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Economic, social and cultural transformations (Part III)

The growth of markets and commercial operations to facilitate economic activity and as a source of revenue constituted a part of the EPLF’s economic program. This includes the organization and distribution of goods produced internally for social consumption and export, as well as running profitable import-export operations. Primacy was given to supplying basic consumer goods to the population, as the war, the Dergue’s embargo on our liberation and semi-liberated areas and the sky rocketing of prices caused by the devastation of the economy due to drought had created much adversity. Public institutions on their part tried to supply basic consumer items at cost utilizing EPLF provided loans and transport facilities, as well as public contributions. But as these efforts were not enough to cover all requirements due to the lack of capital, the EPLF’s Commerce Commission opened shops selling goods at cost and encouraged traders to supply essential goods at reasonable prices.The policy of setting up and controlling prices -which went hand in hand with the incentives provided to traders to engage in profitable commercial activities did not succeed due to the greed and manipulation of the traders. It was also not possible to properly administer the levying of taxes and duties due to the difficult condition of war, the extent of area that had to be covered, the sophistication contrabandist as well as the EPLF concentration on other tasks. The EPLF has also embarked on various commercial enterprises both inside the country and abroad. Their income has solved many problems, but the enterprises have not grown because management technique has not yet been mastered and profit made were consumed restricting capital accumulation. In general the EPLF’s main financial source has remained the dues paid by members and contribution from our people both inside the country and abroad. But, this important source has been seriously affected by the weakening of the economy and the lack of employment.

The EPLF relies on its policy of self-reliance to persecute the liberation struggle and build the national economy. The implementation of this policy has involved raising the consciousness of the people, upgrading their know how, skill and participation in production, laying down an infra-structure foundation; fostering creativity and innovation to increase what can be locally produced, independence from market forces; protecting the wealth of the people and the nation; developing a just system of distribution of wealth and produce, instituting just and cooperative relation based on common interest; and developing a well-organized and streamlined planning and implementation system. The experience gained constitutes a precious national wealth and the tangible result achieved attest to the correctness of the policy of self-reliance and the EPLF’s serious commitment to that policy.

Education is a decisive weapon on national reconstruction and economic development. The Eritrean people’s cultural level has lagged behind as a result of successive colonialism. Particularly in the era of Ethiopian colonialism, and continuous war. An entire generation-educational and cultural developments came to stop. This has been exploited by colonialists and internal opportunist forces to promote their political schemes. It’s virtually impossible for an uneducated population to be active in politics, properly administer its affairs, improve its economic conditions and achieve development.

The EPLF’s educational policy is based on recognition of these facts. It has broad aims, with eradication of illiteracy as its primary and fundamental objectives. Literacy and the raising of educational levels are an integral part of the campaign to politicize, organize and arm the people. Before the strategic withdrawal, the program was implemented over a broad area and an intensive literacy campaign had began to bear fruit. Although the program was impeded, for a time, by the strategic withdrawal, it was resumed and developed as a regular mass-activity complementing production and other aspects of social life. Schools were also opened in various parts of the country. The colonial regime has actively pursued the policy of destroying the schools and hunting down teachers, while in the area under its control and especially in the cities, it has diffused a colonialist culture, lowered the quality of education and attempted to corrupt the youth, in order to prevent the new generation from gaining the proper education. The negative impact of this policy has grown with time.

The war and the attendant disruption of life, the existence of many areas in the county where schooling had never been introduced and the consequent cultural gap among different sectors of the population have been obstacles to the balanced development of the society and participation in the liberation struggle. As a result, the creation of a wide educational opportunity for Eritrean children and youth was given high priority in the educational program. To this end, schools, up to middle school level, were opened in all liberated and semi-liberated areas, and especially in those areas that had previously been denied this opportunity. The effort made to expand and upgrade the “revolution school” is one example. Steps were also taken to establish and expand the technical school in order to train personnel in different trades for the purpose of national development and nation-building.

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