President Girma Woldegiorgis says Ethiopia's economy grew
at a 10.1 percent rate over the past year, even though poor rains crippled the
dominant agriculture sector and curtailed power generation, forcing a partial
shutdown of factories.
Speaking to the opening session of parliament on Monday, the
president called the growth 'a remarkable achievement'.
"The fact that our economy has been able continuously to
register growth rates of more than 10-percent annually for the last six
consecutive years in such difficult global and domestic circumstances is an
attestation of the success of our policies and strategies designed to speed up
our development," he said.
Ethiopia's president chided economists who had warned that Ethiopia
could not achieve double digit growth without fueling inflation. He suggested,
but stopped short of predicting, that government policies would succeed in
achieving the same economic feat this year.
In a translation of his speech, which was delivered in Amharic,
Girma said, "Our objective will be to continue the pace of rapid economic
growth by registering a growth rate of 10-percent for the seventh consecutive
year, and while controlling inflation at less than 10-percent."
Girma's announcement came just weeks after Ethiopia's Prime
Minister, Meles Zenawi, pegged the growth rate for the past year as low as 9.2
percent. As recently as April, the government had forecast 11.2 percent growth.
Ethiopia's political opposition immediately rejected Mr. Girma's
figures. Prominent opposition leader Merera Gudina accused the government of
'cooking' (changing) the data. He said average Ethiopians would know the
figures were false because their standard of living has failed to improve.
International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials were not
immediately available for comment, but the IMF earlier estimated an increase of
6.5 percent or less for Ethiopia during the fiscal year that ended in July.
Ethiopia is among the world's poorest countries. Its agriculture
sector, which supports more than 80 percent of the population, has been hit by
a third consecutiveyear of drought.
The government's latest figures suggest one out of six
Ethiopians, or nearly 14 million people, are in need of food aid.