Ethiopia’s leader aims to maintain tight rein on key businesses

from the Financial Times..

May 27, 2013, By Katrina Manson in Addis Ababa

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Ethiopia’s new prime minister has ruled out loosening state control of key businesses, dealing a blow to foreign investors circling one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and sending a clear signal that his administration will stick closely to the statist policies advocated by his predecessor.

Hailemariam Desalegn, who took over from Meles Zenawi after the latter’s death nine months ago, said the telecoms, retail and banking industries in Africa’s second-most populous country after Nigeria were still too weak to withstand external competition.

“This sector [telecoms] is a cash cow, and that’s why the private sector wants to get in there, and they’re trying to tell us all kinds of stories … to get the licence,” he told the Financial Times. “We want to use that money for infrastructure development.”

Mr Hailemariam’s stance on privatisation in the state-dominated economy is at odds with much of the rest of the continent, where private investment by African and global companies has transformed the quality and accessibility of services.


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But in some ways he has begun to make his mark. Last month he directed state security to arrest dozens of high-level officials on suspicion of corruption. He has sought to bring down inflation and more closely monitor spending on the large infrastructure projects favoured by his predecessor. The International Monetary Fund, which predicts growth of 6.5 per cent this year, has urged the government to slow the pace of public spending and open up to the private sector….

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