BY NEW BUSINESS ETHIOPIA REPORTER
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi vows to complete the Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric dam construction at any cost as previously scheduled.
Briefing local media in his office this morning (August 11, 2010), the Premier stressed that nothing can stop the Ethiopian government from completing the project on schedule, even if organizations like Survival International and other are trying lobby the international community not to provide loan to the dam construction.
Survival International in its report released August 9, 2010, indicated this week that Gibe III hydroelectric dam construction is threatening the survival of tribes along the Omo River.
“The tribes of the Lower Omo Valley rely on the Omo River to survive in what is an extremely inhospitable environment. During the annual flood, the river deposits fertile silt along its banks, in which the tribes are able to grow vital food crops. Some tribes graze their cattle along the riverbanks, as for much of the year there is little grass elsewhere. The hunter-gatherer Kwegu tribe also fish in the river,” Survival International report stated.
“They don’t want to see developed Africa; they want us to remain undeveloped and backward to serve their tourists as a museum,” Meles said. “These people talk about the hazard of building dams after they already completed building dams their country,” he said.
The main motive of the institutions who oppose Gibe III hydroelectric project of Ethiopia is not the issue of human rights or environment, according to Meles who stated that the environment impact assessments made with regard to the project are accepted by international loan providers such as African Development Bank.
“Like they used to do in olden days, now they can’t stop us from building the dam. The time has passed. We will complete the project on time and no one can stop us,” Meles Affirms.
According to the new five-year Development and Transition Plan of Ethiopia, which is announced last week, the country plans to increase the current 2,000 MW hydropower generation capacity to 8,000 MW
The controversial Gibe III hydroelectric project will generate 1870 Mega Watt electric power once completed with a total cost of 1.7 billion USD.
Ties with the emerging economies
Speaking on the new five year Development and Transition Plan of the country, Meles also indicated that his government will strengthen ties with Indian and Chinese institutions in order to access sufficient external loans and attain the targets set in the plan.
“At the moment we are witnessing promising results in our relation with these countries,” he noted. The “ambitious” five year plan of the government targets to double the economy after five years by registering GDP growth of 11 to 15 percent every year.
According to Meles, the plan is achievable if the country is able to mobilize all its resources and excreted all the necessary effort. “Instead of setting a plan that can be attained easily and enjoy after attaining 100 percent, we chose to set higher target and test our potential and how far we can go,” he noted.
Shutting its embassy in Sweden
Meles also indicated that his government has called its Ambassador in Sweden and decided to close the embassy.
The reason his government reached the decision is because the two countries do not have strong economic or development ties. According to the Premier, Ethiopian embassy in Sweden has not been doing much than just issuing visas.
“We want our embassies to be economic embassies to offices. We rather prefer to open embassies in other countries with whom we plan to strengthen economic link,” Meles noted showing his government’s plan to open embassy in the fast growing Latin American nation, Brazil.
Away from Business
During the press briefing, Meles also talked about the Nile issue, the Ethiopian Diaspora, Al Shabab, multiparty system, health, unemployment and sport.
Speaking about the opposition he said that the some of the oppositions in the country didn’t seem to learn from the May 2010 peaceful election as “they continued opposing the constitution”.
As a result they are marginalized like other parties in other countries which do not accept their nation’s constitution are marginalized. As a result, his party, in Ethiopia Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) will continue being the dominant party in the country, according to his explanation.
Any opposition parties or individuals who at some point are disappointed by the ruling party including the exiled Ginbot 7 are also invited by Meles for a peaceful negotiation, as long as they accept the constitution.
He also stated that the attitude of Ethiopian Diaspora towards their country is changing as most of them have and are willing to share their knowledge and wealth to the country. “We also expect them to play the key role in attaining our next five-year Development and Transformation Plan,” the Premier said.
The government plan among other things focus on creating jobs for graduate youth and enabling them to become job creators instead of jobseekers. Improving the lives of poor women is also included in the plan, according to Meles.
The five-year Development and Transformation Plan of Ethiopia is expected to be tabled to the Parliament for approval at the end of September 2010 after consulting the public and donors in the coming few weeks.