The Context of Rent Seeking/Collection in Ethiopia – Part-I

By Habtamu Alebachew

With the key definition of ‘rent-seeking behavior as intention and practice to gain and collect more benefits from development but as a reward for unequally smaller, little or no contribution at individual and group level to the development effort’ kept on the note, it has its own distinct features that need more expositions. The following points demonstrate the case.

1.Rent seeking in Ethiopia is a ‘social consciousness’
Rent seeking behavior in Ethiopia is by far a horizontally in sociological and more vertically in political terms stretched social consciousness affecting the majority of the population who exercise control over the major factors of production, land, as well as those who give decisions on how to utilize this basic resource.

One can easily identify the vast breadth of our rent seeking behavior by identifying the major social forces behind it.

Let us accept the above argument in general that farmers who resist practicing professional advice and better technologies deny additional contribution to the overall development process, without which growth with development becomes a far-cry.

Unfortunately, these farmers do not constitute the classes of land owning or capitalists as in Britain or they are never corporate bodies as in the case of the United States.

They are households but with a distinct social and economic enterprise combining marriage/family and the bottom-line economic unit in the national production process.

This implies that their privilege of possessing farmlands and freely enjoying political and professional assistances raise an equal proportion of duty to contribute for the development process.

The imbalance between the privileges and the duty to contribute for the development are the fault-lines of rural rent seeking as a social consciousness.

Here rent seeking arises not as a matter of running after undue advantages but as sacrificing future advantages that we could harness for the overall welfare of the Ethiopian people by comforting own self with poverty.

Still in rural Ethiopia, the largest, and the most dangerous seat of rent seeking/collection as the potentially wealthiest contributor to development, the other key fault-line rests on the relations between local government, professionals, and the farming household.

Local governments provide a minimum of basic as well as fringe benefits for professionals for their promised commitments to support the farmer.

The paradox is however that these rural development professionals are also, like any of us, products of the background social consciousness dominated by rent seeking behaviors.

Where professionals effectively shake themselves of social controls of rent seeking, then, the immediate result is that they adequately gain the confidence of the famers and practically affect their behaviors toward development.

In the contradictory case, the opposite is the fruit we reap and, I strongly argue that this is the secret behind the reduction in the growth rate by 3% of the previous year.

In other words, the gap is the representation of the corresponding imbalance between the basic and fringe benefits the professionals enjoy versus the contribution they extend to the development process by helping the famers each day to liberate themselves from poverty, which is nothing else but rent collection.