The Context of Rent Seeking/Collection in Ethiopia- Part-II

By Habtamu Alebachew

Ethiopia’s growth rate for the year 2012/2013 was 8.5% lower by about an average of 3% from previous records in the decade.

On this serious issue of concern, Primer Hailemariam Desalegn said the rate was unacceptable though it was still a good record as a state leader without specifying the key actors behind.

Tefera Derbew, Minster of Agricultural Development, on his part, picked the low pace of accessing rural farming households, as low as only 25%, in the extension service as the major culprit for the growth retreat still without detailing actors or groups.

Gedu Andargachew, Deputy President of Amhara Region, came up with a triangular model of actor identification responsible for the reversal as what he called the political leadership, processionals, and resistant farmers.

Finally, Bereket Simon singled out and emphasized ‘the political leadership’ as the ultimate responsible actor. By this, I understood Berekt that he meant political power in Ethiopia is the seat of movers and shakers in the development process particularly in agricultural development. I realize here there are two misleading limitations in the above argument.

Firstly, some innocent professionals may argue that they work from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening but the target farmers fail to appreciate their assistances and follow their advice. This argument however suffers severe limitations to answer three questions.

One, did they add innovative skills in their approaches to convince farmer households who traditionally embrace rent seeking behaviors as normal social consciousnesses or were they simply fortune tellers in the old ways?

Second, if development is good news for any average human being and if, in Tefera’s words, 25% of Ethiopian farmers have successfully aligned themselves with the new development frontier, why did not the remaining 75% get tempted to slow change pressures while the overall social structure of rural Ethiopia is astonishingly similar?

Why did not these well-educated professionals convince farmers to vote for development, where it is common that development is more of a temptation than poverty?

Secondly, some professionals seriously complain that the government has no a working system that could tell the rent seeker from the developmental worker. As such, reward is shared equally between the rent seeker and the hard and innovative professional that undermines rent-free devotions.

On the one hand, it is an acceptable complaint that deserves the attentions of the political leadership, which is, in the Ethiopian context, the dynamo of the anti-rent seeking war, which, means, development. However, this argument is faulty, on the other hand, for two reasons.

First, innovative contribution to the development process is an established state of mind and a functioning mind frame as established and entrenched as rent seeking behavior itself. These opposite value fronts are always in battle against each other and a developmental mind never tends to pick external factors to retreat to rent seeking zones.

Second, while the ugly face of rent seeking is always rigid and least dynamic, the face of innovative developmental quality speaks for itself needing no any outside witness, as it is a continuous motion and movement.

Metaphorically speaking, while rent seeking is the mountain that never intends to walk toward Mohamed, innovative and developmental contribution is the Mohamed that craves hard to rich the mountain.

Rural rent seeking also enjoys a vast space in the administration of safety net programs which still continues to demand a sum of public budget without having clear strategic plan how and when they will come to official terminations.

Many rural households have already grown permanent rent seeking appetites through exaggerated history telling of dismal life conditions that contradict the developmental value of ‘no one is naturally born without a minimum of potential.’