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Opposition Party Demands Halt to Ethio Telecom Privatisation

June 26 , 2020

The Ethiopians Citizens for Social Justice, known in its Amharic acronym EZEMA, has sharply criticized the ruling party‚Äės decision to privatize Ethiotelecom.

The Ethiopians Citizens for Social Justice, known by its Amharic acronym EZEMA, has sharply criticized the ruling party‚Äės decision to privatise Ethio telecom. Stating that it lacked public dialogue, it called for the administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to "immediately stop" the process.

The Ethiopian government is actively pursuing the divestment of 45pc of its ownership in the state-owned telecom monopoly to a foreign firm and five percent to Ethiopian citizens. The Ministry of Finance has hired an international consulting firm, KPMG, to conduct a valuation of the company and is in the process of hiring another firm to advise it on the partial privatisation.

Although the administration set up a public advisory group to monitor the process, not everyone is happy about the decision to privatise what critics say is a national asset.

EZEMA came out publicly today with strong words, underlining the importance of telecom as the blood vessel of media outlets, its role in national and military information correspondence, and as a source of national security data. The administration should see beyond further profiting from the company and value its creative and research potential and as the driving motor behind other economic sectors, the party said in a statement.

The decision to privatise, which EZEMA says only considers Ethio telecom merely as a common information exchange tool, could endanger the existence of the country and should be given more consideration by the government.

"Selling to a foreign company will create undue influence as witnessed by other countries," the statement said. "As profit is the driving factor for these companies, it would have effects on employee numbers and wages as well as telecom service tariffs."

EZEMA warned that making a decision where it is hard to envision the economic landscape of the world post COVID-19, is more harmful than beneficial and that, "these decisions should not only be beneficial to us today but need to ensure the economic and social liberty of future generations."

Led by Brehanu Nega, EZEMA follows a social democratic platform in contrast to the liberal ethos of the incumbent Prosperity Party (PP).

The party cited the fall of worldwide telecom stock value to claim that the foreign currency gained through privatisation in this time will undoubtedly be at a rate where it has lost value from buyers. It argued that there has not been legal acceptance of strategic sectors that play a key role in the future of this country nor has the incumbent prioritised important issues or conducted adequate study.

"Without consultation with the people and their representatives and in the absence of approval from any relevant body," EZEMA claims the decision to privatise came as a result of external pressures.

"It needs to halt immediately," urged the party.

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