Appraising President Isaias’ Key Notes on the Occasion of the 7th Congress of NCEW
By Teweldeberhan Gebre
In his opening note to the Congress, President Isaias highlighted the following:
- The imperative and timeliness of National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW) to ask what the NCEW has achieved in the past 25 years and where the NCEW want to go and how?
- Not only NCEW but also other government bodies, social associations, corporations and different enterprises, and close and distant Eritrea’s partners should ask similar questions based on objective and profound assessments.
- His vision and strategies of nation building in the last quarter of a century.
- Global and East-West inequalities
- His ongoing endeavors to chart out a future developmental path (probably his forgotten ‘roadmap’ and the obvious WH questions).
- Good luck for the NCEW for their roadmap
I have to admit that, on this occasion, and regardless the contents of his speech, President Isaias was more formal than ever. In his speech he outlined his past guiding “vision and strategy of nation-building” for the last 25 years as in the following:
- Ensuring sustainable improvements in the quality of life of our citizens, and, the maintenance and preservation of this task as a central goal or objective;
- Increasing productivity and output for genuine economic growth and prosperity;
- Building extensive infrastructure, with even and fair spatial distribution, in all sectors (roads, ports, airports, water systems, electricity, transport, health and education, manufacturing, services… etc.) so as to pave the ground and stimulate overall productivity and economic growth;
- The creation of extensive employment opportunities in all sectors, industries and enterprises in accordance with their respective potential and comparative advantages;
- To build efficient/effective and clean institutions in phases;
- Above all, to cultivate, organize and enhance a professional, experienced and highly disciplined labour force in all sectors, industries and enterprises.
Mr. President, I cannot see your vision statement. In the last 25 years, regardless the weak formulations of your strategies, my observation is that these strategies were not in any of your official documents. Mr. President plans and strategies are forward-looking not retroactive. In fact, the terms and phrases you used such as – quality of life, productivity, output, economic growth, employment opportunities, industries and enterprises, efficiency/effectiveness, comparative advantage, and professionalism are all newly added terms and phrases into the 2017 dictionary of your government following your last interview with the local media. Don’t mention the so-called Macro-Policy of 1994 outlined by well-meaning Eritreans and muted 17 years back by your administration.
As a side note, next time, don’t ask the speech writer again to write a statement for you. Frankly, s/he doesn’t have any idea about everything you said here. For example, what is “increasing productivity and output for genuine economic growth,” Mr. President? Does ‘genuine economic growth’ mean “sustainable or inclusive economic growth?” How about productivity, Output growth, and economic growth? These are all mean the same thing, Mr. President. Please check with technical people when you are provided with a draft speech from your aide.
You asked a vague question:
“How many of the visions, strategies and plans spelled out above have we achieved in the past quarter century against the backdrop of a devastated, literally below zero, economic reality that we inherited and that was further compounded by limited, underdeveloped and unexploited domestic endowments, as well as the relentless national security and economic hostilities and subversions that were employed against us through different forms and facades. These intertwined phenomena will require sober and objective appraisal that is not tainted by emotional or presumptuous approaches.”
Your question is poorly formulated and is not clear at all. Let me reformulate it as “Did we achieve our vision, strategies, and plans spelled out above in the past quarter century?” looks better. Unfortunately, your question begs another question. I see your conclusions are within the premises of your arguments although apparently not clearly stated. In my knowledge, in black and white, you didn’t achieve any of your retroactive vision, strategies, and plans. You know more than anyone else that you didn’t have a vision, strategies, and plans for the country from day one. If you did, I beg your government to show the people and the nation by posting it in shabait.com.
In your question/statement above, you said “These intertwined phenomena will require sober and objective appraisal that is not tainted by emotional or presumptuous approaches.” My question is who is going to soberly and objectively appraise your works in the last 25 years? Why don’t you evaluate your past works through independent evaluators and tell the nation what has and has not achieved in the last 25 years? Remember, evaluations or appraisals are conducted against measurable goals stated in your plans. You didn’t have measurable goals in the last 25 years that makes evaluations against these goals impossible.
In your so-called strategies in the last 25 years, you have elements of economic growth, labour productivity, and job creation. Did you achieve growth, productivity, and employment? Not! Your average growth rate for the period from 2006-2017 shows 1.7%, far below the averages of East Africa and Africa as a whole (see figure 1 below, remember figures are from your officials). Did you create jobs? You can find out how many jobs you created in the last 25 years from the ministry of defense. You destroyed all industries and enterprises. In your last interview, you told us all infrastructure were destroyed due to lacks of maintenance.
Table 1: Real GDP growth (percent) against East Africa and Africa, 2006-2017
Source: AfDB, Statistics Department AEO, 2016
Mr. President, I know you are expert of analyzing international affairs. However, everyone understands global and regional inequalities and the polarized world. I am happy that you used statistical references to show injustice and I pick your example of Indonesia you quoted from Oxfam. It reads:
“the wealth of a handful billionaires amid the impoverishment of billions of people”; or, other anecdotal instances such as the fact that “the wealth of the four richest people in Indonesia is equivalent to the aggregate income of 100 million citizens in the country.”
Mr. President, let us be honest and straight. If I may amplify, 99% of the Eritrean economy is in the hand of PFDJ’s companies. Not only that but also our young people serve these enterprises in the name of national service at nominal wages. Can you justify this polarized national economy, the inequalities and marginalization of the private sector you created in the nation? Don’t you think this requires a serious appraisal? Instead of keep endless accusation on others, why don’t you clean your house and be fair to your people?
People are sick to hear the same thing year in and year out. It reminds me the Arabic proverb and your one-time favorite say “When the dogs bark, the camels just keep walking” when you keep saying:
“Demonization of all arguments and concepts that challenge the validity/ideology of the prevailing global order; weakening and vilification of workers’ movements and other forces that seek social justice; exaltation of speculative practices of international banks; shrinking of the middle class even in the industrialized nations (known as the 1st World); increased marginalization of countries (mostly found in Africa) that are in the early stages of economic development resulting in their confinement to the production of raw materials and their attendant deprivation from developing their infrastructure, industries and modern services; ensuring that these countries are governed by corrupt and pliable regimes that serve “external” agendas,… etc., are some of the tools routinely invoked to secure the pre-eminence of the uni-polar international system. Other more perplexing practices include inducement of debilitating brain drain and migration of the professional and educated segments in these countries, while manual labourers without the requisite expertise are not spared and exposed to “modern slavery”.
the world reality keeps going. You said these for the last 25 years or more. Did the world reality change because you keep saying it? I think you’ve lost your moral standpoint when you say: “…the scheme involves the unfair exploitation of resources, the denial of jobs and job opportunities to augment the number of destitute populations who survive on charities.” Haven’t you contributing to these world realities by exploiting Eritrean labourers to work for free for your PFDJ companies, denying citizens to decent jobs and livelihoods for the last quarter of a century? I understand your circular argument, blaming everybody for your profound failures and mismanagement of national endowments.
When you say:
“Our ongoing endeavours to chart out our future developmental path – and the associated questions of: from where we have started? Where we are now? Where we want to be? And how we want to reach there? – are naturally predicated on detailed and comprehensive evaluation of the domestic and global realities and trends that I have described above.”
it means your ‘roadmap’ is on the making. Mr. President, we are on post-25 years of independence. Can you tell the nation when and who is leading the process of drafting your roadmap?
In conclusion, Mr. President, I am sorry, you are incapable of leading the great country and the great people. Hence, time for appraisal and gracefully leave office.