Meet the enablers

By Yilma Bekele (18 March 2009) Enabling is one of those terms with a double meaning. In its positive aspect enabling is an empowerment act. In the US the Civil Right Act is considered an empowerment act. It outlawed racial segregation thus empowering black citizens to demand equal share of the ‘American Pie.’ The Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution that prohibited gender based restrictions on voting is definitely an empowering act that guaranteed the inclusion of women in the decision making process.

Enabling is also used in counseling or psychological sense. Psychologists view it as a problematic behavior. Enabling is common in such dysfunctional behaviors as drug addiction or alcoholism. An example frequently sited is about a spouse that calls in to make an excuse for a partner who is unable to go to work due to a hangover. The spouse’s well-intentioned act is unfortunately facilitating the addiction. The person is protected from the consequences of his or her action. Without the enabler the addict would have to come to terms with his action and behavior.

Nation states have enablers too. If we take our country Ethiopia and ask how we mange to survive as a nation regardless of the many dysfunctional behavior we have exhibited the last thirty years we are sure to find our enablers.

How do you think butcher Mengistu was able to fight in Eritrea, Ogaden and all points in between? That is right he had enablers. The Soviet Union with its East European provinces was the Godfather. Surplus weapons were traded for raw material and they were generous with their loans too. The World Bank and IMF were present but in a limited scale. He was able to finance his dysfunctional behavior thanks to Russia and Western Banks. When the tyrant fled we were left holding the bag. The treasury was bankrupt, the educated were slaughtered and those who can flee left every which way. Seventeen years of the Derge was a dark period that drove our country backwards.

Then came the current regime. They came to rule not to govern. Thus the dysfunctional behavior continued. Today the economy is in shambles. Foreign currency reserve is depleted. Inflation is climbing upwards weekly. The young and the brightest are migrating out. The government is forced to admit ‘over fourteen million are in need of food aid.’ The Somali incursion was costly both in human life and in monetary sense. The resulting civil war in the Ogaden is further strain on the economy. At the end of the day just how poor are we? Let us just say in terms of per capita income out of 208 countries we are 201st. Despite all this the regime keeps going. How is this possible?

Well they got enablers. World bank, IMF and European Union are our codependents. Without these three the regime will not last six months. They facilitate all our failed policies. They reward failure. They shield the government from the consequences of its policies.

The World Bank and IMF have built this humongous bureaucracy supposedly to empower poor nations like ours. They have put in place fancy economic models to describe their role as guides and baby sitters. They use fancy words and obscure abbreviations to show phantom progress the countries have achieved under their stewardship. CAS is for country assistance strategy, poverty reduction falls under PASDEP which stands for plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty, the Protection of Basic Services (PBS) program; the Public Sector Capacity Building Program (PSCAP); the Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP) and the list goes on.

Thus when Mr. Kan Ohashi the World Bank country director for Ethiopia and Sudan says our economy has been growing 12% the last few years and inflation will be under 20% by June we have cause to worry. Facts on the ground do not warrant such declaration about growth or such a rosy outlook regarding inflation. The last six months have showed how these venerable institutions skew facts to fit their pre-conceived conclusions. Imagine in a highly industrialized and transparent West the bankers and insurance companies were able to scam each other and everybody near and far with made up facts. Thus when the World Bank and IMF declare such growth and rosy scenario you can understand when we roll our eyes and say ‘what ever.’

One thing we know for sure is that the people were not consulted regarding the billions of dollar and euros handed to the government. We say this because the government is not a democratically elected one but rather it is a cancer imposed on us by the enabling act by these two Organizations and their friends. They are perfectly aware that without democracy and the rule of law pouring money is not going to make a dent on poverty, famine and recurring civil wars. They always qualify their reports mourning the lack of civil society and good governance. But next year they are back again with more programs for so called capacity building, poverty alleviation and all sort of fancy designations.

There is one other very important enabler worthy of special mention. It is no other than you, my dear Diaspora friend. As you know the Ethiopian government is the number one employer in the country. The Ethiopian government is owner of all land in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government requires large sums of money to pay for such essential items as Federal Police, Security Force, Internal Security, and large army. Being a tyrant is not cheap. Thus when you fly Ethiopian Airlines a percentage goes to the security forces to ‘pacify’ a Kilil in turmoil. When you are granted someone else’s land to build your dream villa part of it goes to do some incursion into Somalia. When you open a Bank account you crate an opportunity for the regime to pay for Chinese technology to block Internet sites.

Let us put it this way. When your child asks you for cookies early in the morning and you say no and your child throws a fit what do you do? Giving in to the demands will stop the tantrum but on the other hand the child is learning a wrong lesson regarding actions and consequences in the real world. That is what we are faced with our ‘government.’ The lesson it has learned is that failed polices like the land issue, rigged elections, aggression towards neighbors, periodic massacres at home do not carry negative consequences. The enablers are there to gloss over the imperfections and delude themselves things are getting better.

It is both insulting and amusing to see the Ethiopian Council in LA peddling Bonds for electricity production. It is a noble idea. Selling bonds is one of the many ways cities; states and governments are able to do big capital projects. The difference is that the projects go thru a process before they are approved. The citizen debates the issue, experts are asked for opinion, environmental impact studies are carried out and the different technologies are compared. Here we have a government monopoly accountable to no one and sworn to secrecy asking us to invest our hard earned money on a project that probably should not be tried let alone built. The Bond is nothing but a ponzi scheme by a government.

As much as we will sell the shirts off our back if we know it is going to help our people it is difficult to hand in your money to a government that is even unwilling to tell the mothers that sacrificed their children in wars how they died and where they died. We have a debt to pay to our country. We have a responsibility to contribute to improve the life of our people. We also have a responsibility to demand transparency, intelligent decision-making and respect to a citizen.

A government that falsely imprisons political leaders, journalists, and civic society members does not have a moral ground to ask its people for funds. A regime that is holding Judge Birtukan in solitary confinement in a closet size room, denying her visitors is not fit enough for a helping hand. Some might feel smug when invited to sit with democratically elected leaders. It is one thing to be tolerated by outsiders but believe me there is no substitute for being respected and loved by ones own people.

Psychologists claim that enabling prevents growth in the person enabled and generally people who enable others have weak boundaries, low self-esteem and have difficulty being assertive. In other words enablers have no backbone. Don’t be an enabler.

For further reading regarding World Bank and IMF in Ethiopia please refer to:

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Posted by on March 18, 2009. Filed under VIEWS. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.