“2015 Is a Transition Period Which Gives a Clear Picture of the New Chapter We Are About To Enter:”President Isaias
It is to be recalled that President Isaias Afwerki conducted an interview with the national media outlets on the 30th of December 2014 mainly focusing on domestic affairs in connection with the New Year. In the interview that was broadcast live through Eritrean Television and the radio highlighting all-round national and regional developments, as well as future prospects, the President shed light on the implementation and progress of development programs, nation-building programs set for implementation in 2015 and other domestic and regional issues. Here is an excerpt of the second part of the interview.
You’re Excellency! Let’s proceed to domestic affairs. It is very noticeable that tremendous activities have been carried out with regards ensuring food security, and huge investment has been made in different infrastructures. Thus, it seems, a great leap has been made towards better achievement. But, what is your vision about Eritrea in the next three to five years?
“What is your vision about Eritrea?” Well, this is not an easy question that could be answered without thinking over and over. The general development concept we have been pursuing and all the programs we have been carrying out are well known to everybody. But, it is worth to repeat what is known to everybody and use it as a source of reference.
This country belongs to all nationals. We are well aware of how we achieved our liberation and independence and about the road we traveled through towards that very end. However, what were the aspirations and great expectations of the entire people in making huge sacrifices of all sorts? If we consider what we went through as a sacrifice for a common cause, we could come to a common understanding. Nevertheless, do our expectations match with the reality? Since this country is equal to every national, all our development programs, policies, and all projects have been in line with enabling all nationals to have equal access to all natural resources. What is the overall picture of living standards of over 95% of the Eritrean society? A huge gap of living standards which are inherited ones or results from different reasons need to be narrowed. Lifestyle of all citizens of this country is not the same. Thus, any gap including a minimal difference should be steadily narrowed. The existing gap among those with resources and those disadvantaged, among hard workers and manipulators should be narrowed. The uneven standards of living among cities and villages, cities and semi urban centers, and different geographical locations of this country need to be changed. The huge gap in living standards of nationals in different parts of this country including big cities should be reduced. The ultimate goal is to minimize the gap. If this narrowing of gap is to be achieved, all development programs that could be divide sector by sector need to be collectively directed to hit the envisaged target. The final result should also be maintained steadily without any fluctuation. The development programs should have an ever growing momentum which secures sustainability. This is not only a general or ambitious vision, but is rather an expectation of the people who paid huge sacrifice. Hence, what should be done if this great expectation is to be realized? This could be seen sector by sector or in different regions. We have been working through dividing the country into three regions of development undertakings as a best approach to reach the envisaged goal. Eastern development region that includes coastal areas, the second region stretches from the edges of Nakfa to the edges of Southern region mainly covering highlands, and the third is western development region. As these all development regions have their own differences in terms of geographical placement, climatic condition, as well as different resources, any program to be carried out is mainly based on the nature of the development regions. All the development programs are mapped out in a way that ensures their implementation on the ground. There should be a clear plan to make sure the program is tangible but not only a general vision or expectation. The programs may not be final ones but could be gradually developed to big projects which could lead to the ultimate end. The integration among programs should be continuously reinforced for a better result. If the development programs are to be seen topic by topic, the utmost priority is security of water supply that could be utilized for different purposes. Nothing is possible without adequate supply of water. Development programs are hugely dependent on supply of water. Supply of water could be secured through using sea water, but there is no need to do so.
Taking into account that water plays a decisive role in any development undertaking, we have been diligently working to increase the amount of water we could impound. No matter what the amount is, we have been engaged in reserving water in all parts of the country. It is only when supply of water is secured that the topics like agriculture and other development programs could be discussed. Without water, nothing could be said about different industrial works. Water takes a leading place in all development programs. Food security is seen in line with secured water supply. Food security alone is not, however, sufficient. We should go beyond it. Besides water conservation, utilization of water should also be carefully planned. We should also exploit rain feed agriculture to its utmost level. The impact of water in agriculture and general economic growth of a country is not to be viewed lightly. Above all, there are strategies, programs and projects that go in line with the plans that are aimed at annually increasing the amount of ground and surface water resources. Apart from impounding or reserving water, there are plans to judiciously utilize such a resource. If asked about the result of the investment we made in water supply, we would say the efforts we have exerted have taken us towards the final goal. If we are to fully achieve food security, the size of farmland we intend to cultivate along the amount of water that we could impound and the amount of annual harvest, in terms of type, needs to be increased. We could, at this point in time, say we are marching on the right track towards that end. It is not only about surface or underground water resource or about water impounded in different reservoirs, but is largely about huge investment which would follow later on. Infrastructure for water reservation could be put in place; however, other distribution infrastructures and energy supply is required to fetch the water to a desired place. Investment should be made if the irrigation technology that is planned to be introduced is going to bring fruitful outcome by all standards. Since people are the end users of such resource, investment should be made to enable people have good understanding of such programs and make ultimate use of it. Once water is reserved, proper management is what comes next. It could be said extensive campaign has so far been made as regards water management. If not in the next two or three months, what we confidently say is, 2015 is going to show us the extent of a major leap we are about to make or where we are to head to. Even though we have not yet accomplished all the setout programs, taking into account all resources that are related to agriculture, livestock, other industries that are related to agriculture, marine resources, cash crops we are at a threshold of registering a major progress and 2015 going to be a transition to a new chapter. Apart from supply of water, we have so far accomplished other successful projects too. What comes along water is the issue of supply of energy in every spot where water is impounded. It could be said there is no supply of electricity in this country. There should exist and effective water pumping system that gives a 24 hours service. This demand of energy could not only be generated from big power plants, but it should be rather fulfilled with renewable sources such as wind and solar energy. We have been revising the strategy we had about supply of electricity. The western region of this country is to be given an utmost priority in the supply of electricity. If all agricultural and agro industrial plants of this region are to be functional, this region need to have supply of electricity ahead of any part of this country. The existing supply of electricity around Fanko, Aligidir and Teseney represent a limited area of the region. Leaving Haykota aside, all areas to the north such as Akordet, Afhimbol, Kerkebet and other areas that stretch until Sel’a have its own supply of energy. There is also a separate program that is gradually to be implemented in the environs of northern Afabet that goes to Nakfa. This all programs will go parallel with agriculture, water, food security and other development activities. When we speak of agriculture it does not only mean about cereal corps, but we have also introduced extensive programs. There are cotton, sugar cane, and flowers plantations that have not yet shown good progress. Apart from cereal crops, there are programs as regards cash crops. If the existing economic burden in different agricultural produce such as wheat, sorghum, millet, corn and other different grains that we continue to import along other consumables is to be alleviated, it remains a huge topic as what should be done in agricultural and the overall food security programs. There are also programs that are related to livestock, dairy and meat products. If these agricultural programs are to operate effectively, there should be reliable supply of electricity. As it is not practical to distribute electricity supply generated from one central area to all regions of the country, the general concept we previously had has been changed and we are phase by phase introducing separate sources of supply of electricity in the aforementioned areas.
What comes next with regards to the supply of energy is infrastructure. Effective infrastructure of roads should be put in place. Such effective roads infrastructure is a prerequisite if the economic and agricultural hubs in which the supply of water and electricity has gradually been enhanced are to be integrated to the economic activities and the livelihood of people. There are huge land, aviation and marine transportation programs that are still postponed. These projects have been postponed because we have other priorities. The issue is whether this is the right time to work on these projects or not. We have big development projects in Massawa and Assab ports. There is also a plan to develop airports in line with domestic and regional services as well as to upgrade to international standards due to its economic importance. If we are, for instance, to export flowers, there should be an airport as well as smooth land transportation system that takes to the airport.
Parallel to roads, railways, and beyond it ropeways has been considered. There should be a presence of a speedy transportation inside the country, in the neighboring as well as in other countries. If cooperation among neighboring countries is to be realized, an infrastructure that links us with Sudan, Djibouti, and Ethiopia as well as with different countries along other local infrastructures is included in the program. These all are collectively physical infrastructures. Beyond that I call them software. But, enhanced competence of people that could integrate all the programs is needed.Human capacity is highly important towards improving all economic and agricultural and particularly food security or industry (manufacturing), tourism services and others that could have big contribution in our regional and global activities. The greatest challenge we have been witnessing in all the endeavors is educating people. Since people are the end user and beneficiary of all the projects, if there exists an agricultural project in a respective area, raising people’s awareness as regards making ultimate use is highly essential. Without raising huge topics, 2015 is a transition period which gives a clear picture of the new chapter we are about to enter. However, there are activities that should be carried out in the upcoming two or three months. We have imported huge number of machineries in the last two-three years with an aim of implementing all the development programs we have. At first the number of machineries seemed more than sufficient. But, let alone to satisfy all the demand we have, it has become clear that such number could not sustain us anymore. So, we are planning to import as equal to that number in 2015 before the beginning of the rainy season. As regards human capacity, there is more than enough readiness. We have been able to educate and mobilize enough capacity. We do not have any deficit to begin decisive programs that would be carried out phase by phase. There is also huge demand of resources. These machineries would demand oil, spare parts and other essential items to run them properly and sustainably. Generally, 2015 would become an entrance to a new chapter. We would have tangibly indication on what the future would be especially in the next two to three years.