Dec 28 , 2019

An unfortunate culture of focusing on snatching quick money rather than working hard to earn an honest living is thriving in the country. What's more worrying is that misguided government policies are rewarding the scoundrels over the honest workers, writes HANNA HAILEin this week's View from Arada.

We stood at the doors of the document authentication bureau and the dellala(Broker) tells me he would like to be paid 2,000 Br more than our agreement. I stood there in disbelief, unable to find the words to explain all that I wished to say. Piggybacking on my surprised silence his plea continued, “I am a poor man. This is nothing to you.” I felt my blood boil as the payment he was getting was nothing close to what I used to earn in my jobs. I admired his will and energy to get into business for himself, but this was not that. He was asking to be given more than what he was worth. He was asking to be given something he did not earn. I was upset.

In Ethiopia, this is a trend in the work industry. There seems to be a problem figuring out how to properly compensate those who are focused on productive work.

This overvaluation of work and money is rampant in Ethiopia’s workforce. Young people are often under compensated for demanding work, while some are settling for mentalities that revolve around fast cash-making schemes.

In the past week, Ethiopia has received multiple funding streams from monetary institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. While some funds have a clear proposed purpose, others are still in the process of planning. Today we have a country that has a revenues office that rightfully needs to collect taxes, yet it is not well supported as the decisions being made do not serve the long-term changes we hope to see in our country.

Within each industry, the gap between those who are earning money and those who are working, evolving and nurturing their skills is widening. Those who focus less on the work being done while collecting money are being rewarded over and over again, making those who are sticklers for change feel like obstacles.

Real change happens slowly, especially change related to the big mission of building a nation. In the past few years, we have been focusing more and more on the statistics of our earnings. The government cannot keep playing fast and loose with regulations that have such high human impacts. The fact that the recent excise taxes put on the table are already having huge implications that are being felt within the private sector even before official execution is problematic. Some news outlets have shared that foreign investment in breweries have made decisions to scale back new investment, which has implications on the steady employment these behemoths bring forth.

The private sector needs a voice in decision-making processes. While the government’s duty is to protect its citizens, it is also not an all-knowing power. Discussion while learning from the various people who are running investments is part of what growth can be in Ethiopia. The disconnection between these relationships causes the integrity of our economy to suffer.

The consistency of what we would like to achieve is not reflected in everyday tasks. Focusing on statistics will not benefit us long term if the only reason we are measuring is to push for increased numbers. In performance indications, increasing numbers do not always signify growth. Sustainability, durability and standardisation of systems are what our development should aim for. There will never be enough money in the world to assist Ethiopia if we choose to focus on the small picture.

If industries are not seeing the big picture, it is the responsibility of our leaders to lead by example. Programmes that issue tax holidays to new business owners should be encouraged as this support would be the reason they can become entrepreneurs shaping the economy. Yet the actions of a misguided revenues office that is counting the tens and twenties it is collecting from small business owners, forcing them to go out of business while big businesses thrive on manipulating the loopholes in the tax system, might mean we have lost our way.

The big picture is investing in human development. Instead of moving the same backward mentality from the old house to a new house, masking its ugliness, our biggest power will come when we choose to invest in people. We must focus on the various facets of our economy that are linked to our human development and create working systems - those with checks and balances that do not reward those who are betting on fast cash but those working on innovative ideas and executing them professionally.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 28,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1026]

Hanna Haile is the founder of Zellan Creative & Cultural Center. She can be reached at (

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