One problem two solutions. By Yilma Bekele

April 17th, 2009 Print Print Email Email

We are all aware that the global economy is in not in good shape. Both rich industrialized countries and dirt-poor subsistence economies are in a free fall. (more…)

We are all aware that the global economy is in not in good shape. Both rich industrialized countries and dirt-poor subsistence economies are in a free fall. No one knows where the bottom is. Governments that are democratic, autocratic, military dictatorship or royal kingdoms are all trying different medicine to heal the ailing economy. Let us look at two doctors that have written prescriptions to make the sick economy better.

The two doctors are President Barack Obama of the US on one side and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia on the other. Both their countries have been suffering from recession for quite a while now. The unemployment figure in the US is about 7% average, inflation is about 4%, and the budget deficit is in the trillions while in Ethiopia the unemployment is about 60%, inflation 65% and no budget so to speak of since the country relies on welfare.

President Obama who has been in office for less than three months started of by saying ‘To understand how we get there, we first need to understand how we got here.’ Thus he gathered elected official, experts in various fields and ordinary citizens trying to identify the root cause of the problem and recommend different options to fix it.

He had his treasury secretary work with the banks to ease the credit crunch, defense department devise a way to cut the bloated budget and recommend a safe and honorable exit from Iraq, congress pass a stimulus package to put people back to work on government projects, his secretary of state go to major capitals to hold hands and soothe nerves while he himself went to all parts of the country to get support for his plan of attack and rally the people so that they have confidence in his leadership.

It is a multifaceted approach to one of the biggest problems encountered by his nation. There was no silver bullet here. The main focus was to try different medicines but with the emphasis being the involvement of the people in the treatment. Without the cooperation and good will of the patient the medicine will not work. All his speeches and actions made it clear that the citizen was part of the solution. Even when most felt depressed and helpless the president was acting like a national cheerleader exalting the population to rise up and devise new ways and new methods to slay the double dragon of recession and unemployment.

He did not try to shift the blame on others. The previous administration was not made a scapegoat nor bankers and industry heads targeted to deflect the issue. The president said all are responsible and there was no need to point fingers. The banks were seen by many as the primary culprits in this fiasco and some shouted ‘off with their heads! Sacking a few and prosecuting some would have been a populist move. Mr. Obama did none and said ‘we believe that preemptive government takeovers are likely to end up costing taxpayers even more in the end, and because it is more likely to undermine than to create confidence. Governments should practice the same principle as doctors: first do no harm.’

The US economy is showing signs of life. It is not out of the woods yet, but many believe the patient is recovering. The people are impressed by the rational approach of the commander in chief. His ‘no hysteria’ calm disposition and cheery attitude is seen as the best medicine. His supporters are proud and the skeptics are slowly being drawn to believe that the doctor is knowledgeable and may be he deserves some respect.

How is our other doctor doing? The patient is in dire straits. Unlike the US Ethiopia’s economic situation is a little bit simpler. Due to the primitive state of industrialization the economy is not integrated to the wider world. Farming which accounts for all economic activity is subsistence level and export of raw unprocessed coffee is the mainstay. So the question is how did the doctor approach the problem?

First please note that ‘this’ doctor has been treating the patient for the last eighteen years. The patient has been denied the right to consult other experts and get a second opinion. The patient has been on life support with intensive care nurses (security forces) on stand by 24/7. The patient is dying.

The PM’s initial reaction was complete denial of the problem. He told his parliament “In general, we don’t expect drastic effects on our economy, our financial structure is not as liberalized as those of affected countries and the economy is not intertwined to Western economies to face a crisis” This was August of 2008.

When asked by Time magazine regarding the problem of famine Ato Meles said “It’s a mixed bag. When you have an emergency, there is the urge to do whatever it takes to see people get assistance. [But that can mean] the name of the game is [to] include a bit of hyperbole, and that can convey the message that the situation is hopeless when in fact it is not, and that might do some lasting damage, given the fact that all investors take their information and make their assessments on the basis of the 24-hour news cycle. Famine has wreaked havoc in Ethiopia for so long; it would be stupid not to be sensitive to the risk of such things occurring. But there has not been a famine on our watch – emergencies, but no famines.

When it came to foreign currency shortage he decided to solve the problem by confiscating his citizens’ property. In March of 2008 by order of the Prime Minister Federal police confiscated over 2 million US dollars and thirteen million Ethiopian bir from traders. They were declared illegal and forfeited their right.

A year later he went after coffee exporters and traders. His government confiscated seventeen thousand tons of coffee and suspended the licenses of over eighty traders. He also said six will be prosecuted.

Do you see a pattern here? It is never about looking at the cause. It is all about finding someone to blame for a failed policy. Ato Meles still blames the Derge for current problems. You would think after seventeen years Mengistu is history. Actually his government goes as far back as Menelik to shift responsibility. Does it makes sense when today those fourteen years or under are 46% of the population?

Mr. Obama looked at the cause and he is in the process of writing a new playbook. He is not about looking back. He is focused on the future. He said ‘There is a parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount that tells the story of two men. The first built his house on a pile of sand, and it was destroyed as soon as the storm hit. But the second is known as the wise man, for when “…the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house…it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.” How true.

Unfortunate for us our leaders are not interested in constructing on solid foundation. They get drunk with their own lies and propaganda. Because they thought it and said it they think it has happened. Thus there is no chance that the medicine they are prescribing to cure the illness will work. It is more likely to put the patient in a coma. One problem two solutions, which doctor would you trust with your life?

In this week of Easter we should remember our dear sister Judge Birtukan Mediksa. We should admire her courage. Deeply be impressed by her determination to sacrifice for our cause. She is a learned person with a law degree. She was a municipal judge. By any standard she is an achiever. But most important our sister is a person of principle. She is a rare individual at this juncture in our ancient history. We have encountered so many fake usurpers that we get disoriented when we meet people like judge Birtukan. She is in solitary confinement like a common criminal. She has been in confinement for 108 days. We hear that she is in good spirits and is very much inspired by the effort her country folks are putting to gain her release. We will not rest till she is free. We love you Birtukan. Happy Easter!

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  1. Asmerom
    | #1

    Please remove the Fake TIME Magazine Cover from your page. It has no relation to the story. It does disservice to the excellent analysis written by Mr Bekele.
    However you slce it, fake is fake. Proaganda is propaganda. Lets stick to what is real and let’s leave the rest to the professional counterfieters and fakers, the Bereket Semeons, at the Arat Kilo palace.

  2. Harry Massele
    | #2

    It is a mistake to Compare Obama to Melese. Like they said in our country, “Like the Sky and the Earth.” Please don’t compare Esist with Zihon, (Antelope withn Elephant). Melese is a Dictator who is ruling Ethiopia and live at the barrel of the gun. But on the other hand, Barak Obama is an Elected President on the Ballot Box, of the United States of America, the most pourful man with the most pourful Democracy and the Most Pourful Army on Earth. I would not compare them in any way. I could not even use the sayings, that, comparing apple with orange, but even these are fruits on the same level with different test. But Melese with Obama, are you blind? Killer with Merciful, who even does not tolleret the slightest torture of Bushes, who open the prison gate of Guntanamo. May be you are hopping, that, Melese could come to his senses so that he would free Brtukan Medeksa and other Political prisnores. I hope he does, But I do not think so. The only way to get rid off Melese and his regime is by brute force from the Ethiopian people and the Almighty God and prayers of the innocent. I hope that will be don without bloodshed of the Ethiopian people.

  3. Harry Massele
    | #3

    To the Editors of Abugida,

    I lkie to read and comment when I feel like it in the website, but I do not like the pictures you put up on the faces of Meles and other Ethiopians and the like. It is Gross, ugly and tasteless. Have respect for humanbeings, even if it is your enmey. Come on man I can’t stand it. Can’t you look your staff on faces of Ethiopians? Are’nt you ashame when you do that? Stop it! I know that many Ethiopians do not like it and do not approve it. If you are an artist, Cartunist, journalist, reseble like it, etc, put sataristic pictures, comicstrips, and the like. Do not put this Ugly pictures. It is Gross and it is ugly and discusting.

  4. jj
    | #4

    I always hate to see the word leaders when mentioning Meles and/or Woyane. Please mind your words. Ethiopian does not have leaders only dictator rulers.
    Ethiopia is under siege.

  5. yikerbelen
    | #5

    Mr Yilema Bekele. God bless you . you are really man. I have never ever heard when Obama blamed Bush’s admn for the economice crisis in usa, even if un wise Bush is directly responsible for the economice crisis all over the world, where is our short sighted and narrow minded banda is blaming Atse menilik and derg for his failed economic policy and for the shortage of hard currency.

  6. Geremew
    | #6

    Harry Massele,

    What’s up with all your “oo-oo-ta”? It seems your hot spots are trigered. If you don’t like these pics and have sympathy for zenawi, why don’t you go to Aiga – where zenawi is portrayed as a saint?

  7. Sami
    | #7

    That is right Meles is Dr. death. Stupied weyannes think that he is a saint and can’t stand to see his real picture.

  8. Peterson
    | #8

    @Harry Massele
    What do you mean without ‘ the blood shed of Ethiopin people’. Think again, hstolrically Ethiopians died and always die to save their country. When this theory of not-daying come into being, we turned out to be slaves. Slavery has never been our history. Meles tells for Ethiopian the sacred value of ‘fear and not daying for a country’ and day and night agitates his ‘tigre-wodams’ to rise arms to defend ‘tplf’ and romanisise war and bravery. You tell us not to die!!!! how can be get our liberity and save our nation. We want to die and kill for the sake of saving Ethiopia. Please, if you don’t know this before, know it now.

  9. Harry Massele
    | #9

    My fellow Diasporans, Yes my spot was tuched. As I said I do not like ugly pictures. I never seen Satan in grossley exagrated picture. I do not care and do not have sympthy for Bandas who sold our ansestors before and who are selling our land today. and I do not think Melese is Saint and his woyane wodai army saints, but they are humanbeings. On the contrary, I may be a Mulato, born from Gonderie and Gojamie, but on my fother side, my grandfather, “Basha Wondem” was the wright handman of “Belay Zeleke”. They were both friends in arms and in blood. They fought Facist Italian day and night. And, and in my mother side, My grandfather, “Woldeyes Kasa”, who broke the Misheg of Arb-Gebia, in the Lowerpart of Gayint. I came from proud parents who defended Ethiopian Unity and who never gave rest for one day for Italian in our five years of our Ethiopian History. As you may be well aware that, both these patriots were killed by Haileslassie. And of course, HaileSlasie was the enemy of my youth upbriging because for Gonderie and Gojamie thinking. I believed He was afraid of them and he killed them systematically, While he was educating such as woyanes and Eritreans. I thought then and I blieved now. I bring this not to offened others, and boast about my ancestors, which I am proud ot it, but to send sinister message, that I have respect for my enemy, and I know my enemy, and I do not like ugly pitcures on my enemys’s face. Because my enemy is a formdable enemy, and should be treated as such. By the way Woyanie is using Systematic killing and clichi word “Amhara” or anyone who stands for the Unity of Ethiopia is as enemy. You can not bring down your enemy by throwing ashes abstract pitcure, but real blood. “Eyintseh Dom the Enbele Dem Keyih, Halie Luya”. “That means blood will not be clean withour real red blood.” It is a lot for you to swalow. And I do not pretend to believe that you can bring change by shouting and putting ugly pictures on somebody face. What I am saying is that my motto, and character is that my country is one and I believe and can defend the unity of Ethiopia including the teritorial entegrity,and Unity of Red See in my life time including my blood when the time comes and when I am in a position to do so. When I was a child I used to speak as a Child, and when I was an adult, I speak as adult. I hope I do not offened anyone, if I do I appolgize in advance. I like the feedback and I am learning.

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