Upholding Merit-Based Appointment

by Zelalem

Ethiopia is endeavoring to join the ranks of middle-income countries within the next two decades or so.

Towards this end the Government of Ethiopia has taken the bold step of formulating and executing mega-projects despite the doubts expressed by many that it was out of its depth.

The country is in the final stretch of the first phase of the five-year Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP). This period witnessed the implementation of ambitious projects, among others, in the energy, telecom, road and railway sectors. The projects have attracted several overseas companies. This is indeed good news for the country as it very much needs foreign direct investment to accomplish the goal it has set out to achieve.

Ethiopia’s greatest capital is its people, not the natural or man-made resources it is endowed with. Its citizens, hence, must be steeped in morality and ethics if it is to extricate itself from the clutches of poverty and become a democratic, prosperous and peaceful nation.

Ethiopia is home to around eighty nations, nationalities and peoples which have different languages, cultures and creeds and which have coexisted and continue to live in harmony in spite of their diversity; it’s a symbol of tolerance and respect for one another. Therefore, it needs to build on and hand down to succeeding generations these positive attributes.

Historically, the people of Ethiopia are known for bravery, patriotism and hospitality. Their proud record of having never been colonized and compromised their nation’s sovereignty places them on a moral high ground. This is precisely why the intelligentsia, political elite, the business community, civil society, public officials and servants, etc, have to work towards inculcating ethical and moral values within the whole society.

The topic we would like to dwell on in this editorial is the perceived disregard for merit in the appointment of government officials. One can argue that most appointees yearn for power in consideration of its perks and do not have a proper appreciation of what it involves in terms of the grave responsibilities it entails. Admittedly, the appointer does not bestow someone with power just because he hankers for it.

The ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) has openly admitted in previous years that political loyalty is a key factor when it appoints someone to a position of power. By and large the vast majority of the officials it appointed during its 23-year tenure fit this bill. Merit played an insignificant role, if any, in their appointment.

Unarguably installing individuals in office solely because they unquestionably toe the ruling party line is bound to cost both the public and the nation dear. Since they lack self-confidence on account of the fact that they are well aware that they can be turfed out any time, they cannot discharge properly the duties entrusted to them. And because they are devoid of the requisite knowledge and capacity as well, they not become a source of maladministration and injustices, but are also liable to slow down the rapid growth the country has been registering over the past decade.

The scourge of corruption, which feeds off and is mutually reinforcible with incompetence and bureaucratic red tape, is disrupting the services the government delivers. As a result, it too is exacting a heavy toll on the national and public interest.

It is imperative that the officials the government appoints to positions of responsibility possess the necessary educational qualifications, experience and mindset. The ruling EPRDF must in particular abide by this principle given. Otherwise, the practice of assigning officials on the basis of their political loyalty alone will have unpleasant consequences for the party and the public at large.

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