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Government’s decisions need to be well thought-out!

Government’s decisions need to be well thought-out!

The government must guard against making rash decisions in response to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has been devastating the world since the beginning of the year. The regulations and directives issued pursuant to the state of emergency which was enacted to fight the outbreak and limit its impact need to focus on matters which have a direct bearing on public health and national security. The recently introduced directive stipulating that private vehicles in Addis Ababa are allowed to be driven on alternating days according to whether the last digit in the car’s license plate is even or odd has perplexed the owners of such vehicles due to the fact that the rationale behind it was not clear, particularly given the restrictions imposed to combat the pandemic had already curtailed the movement of cars in the capital. Aside from the question of how people whose work requires them to move from place to place can afford to cover the extra cost they will be forced to incur as a result, many ask what solutions have been thought of for those who have to use their cars in an emergency on the day they are not permitted to drive. In view of the absence of a persuasive justification calls are being made for the directive to be reconsidered. Lessons should be drawn from the experience of Nigeria, which rescinded a similar measure after only a few days in force. There should be no rush over things that can wait.  

The initiative demonstrated by various government officials to give food and other assistance to needy people over the course of last week in connection with Easter celebrations has earned them universal praise. Laudable as they may be such humanitarian efforts cannot and must not continue like this though as any activity which is neither owned by an institution nor managed systematically is prone to abuse. Accordingly, it’s incumbent on the government to establish a strong institution staffed with competent and principled personnel if the resources it mobilizes from the public are to be put to their intended use. Otherwise, it’s bound to lose the public’s trust and fritter its political capital.

Another pillar of the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak is the contribution of citizens who have the nation’s interest at heart. Apart from marshalling volunteers from the medical and other professions, it’s important to tap the services of the scores of nationals both at home and overseas capable of providing valuable policy inputs. Deploying people who have gained expertise working in research institutions, universities, the logistics and transport sector, local and international aid agencies as well as organizations which directly worked on the Ebola virus and cholera outbreaks can go long a long way towards averting mistakes liable to be made during emergencies. Furthermore, seasoned lawyers must also be brought on board to help write the necessary legislation, overcome the challenges that beset these laws during the implementation phase and put a stop to acts which flout the law.

The unprecedented havoc the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking across the world necessitates national efforts to beat it back to be complemented with cooperation between governments. In conjunction with activities aimed at mitigating its health-related impacts it’s of the essence to seek the support of knowledgeable economists and finance specialists so as to craft a response plan with an eye to softening the impending economic slump hovering over the country. These professionals would assist decision makers in formulating policies, strategies and protocols that stave off the severe crisis threatening to wipe out the finance, agriculture, manufacturing, service and export sectors.

Political leaders at the federal and regional levels can wage a successful war against COVID-19 insofar as they are able to make use of citizens engaged in different fields. They would do well to understand that leadership is actually about assigning the right people to the right job and facilitating a working environment in which they can perform their best as opposed to micromanaging. Ethiopia does not lack sons and daughters possessing knowledge, skill, experience and integrity who, instead of criticizing from the afar, are willing to do whatever they can to alleviate the plight of their beloved nation and fellow countrymen for free. It must not allow the wealth of opportunity they avail to go to waste. The U.S. offers a stark reminder of the costs of such failure.

President Donald Trump, who has stoked protests against physical distancing and other coronavirus stay-at-home measures in three states led by Democratic governors, has been roundly criticized for rushing to reopen the country’s economy despite advice to the contrary and claiming that he has "total" authority to decide to lift restrictions governors have imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Coming on the heels of his war of words with the government of China, the World Health Organization and the Democratic Party, his incendiary tweets have alarmed many. Though his insistence that the U.S. economy should be reopened soon has been applauded by those who are desperate to get back to work, an overwhelming majority of Americans reject the idea given the outbreak has infected over 860,000 people, claimed upwards of 49,000 lives and continues to exact a heavy toll on the country. The president’s critics accuse him of peddling vitriolic rhetoric in the midst of a health crisis and argue that this renders him unfit to govern.

Although the Government of Ethiopia is not prone to be caught up in such controversy, elements committing acts liable to elicit public outcry abound in its ranks. Long hallmarks of administrations that have come and gone in Ethiopia, dereliction of duty, moral turpitude and a sense of entitlement have engendered distrust between the government and the people. Eliminating these shortcomings is vital to mounting a holistic and effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It would also have the added benefit of grounding the directives issued by the government in the reality on the ground, thereby ensuring that it operates in a transparent and accountable manner and at the same time receive a positive feedback from the public. As the extraordinary challenge facing Ethiopia can be overcome with farsightedness, the government needs to see to it that its decisions are well thought-out.