By Teweldeberhan Gebre
I regularly watch out government-affiliated websites’ and social medias’ news and postings on mining prospects and activities related to Eritrea. These media outlets deliberately select news and analysis items that fit into the Eritrean regime propaganda mailbox. These outfits deliberately try to hide real issues such as poverty, inequality, and the decaying Eritrea’s economy. They always falsely try to depict good images of the government. They keep telling us that the government is investing in infrastructures while actually capital expenditure is the lowest by national standard and compared to all nations. Being afraid of critical views on the economy and the massive poverty of our people, they prefer to debates on nonsense issues coming from here and there. They deliberately withhold and refuse to discuss real issues such as the endemic poverty levels back home, the mismanagements of natural resources endowments including the mismanagement of the mining income, lands, and the human resources endowments.
It is time to shed light on the pros and cons of government policy and its impacts on the Eritrean people. By doing that the public can learn and ask critical questions related to transparency, accountability, and misappropriations of the country’s natural and human resources endowments. Blind supporters and opponents should stop selectively reporting on Eritrea. People are suffering from the lack of basic supplies including food, clean water, and medicines. Our people are denied access to basic livelihood assets such as land and housing. For the last 25 years, our youngsters were not allowed to establish families because they were not allowed their ancestral land. We need to be responsible and send clear messages to the regime to change its policy and behavior so that our people can enjoy decent life in their home country.
Let me give my followers a piece of information posted by certain regime-affiliated Facebook page so-called “Hagerawi D’Hnet,” and how I see its relevance in the context of doing business in Eritrea in general. Regime-affiliated sites such as the above always rush to tell Eritrea’s position wherever and whenever it fits and serves their leftist and propagandist viewpoints. If you happen to ask critical questions about an issue that is relevant to the people and country you need to expect embarrassing languages and words from these irresponsible citizens. That is fine. We do it for our people and country not for politicians’ sake. Hagerawi D’Hnet picked Eritrea’s 2016 rank on mining “Investment Attractiveness Index (IAI)” from the Fraser Institute’s “Annual Survey of Mining Companies: 2016”. As in Figure 1 below, in 2016 Eritrea ranks 6th out of 18 Sub-Sahara African countries included in the survey.
Figure 1: Investment Attractiveness Index-Africa, Ranking
Source: Fraser Institute, 2016
According to the Fraser Institute, the IAI is a composite measure of “Best Practices Mineral Potential Index, which rates regions based on their geologic attractiveness, and the Policy Perception Index, a composite index that measures the effects of government policy on attitudes toward exploration investment.” According to the survey “respondents consistently indicate that only about 40 percent of their investment decision is determined by policy factors,” including “onerous regulations, taxation levels, the quality of infrastructure, and the other policy related questions respondents answered.” Nevertheless, as a country attracting investment in the mining sector is positive and deserves credit.
The question is: what does it mean for the people of Eritrea? People back home are denied to work and do businesses to support themselves and their families. That was exactly the messages of the Central Region People’s Assembly in its recent deliberation. In fact, in Eritrea, the investment climate for Eritreans is among the worst in the globe. The World Bank ranks countries according to their suitability for doing business known as “Ease of Doing Business Rank.” The Ease of Doing Business Index is a composite average of 11 indicators, namely, starting the business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investment, paying tax, trading across borders, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, and labor market regulations.
The Bank regularly updates the status of countries in the ease of doing businesses so that to shed “light on how easy or difficult it is for a local entrepreneur to open and run a small to medium-size business when complying with relevant regulations.” As in Figure 2 below, in 2016 and even before, Eritrea ranks 189 out of 190 countries, ahead of Somalia, in the Ease of Doing Business rankings. Eritreans are not ignorant about this situation. However, websites, blogs and social medias close to the Eritrean government keep blinding the public, probably out of their ignorance and pigheadedness.
Figure 2: Ease of Doing Business Sub-Sahara Africa-ranks
Source: World Bank, 2016
It is important to note that the above ranking is based on the perceptions of people of each respective country. In each of the 11 indicators of the “Ease of Doing Business Index” Eritreans expressed their views about the difficulties of doing businesses in their homeland. Do you think Eritreans are dishonest in their judgement? So, what is the message of “Hagerawi D’Hnet’ and the like to the diaspora Eritreans? Isn’t it deplorable?
Pro-human development governments promote a business-friendly regulatory environment and create a conducive environment for business start-ups and operations. By doing that, they create decent jobs, and wealth for further investment. However, governments such as ours and their left wing supporters keep fooling themselves by selectively posting reports and news that fit to purpose. A government that doesn’t want to say anything about the suffering of its people, and completely failed to disclose the use of the nation’s natural endowments doesn’t deserve appreciation at all.
My message for Hagerawi D’Hnet and its likes is that: “Out of ignorance do not harm Eritrea and its people”!