Fortune’s Fineline


Under the stewardship of Addisu Legesse, former deputy chief of the ruling party, the high priests of the Revolutionary Democrats had a congregation at the Civil Service College. Almost everyone in the bigwig club of the party, including the chiefs of the regional states, received sermons about a “democratic developmental state” for three months before it was concluded a few weeks ago, gossip revealed.

Gossip believes the scriptures read and studied during these long drawn-out sermons were authored by the chief priest himself. One such scripture deals with a subject the Revolutionary Democrats have been zealous about lately: Ethiopia’s renaissance and the manner in which they charted it out.

Signed in December 2010, the scripture titled, “Our Journey in the Renaissance and the External Factor” depicts an attractive illustration on its cover with a display of yellow rays spreading from the star emblem of the federal government spotted in East Africa, in all directions, around the world.

The substance of the scripture incorporated in 84 pages makes as big an impression as its cover illustration; at least in its first chapter. It deals with the changing reality in the global political and economic architecture from a unipolar world created under the custody of the United States (US) to a multipolar one with the rise of China and other countries such as Brazil and India. Its sees a changing world where the dominance of “neo-liberalism” since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was replaced by another where there is competition in the marketplace of ideologies.

Yet, the analysis is realistic in its worldview in so far as none of it is meant to imply the fall of the US. It recognises the military might of the richest economy in the world, although it still acknowledges that the rapid growth of the Chinese economy is to claim the position of the second largest in the world soon. Its realism appears to come from acknowledging the fact that the US has an economy three times larger than that of China’s four trillion dollars, while its GDP per capita will remain far higher than China’s even if the latter could possibly grow as high as it may wish to.

The beacon of hope and the land of the free are superior in its ability to innovate and embrace technology in its industries. It also has an economy based on knowledge. These are the facts the chief priest appears to be wise enough to accept, gossip saw. Ironically, the US may have the biggest economy in the world, but its government is struggling with massive budget and balance of trade deficits. It does not have the trillions of dollars in reserve China seem to have the luxury to spend.

The latter, with its desperation to sterilise its surplus reserves outside of its economy, was very happy to buy bonds issued by the US Treasury, giving a high dose of addictions to American consumers who were spoilt in spending borrowed money on SUVs and luxury boats.

Now that the Americans have had their “shock therapy,” China is in another cycle of desperation looking for economies to absorb its excess reserves through lending – and bear in mind, no grants, gossip observed. China is kind enough not to see the debt to export ratio that financial institutions in the neo-liberal world are interested in when advancing loans to countries. The Revolutionary Democrats are ready to get on board this borrowing spree, even though the interests China charges are double the amount international banks offer. If senior managers from the state owned Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (CBE) are on a visit to China since last week shopping for such loans, the ideological underpinnings preached to the high priests over the past three months justifies their time in the dragon state.

Should the chief priest be very keen on building a massive military industry complex under the umbrella of a metal engineering corporation, it is perhaps due to his convictions. He may have been convinced that in the Ethiopian reality, it is the arm of the state, added with the efficiency and discipline of the military, that a “democratic developmental state” could become reality. No one comes close to this corporation, headed by a high ranking military officer, in the procurement frenzy from China and elsewhere, claimed gossip. That is where money can be made these days, according to gossip.