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Ethiopia moves ahead, despite problems


Exclusive among the African countries, The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia has never been colonized, apart from a five-year occupation by Mussolini's Italy. Poverty is so deep-rooted that Ethiopia is counted as one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita income of only $110 dollars per year. Agriculture accounts for half of the country’s GDP, 90% of exports and 80% of total employment. Still Ethiopians have not pinned any hopes from agro-industry as it depends totally on the erratic weather conditions. Agriculture sector suffers from drought and poor cultivation practices. This deprives over 5 million people of food and basic nutrition each year. The image of famine and drought has long defined the world’s view of Ethiopia.

The nation has a rich traditional background and a lot to tell of its long history. It is mentioned in both the testaments of Bible and the civilization can be traced back to 1100 BC. Sadly the country of rich tradition is succumbing to environmental, social and economic hassles. The country suffers from extreme poverty, lack of basic facilities like food, health care, housing, education, safe and healthy environment. In the absence of basic amenities, life expectancy of Ethiopians is as low as 48 years. It is a vicious circle of natural calamities like draught and famine, which leads to poverty, malnourishment and then heavy dependence on external food assistance.

The condition is no better in other areas like healthcare and education. With only 33% of boys and less then 20% girls enrolled in school, education is found in patches. Inadequate teachers, materials and school facilities are main reasons behind poor education in Ethiopia.

Healthcare facilities too are limited only to a few cities and totally insufficient in places outside the city. Only about 20% of Ethiopians have genuine access to some form of primary care. Lack of medical equipments and medicines add to the woe of Ethiopians.

Ethiopia is in strong grip of such many problems making the life of Ethiopians miserable. Still, amidst all the despondency, if worked on the tourism of the nation, it might find a hope to start things afresh and make living of Ethiopians better.

Ethiopia's distressed image is painfully real: bloody war and famine have taken their toll on the country. Despite this, Ethiopia's ancient history and superb landscape make it a wonderful destination for culture and nature lovers. With development of tourist infrastructure, it can become a tourist’s paradise.

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Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

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