the areas of specialization are not visible to others and concerned stakeholders working in the area.

Overambitious plan

All development plans PASDEP, GTP and sector ministries plan are over ambitious, as the government itself confirmed. The MDG target are not well tailored with the existing situation of the country and were not planned based on realistic data and figures on the ground. Thus meeting the MDG targets would not be realistic.

The attainment of MDG needs change in the country political system and good governance. Other economic targets will largely depend on right policy, coping mechanism with weather conditions and effective utilization external aid. The country’s development needs to be about effective voice and equal participation of all citizens in the development and political process of the country. Based on current trend and in the remaining 2 years, only universal primary education of the MDGs targets is likely to be attained. Thus in order to achieve the development of Ethiopia and poverty reduction even after the MDG target, 2015, Ethiopia needs to do:

 

  • Change political system: inclusive government, equal participation and voice of all citizen, all ethnic group and space for multiparty system,
  • Good governance and effective government system,
  • Reform the land policy,
  • Develop effective mechanism of using aid and coordination among development partners
  • Further effort in the participation and empowerment of girls and women,
  • Addressing the issue of climate change.

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