There is a local saying that roughly translates to “no medicine for hidden ailment”. It is not only concealing one’s sickness that poses a health hazard though; so is being unaware that one is afflicted by illness. Similarly attempting to sweep a problem under the carpet or ease pressure by means of temporary solutions is bound to have dire consequences for a nation. Though identifying the source of a problem is part of the solution, it may bear fruit only insofar as it is sustainable. The rash measures being taken nowadays by various government entities are liable to spawn intractable problems down the line even though they may give a breathing space to officials facing heat and indulgecertain segments of the public.
The recent youth employment creation initiative, which was launched by the Oromia regional state and is being replicated by other states, as well as the allocation of the Youth Fund by the federal government are indeed commendable. Any effort aimed at enabling the youth become productive citizens is worthy of praise. Nonetheless, prudence should be considered lest the initiatives turn into ill-judged misadventures that backfire. The support provided by the government to fresh university graduates in terms of availing seed money to fund start ups must not engender dependency. In this regard it is incumbent upon the government and the private sector to instill a sense of work ethics and entrepreneurship in the youth. If they are exempted from coming up with a researched business plan, a prerequisite for a successful commercial undertaking, and enticed into becoming dependent on study-based subsidies, can only result in a momentary respite. This is not in the interest of the country or the general public.
One of the critical matters on which the government is under extreme pressure to respond to is assuring fair benefit for everyone. History is replete with examples where steps aimed at appeasing some sections of the population had detrimental effects. It is impossible to please the public through actions that are contrary to the letter and spirit of the law. The populist movements sweeping the US and some European countries are threatening to upend the global order. In the 1930s Europe saw the rise to power of the likes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, leaders responsible for the egregious atrocities of World War II, on the back populist movements. And the untold damage caused by the precipitous expropriation of private property at the hand of the Derg regime in the name of “broad masses” is in living memory of most Ethiopians. Decisions supposedly taken in the name of the public without being subjected to rigorous scrutiny have adverse repercussions that span generations.
Hasty plans intended to appease dissatisfied citizens are in the long run liable to be counterproductive than helpful. Youth employment creation initiatives ought to be informed by studies that comprehensively assess the needs of families up to the entire nation if they are to lead to durable solutions. Arriving at injudicious decisions which fail to take into account different perspectives will give rise to a festering discontent. Violating the constitutionally guaranteed right of hardworking citizens to pursue a livelihood of their choice anywhere within Ethiopia by evicting them from the land on which they invest their time, money and energy can never be justified however noble the goal behind it may be. It amounts to prescribing the wrong medicine for an ailment. This will not only induce widespread disgruntlement, but also mar the country’s reputation and deter investment.
One of the obligations the constitution imposes on the government is to conduct its affairs in a transparent and accountable manner. The constitution also stipulates that any law, customary practice or a decision of an organ of state or a public official which contravenes it shall be of no effect. Arbitrary decisions underpinned by the desire to mollify an irate populace are objectionable as they go against the very essence of the rule of law. Such decisions have never been an answer. In fact they are liable to compound the very problem they are meant to solve and cause further turmoil. Attempting to find study-based solutions which adhere to the rule of law will help arrive at a decision on which a broad consensus can be reached. It also goes a long way to ensuring the implementation of initiatives from which everyone stands to benefit equitably and thereby advance the national interest. There can be no arguing that a generation devoid of vision and is mired in dependency is incapable of extricating Ethiopia from the clutches of poverty. Such a state of affairs is something that cannot be countenanced.
Ethiopia may develop, prosper and make proud strides on the path to democracy when it takes the longer view instead of quick-fix solutions. This is the only way forward. Inasmuch as a patient suffering from a dreadful disease can recover after the correct diagnosis and a proper administration of the right medicine Ethiopia should proceed with a similar course of action. Priority needs to be given to the bigger picture that Ethiopia represents. Adopting a myopic view on less important matters at the expense of this picture will harm the people of Ethiopia. The current generation has to understand clearly the legacy it must bequeath to subsequent generations. It is of critical importance to seek lasting solutions for present-day problems to safeguard the welfare of the nation and ease the burden of coming generations. History will not forgive failure to do so. Let’s not do disservice to our proud compatriots and a nation which is their shared home. Let’s abandon short-termism and focus on the bigger picture. Let’s not prescribe the wrong medicine for an ailment.