The foot soldiers of the Prosperity Party (PP)...

Dec 21 , 2019

The foot soldiers of the Prosperity Party (PP) were busy last week addressing business leaders gathered at the various hotels in the city, including the Sheraton and Hilton, gossip observed. They were galvanising the business community to raise the 3.2 billion Br the party leaders set out to generate to finance the yet-to-be registered party, which is poised to challenge its political foes in the electoral battleground, claims gossip.

Those in charge of PP do swear in having the desire to do their politics different from their predecessor, the EPRDF, gossip observed. The emphasis they give to the unity of the country - as opposed to amplifying its diversity - is the most noticeable, claims gossip. The temptation to embrace political and economic liberalism and the urge to change the leftist political culture that has dominated public life for over the past half-century are the traits those at the gossip corridors see in the Prosperity Party's way of conducting business.

Nonetheless, old habits die hard. They seem far removed from untangling themselves from the old ways of co-opting the business community to doll out money whether or not the donors are convinced of the cause, claims gossip. Many in the private sector see it as a way of buying an insurance policy against perceived retaliation coming their way should they show defiance in the face of power, gossip observed.

It is unfair to blame only the politicians though, says gossip. The initiative often comes from some of the leaders in the business community who may see opportunities to brush shoulders with the emerging political elite, claims gossip. The tradition is that some over-enthusiastic businesspeople form a committee to go around lobbying others in the various industries to donate funds in the service of an incumbent political force as the case is now, disclosed gossip.

A new committee has been formed by Abinet Woldemeskel and Tadesse Tilahun, shareholders of National Oil Company, where Mohammed Ali Al-Amoudi (sheihk)holds a majority stake, reveals gossip. Other businesspeople such as Alemayehu Ketema and Belayneh Kindie, heavy heaters in the construction and export sectors, respectively, are part of the committee tasking itself with raising money for the PP, gossip disclosed.

Up until last week, the committee has managed to secure pledges amounting to 600 million Br, including 100 million Br from companies under MIDROC Ethiopia who have promised to donate to PP, gossip disclosed. It is not clear though if this amount includes the 20 million Br apportioned to Dashen Bank, where several business interests under MIDROC and individuals in Al-Amoudi's orbit hold shares, says gossip.

Dashen Bank was not alone in finding itself on the receiving end of this apportioning, according to gossip. Earlier last week, there was a meeting organised by those at the central bank and chaired by Abebe Abebayehu, commissioner of the Ethiopian Investment Commission, with CEOs of the banks and insurance firms, gossip disclosed.

Abebe tried to sell the PP as a political force that stands in the interest of the private sector; hence, their support in its bid for the electoral win, claims gossip. Many were not in the mood to engage in political dialogue, perhaps unsure of what to do in the absence of a nod from their respective board of directors, says gossip. Except for Kiros Jirane, the CEO of Africa Insurance, who objected to donating to a partisan political party, but said he would seek the consent of his directors, gossip disclosed.

While up to five million Birr and three million Birr was expected from the banks and insurance firms, respectively, Abraham Alero, the CEO from Berhan Bank, produced a cheque amounting to 10 million Br on the spot, gossip disclosed. Awash and Oromia Cooperative banks have reportedly pledged to donate up to 20 million Br each, while many of the other banks will give between 10 million to 15 million Br, depending on what their directors say, according to gossip.

Those in the beverage industry, many of them disgruntled due to the recently introduced bill on the excise tax, and the cement industry will likely be subjected to donations reaching tens of millions of Birr, claims gossip.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 21,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1025]

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