“Ethiopian Economists’” Open Letter to Professor Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia: A Habitual Case of Deprecation
Written by solomon
Monday, 07 March 2011 15:37

Adal Isaw adalisaw@yahoo.com
Sick and tired of listening to deprecation of Ethiopia by her son, a mother once replied, “…in the name of Saint Mary! Which one of us lives in Ethiopia? Son, stop telling me something that isn’t true; it’s not you but me who lives and see what it’s like to be in Ethiopia…”

For the few within the Ethiopian Diaspora, deprecations of the sort that befuddle our thoughts are perpetual cases of déjà vu. With their neo-liberal backers on their side, these very few tell us that Ethiopia is on a broken hinge—looking downward to a bottomless pit to nowhere—until we sell our land; open the “free market” to the likes of Monsanto; abrogate our sovereignty and abandon our doctrine of Revolutionary Democracy. Not only that, they “pray” day and night that we fail big time, just to say, “I have told you so.”

These are the few among many perpetual cases of déjà vu that we as a people, EPRDF, our Premier Meles Zenawi and so many of our friends around the world are facing. At this stage of our history, staying true to a narrative of not so true account of today’s Ethiopia, should have alarmed almost every one of us Ethiopians, especially, those with a title name that signifies authority—professor, medical doctor, lawyer, engineer and particularly economist.

You see; economic development requires knowledge of economics. And knowledge of economics is necessary but not sufficient, say, for Ethiopia to work itself out of poverty. If Ethiopia is to become a vibrant middle-income country, a great deal of work has to be done besides acquiring knowledge of economics. That is, a collective effort of each and every imaginable field of study has to be utilized. Of course, scholars may disagree on measures to be taken based on their school of thought specific to their field of expertise. But at the end of the day, those with cogent policy may prevail to implement measures better suited for Ethiopia. And those who’re at the “losing end,” should not stand outside the gate of an eighty million household, if what they’ve at heart is first and foremost the interest of the Ethiopian people. With this in mind, I read the open letter by the “Ethiopian Economists” to Dr. Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia, and I said to myself, “there we go again;” this is a perpetual case of déjà vu—a habitual case of deprecation, pointed at a brilliant friend who sees the good—not always the bad in Ethiopia.

One part that makes the open letter a perpetual case of déjà vu is the fact that it is written in collaboration by three PhDs, with hope to give their letter a bullying authority. This is not the first time where scholars collaborated to write their skewed take about Ethiopia. In 1992, five PhD holders wrote to foretell that ‘…Ethiopia is to become the next Somalia in a year or two.’ Few years later, the Network of Ethiopian Scholars (NES), a collaboration of PhDs, came into existence with the feeblest points of argument on peace, development, democracy and other political and philosophical issues. Now, the “Ethiopian Economists,” who would have otherwise benefited Ethiopia had they stayed beyond muddy politics, are taking turn to deprecate Ethiopia and all of its great friends at will. In so doing, they’ve set their tone of deprecation against anyone, including a world renowned economist Dr. Joseph Stiglitz, for truthfully bearing a positive view about Ethiopia and its Premier Meles Zenawi.

The “Ethiopian Economists” are deprecating Dr. Stiglitz for many reasons and the reasons are not limited to the following. One; Dr. Stiglitz is revered so much so that his positive view may continue to disabuse those with misapprehensions about Ethiopia and its Premier Meles Zenawi. Two; the forum that he facilitated at Columbia might have helped a plenty, to shade a light on those convoluted economic and political issues facing Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular. Three; the forum, in its aftermath, might have made a big dent on all counterproductive efforts being waged by the few within the Ethiopian Diaspora. By extension, an enervated counterproductive effort and a corrected misapprehension about Ethiopia and its Premier Meles Zenawi, especially within the academic circle, might have become a biting lose to groups like the “Ethiopian Economists.”

If the “Ethiopian Economists” continue to point their political fingers at everyone and anyone with a positive view and reverence toward Ethiopia and its Premier Meles Zenawi, they’ve to be ready to alienate many nations, nationalities, institutions and individuals—and among them from a very long list may include, President Clinton—for inviting Meles Zenawi to shine on the Clinton Global Initiative forum; all of the African leaders who bestowed their faith, trust and belief on a brilliant colleague; the great majority of Ethiopians who’re very proud of their country and proud of a Premier known for his penetrating insight on issues that matter to them. The deprecation of Dr. Stiglitz by the “Ethiopian Economists” in light of these hard-to-overcome facts is thus nothing but a habitual case of déjà vu in the form of an open letter. At the outset of the open letter, the “Ethiopian Economists” have nothing but praise and acclaim for Dr. Stiglitz. But their praise and acclaim were short-lived when they questioned his immense knowledge of economics by rejecting his judgment about Meles’s aptitude in economics. This is a logical disconnect—a gap that these three PhDs collectively fail to bridge.

The “Ethiopian Economists’” loudly spoken presumption is that Dr. Stiglitz is a world renowned economist; and their conclusion: Dr. Stiglitz miserably failed to grade Meles’s knowledge of economics. By so concluding, they’re asserting themselves as more knowledgeable to grade Premier Meles’s knowledge of economics. This is a classic example of rejecting one’s own presumption in an argument. And when the presumption in an argument is rejected, the argument falls apart because of a broken logical bridge—giving something else rather than sound logic to formulate the conclusion in the argument. In this case, the conclusion drawn by the “Ethiopian Economists” to reject Dr. Stiglitz’s positive grading of Meles’s knowledge of economics is not based on their own loudly spoken presumption, but rather, on habitual cases of misapprehensions about today’s Ethiopia and its Premier Meles Zenawi.

The “Ethiopian Economists’” open letter to Dr. Stiglitz is premised on misapprehensions—assumptions held without a proof about contentious political issues—like “genocide; everyday killings; torture; stolen elections; ethnic minority dictatorship…” These “economists” know quite well that economic development is possible even in nations where contentious political issues prevail. But, instead of working to make a difference in the development of Ethiopia with their frivolous political difference intact, this group is engaged in a sideshow for a reason that will forge no benefit to the overall growth of Ethiopia.

You see; knowledge of economics comes in arrays—side by side with differing school of thoughts on issues of economic development. For example, these “Ethiopian Economists” are taught to think much like many economists in America, and they’re as captivated as their American counterparts by the spell of the “free market.” For this reason and as far as these “Ethiopian Economists” are concerned, no economic policy on earth is good enough if it is not in sync with all the requirements of the “free market.” That is, for these “Ethiopian Economists,” there is no single economic policy of Ethiopia worthy of acclaim for what it has achieved, since Ethiopia’s development policy does not comply fully with all the requirements of the “free market.” The unappreciative school of thought of such a group of “economists,” in light of Ethiopia’s obvious economic and political progress should not befuddle most of us who see the “free market” for what it is; the “free market” is not free and the requirements it bears if any are in part instruments, which create asymmetric international economic and political relationships. Likewise, the open letter by the “Ethiopian Economists” to Dr. Stiglitz shouldn’t befuddle our thoughts, for it is a habitual case of deprecation—the political trade mark of the few within the Ethiopian Diaspora.