Hailemariam Desalegn knows firsthand the hardship of Ethiopia’s highest office. In 2018, resigning as prime minister, he said only those in the job understand its difficulties.
This week, speaking to The Reporter, his message remained the same. “One who has not walked the path cannot truly grasp its challenges,” he said.
Hailemariam still doubts whether liberal economic policies are right for Ethiopia. “At this time, I don’t think liberal economic policies would be effective in Ethiopia,” he said.
Hailemariam, who advocated for a developmental state economic model during his tenure, added, “Without a doubt, with my bone and blood, I embrace the developmental state model.”
His view contradicts the policies of his predecessor, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), from liberalizing the telecom sector to opening the banking sector to foreign competition.
Land ownership stood as another point of divergence between Hailemariam and Abiy. Hailemariam believed land should be managed in such a fashion as to propel Ethiopia’s agricultural industry skyward.
“The discussion ought not revolve around whether or not we should liberate land rights, rather which approach can most effectively help our nation transform its economy,” he remarked.
Yet Hailemariam and Abiy shared one crucial similarity.
Hailemariam spoke of “achieving national accord,” a sentiment which Abiy and his government echoed as the country wrestled with one conflict after another.