PM Abiy Ahmed’s Project X(cellent) Thunderbolt | ZeHesha

PM Abiy Ahmed’s Project X(cellent) Thunderbolt

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By  Alemayehu G Mariam

… We have a big problem generating foreign exchange. I want to appeal to you now to bring the money [dollars, Euros] you have stashed away in Dubai. We are facing severe hard currency problems. We have the problem not as a government but as a country. We want you to help us now.

I’m appealing to you to bring back the money [you have illicitly transferred out of the country]. It does not matter if bring it back from the friends and relatives you have kept it with or from wherever you have stashed it… That is why we are coming to you and saying we are in big trouble, help us. We are not saying give us money. What we are saying is return the money you moved out of the country [and make it available for hard currency and help the people]. If you help us now, at another time you can say to us you helped us when we were most in need and you should expect us to help you [in your time of need].

Those who are ripping off the country and accumulating wealth in other countries, it is only a matter of time before we get to them. It is only a matter of time before a proper solution is found… That money if it’s returned will alleviate a lot of problems… April 17, 2018

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt. Sun Tzu, one of the greatest military strategists and tacticians of the ancient world in The Art of War.

2013 shall mark the beginning of a new epoch, a new era in Ethiopian history!” Alemayehu G. Mariam, September 10, 2020

Thunderbolt in the Ethiopian New Year

On September 13, 2020, two days into the Ethiopian New Year, H.E. Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed dropped a thunderbolt on Ethiopia!

He announced in an unscheduled, nationally televised address demonetization of the current notes and introduction of new Birr notes for 10, 50 and 100 denominations and a novel Birr 200. Within 90 days, the old notes will no longer serve as a legal tender.

PM Abiy said the new currency has been in planning for some time under what he called “Project X”.

Few people knew about “Project X” and even fewer expected demonetization. Those who knew were not talking.

Even the know-nothing, do-nothing, empty barrel YouTube clicking vultures of social media had a clue.

Amazingly, in a political world that leaks like a sieve, not an inkling about demonetization got out.

Maintaining a complete information blackout on such a vital issue testifies to the extraordinary team PM Abiy has assembled to deal with Ethiopia’s economic problems and put an end to the kleptocratic thugtatorship of the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The demonetization announcement came out of the dark and impenetrable night and fell on the “money changers” like a thunderbolt!

In retrospect, it should have been called “Project Thunderbolt.”

To me, demonetization is the equivalent of cleansing the Ethiopian Temple from the merchants of death and economic doom and casting out parasitic dens of thieves and thugs who have been bleeding dry the poor people of Ethiopia for decades.

Woe to the TPLF that stole and counterfeited over 100 billion Birr!

Woe to the corrupt money hoarders who stashed cash under their mattresses, in their backyards, underground vaults and secret locations and neighboring countries!

Woe to the money launderers who kept multiple bank accounts to conceal their stolen loot!

Woe to the tax evaders and cheats who secreted billions of Birr to avoid paying their fair share!

Woe to smugglers, counterfeiters and money changers!

In 2013, I prophesied, “Meles and his worshippers have profoundly troubled the Ethiopian house and they shall inherit the wind!”

In a single act, a coup de grace, PM Abiy cleaned the Ethiopia Temple/House and cast the criminals that had troubled the Ethiopia House for 27 years like chaff into the wind.

I am glad to announce the TPLF is gone with the wind and into the trash bin of history just like I predicted in October 2017!

Why doesn’t PM Abiy starve the Beast?

I must confess one of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Why doesn’t PM Abiy change the currency? The TPLF is using the billions of Birr it stole and counterfeited to destabilize the country. Why doesn’t he starve the TPLF beast of cash?”

What I know for sure and remember is a speech PM Abiy made less than two weeks after he took office, which I documented in my April 29, 2018 commentary.

 

On April 17, 2018, PM Abiy pleaded with those who have sucked Ethiopia dry and appealed to their sense of patriotism:

… We have a big problem generating foreign exchange. I want to appeal to you now to bring back the money [dollars, Euros] you have stashed away in Dubai. We are facing severe hard currency problems. We have the problem not as a government but as a country.  We want you to help us now. If you ask me why, [let me use a metaphor to explain it to you]. If your mother is sick and her children do not help her get better, it makes no sense for them to show up at her funeral. Our country is in deep trouble, specifically with hard currency. The government will do what it can, but I’m appealing to you to bring back the money [you have illicitly transferred out of the country]. It does not matter if bring it back from the friends and relatives you have kept it with or from wherever you have stashed it. You understand exactly what I mean when I say bring it back. If you don’t, the problem is not going to be solved easily. That is why we are coming to you and saying we are in big trouble, help us. We are not saying give us money. What we are saying is return the money you moved out of the country [and make it available for hard currency and help the people]. If you help us now, at another time you can say to us you helped us when we were most in need and you should expect us to help you [in your time of need]. You have to help us very much right now. [It is futile] for you to be just asking the government to give you [hard currency we do not have], you must also give back…

[There are many] Ethiopians who have stashed away a lot of money in Dubai and China. Huge amounts of wealth. We are asking them to return the money back to the country. By the way, the Chinese when their citizens have stashed away money outside the country, they use whatever power they have to go into those countries and get the money back to China. We have not reached that point, but we’ll get there. Those who are ripping off the country and accumulating wealth in other countries, it is only a matter of time before we get to them. It is only a matter of time before a proper solution is found… That money if it’s returned will alleviate a lot of problems…

Over the past year, PM Abiy continued to plead with the money changers, hoarders, thieves and crooks to bring it back the billions of Birr they stole into the banking system and help the country.

No questions asked!

The crooks just did not believe PM Abiy.

They mistook his pleadings for peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and love of each other and country for weakness.

They mistook his patience and tolerance of their nonsense for fear and lack of self-confidence.

They underestimated him terribly in every respect.

In August 2018, I advised everyone not to mistake the velvet glove for the iron fist. I warned, “When push comes to shove, PM Abiy will take off the velvet glove and everyone will see the iron fist.”

As I explained in my July 2019 commentary, “Abiy Ahmed means what he says and says what he means. There is no BS with him. He is a straight talker. He will say what can and cannot be done. He does not sugarcoat the bitter truth. He does not mince and dice the truth to make it more palatable.” What you see is what you get with Abiy Ahmed!

Behold the iron fist today!

The empty barrels who bragged about taking over government in “24 hours” are now cooling their heels in jail awaiting justice.

Behold the thunderbolt today!

The crooks and thieves who stole billions from the Ethiopian people can now use their demonetized currency for read end wiping purposes in the bathroom.

Well, the money changers, counterfeiters, thieves, smugglers, tax cheats and scumbag residents of Axum Hotel in Mekele now know “what time it is.”

Outta luck, outta ideas, outta cash, outta hope, they know it is time to pack it up and crawl under the rocks from whence they escaped in May 1991.)

Bleeding Ethiopia dry

I have always been concerned about corruption and capital flight from Ethiopia.

I first wrote about it in my December 2011 commentary, “Ethiopia: The Art of Bleeding a Country Dry”.

Global Financial Integrity in 2009 reported, “The people of Ethiopia are being bled dry. No matter how hard they try to fight their way out of absolute destitution and poverty, they will be swimming upstream against the current of illicit capital leakage.

Ethiopia lost US$11.7 billion in illegal capital flight from 2000 through 2009. Net official development assistance (ODA) to Ethiopia in 2009 totaled USD 3.8 billion.

Illicit financial flows out of Ethiopia “nearly doubled to US$3.26 billion in 2009 over the previous year, with corruption, kickbacks and bribery accounting for the vast majority of that increase.”

The annual average outflow from Ethiopia for the period 2008–2012 was US$3.55 billion. During same period, “Ethiopia’s illicit outflows were 1,355 percent of the foreign direct investment flowing into the country.”

2016 study showed the “stock of capital flight from Ethiopia stood at $29.9 billion in 2010,including interest earnings on past outflows, which is well above the stock of external debt of $7 billion in 2010.”

In 2017, the European Union listed Ethiopia as a major criminal center for money laundering on the African continent and subjected money originating in Ethiopia to strict banking scrutiny.

PM Abiy explained demonetization is needed now for a whole host of reasons: 1) salvage the “fractured economy which we inherited, a situation where the country had not enough money to make payments for the civil servants”; 2) reduce the significant budget deficit and bring about a sustainable level of debt; 3) increase national savings; 4) bring into circulation untaxed, unaccounted money and reduce tax evasion; 5) eliminate the illegal foreign exchange currency market; 6) eliminate the rampant problem of hoarding and counterfeit/fake notes; 7) fight inflation; 8) reduce capital flight and illicit financial flows; 9) prepare the way to transition to digital economy 10) increase the liquidity of banks and 11) reduce overall financial and banking corruption.

There is evidence to support demonetization by effectively forcing people to deposit their cash in the banks instead of stashing it at home could increase national savings which in turn could enable banks to lend more for investment purposes and sustain long-term productivity. It could also lead to the creation of a “savings investment culture”. Indeed, China extraordinary trade surpluses are directly linked to high savings rates which are  used to finance investment.

2017 study of demonetization in India in 2016 showed in the first year “excess bank deposit growth  following demonetization has been in the range of 3.0-4.7 percentage points” and if sustained could have “beneficial impact in the form of financialisation of savings.” With more savings and investments, government receives more taxes which can finance more development projects.

Ethiopian banks have been facing liquidity problems for some time now. Over the past year, “most of the commercial and private banks in the country have faced a shortage of cash and are having difficulty in processing transactions that involve larger sums of money.” Demonetization could increase the liquidity of banks by increasing the supply of cash for banks to meet short-term business and financial obligations. Local banks have long called for demonetization to increase liquidity and Ethiopia’s Bankers Association has complained over 113 billion Ethiopian birr circulates outside of the formal banking system.

Inflation continues to be a serious economic challenge. Between October 2019 and August 2020, inflation rate has fluctuated between 18.6- 20%. On the other hand, the  money supply has been increasing by 20% annually over the past decade and half last 15 years “from 104.4 billion Ethiopian birr to almost 1 trillion birr this year.”

Demonetization could be a transitional mechanism for Ethiopia to invent a cashless economy by increasing the demand for electronic payments and debit cards replacing   cash-based transactions.

The evidence on the critical importance of digital banking is irrefutable. “In East African countries including Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, mobile money is already the currency of choice for purchases ranging from buying a newspaper to paying hospital bills…” There is no reason why Ethiopia cannot join the other East African countries in making mobile money the currency of choice in the next two years.

Preliminary evidence from India’s demonetization suggests the potential for collection of taxes. India’s tax department has gone “after individuals and businesses that deposited lots of cash in corporate accounts.”

An analysis of the impact of demonetization on terror and antisocial activities in India argued, “demonetization has badly affected terror financing in the country. Underground operatives always store money in the form of big currency notes, and the most effect of demonetization is on those who had huge reserves of notes for unknown reasons or ventures. It is also a great step to curb the circulation of fake currency notes in India and those terror funding modules. This will prove as a severe blow and for a few years India will get relief from such anti-social activities.”

It is a public secret that the TPLF has been behind the terrorism, including the killing of Artiste Haachalu Hundessa, throughout Ethiopia, displacement of large populations through ethnic conflict and general effort to destabilize the country. It is also no secret that the TPLF has been printing counterfeit money and has used stolen and counterfeit currency to destabilize the country.

According to a 2007 Wikileaks,  Ethiopia one of the central locations for counterfeiting of U.S. dollars. In 2017, Ethiopia was listed as venue of money laundering by the European Union and any money originating in Ethiopia would be subjected to the highest level of financial scrutiny. In June 2020, over 77, 500 counterfeit Ethiopian currency was seized in Adama City, not far from Addis Ababa. In November 2019, a group of counterfeiters were arrested in Addis Ababa with chemicals and paper. In May 2020, Ethiopian security officials arrested six foreign criminals who tried to steal US$110M from an American citizen using wire transfer. There were reports last week of seizures of 26 million Birr in Western Ethiopia and hundreds of thousands of Birr in Bahr Dar and Diredawa. In the past week, various reports on the arrest of counterfeiters have surfaced in the media. A week ago, a passenger headed for Ethiopia was detained for carrying $USD99,000 at Dulles Airport.

Basic facts about demonetization

People will have three months to exchange the old currency for new ones.

Ethiopia on Monday demonetized its currency but gave three months window to people to exchange old currency notes from the banks.

The new and old notes will remain in circulation for the next 90 days after which time the old 100, 50, and 10 denominations will no longer be legal tender.

The new notes have state of the art design, quality and security features.

It cost USD$101.2 million to print the new currency.

An individual may keep up to 1.5 million birrs ($USD41,000) but companies could keep more if they can document business need. Cash withdrawal from banks should also not exceed 100,000 birrs ($2,737).

Law enforcement are authorized to engage in asset forfeiture of illegal currency.

Citizens, including domestic workers are encouraged to report stashed currency.

Bank boards, CEOs and tellers shall be held to account for illegal currency transactions in their banks.

Ethiopia’s sovereign debt has been reduced from 35 percent to 25 percent of GDP.

Sleepless nights for crooks — “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

A couple of days ago, PM Abiy noted tongue-in-cheek the price of sleeping aids has skyrocketed.

The fact of the matter is EVIL NEVER SLEEPS!

Albert Einstein observed, “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

Ethiopia is undergoing economic hardship not only because the Forces of Evil are working day and night to undermine the economy and politically destabilize the country but equally because those of us who can do something about it are indifferent or do not care.

My reply to PM Abiy is this: When one wears a crown of thorns adorned by stolen loot, filthy lucre and suddenly finds the gravy train has derailed and come to a screeching halt, there is no sleep.

There is no peace of mind.

There is anxiety. Sturm und Drang, fear and loathing, panic and fear, restlessness, shakes and shivers.

There is only nail biting and pins and needles.

There is only waking up in the middle of the night in cold sweat only to be paralyzed by a monumental headache.

Or in the words of the Bard of Avon:

Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. ― William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 2

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown of thorns adorned by stolen loot and filthy lucre and drenched in the blood of innocents!

 

 

 

15 Comments

  1. bla, bla, bla. I like Abiy but every time you write about him I want to vomit.  The fact that you try to associate yourself with Abiy is repulsive by itself.  If Abiy wants to win election next year he has to make sure to be as far away from you  as possible.  You are a liability to Abiy not an asset any more specially after your fiasco with the failing Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund.  Otherwise  he might get defeated. 

  2. Stashing huge sum of money ‘under the mattress’ in the old country is as old a habit as the dawn of coin and paper currency itself. This measure may bring back more cash into circulation but the habit will not go away. There are those who are addicted to money laundering and stashing and it will be a matter of time before things go back to where they are now. They will be scheming from the get go on how to get around it. Let’s look at the limit set for withdrawal, $100,000. Is that daily, weekly, monthly? The task of illicit capital flight seems to be a family affair. It is so in other countries also. Family members are part of the feast and lips are sealed. It is just like Vito Corleone admonishing his eldest son with ‘Never tell anybody outside the family what you’re thinking again’. In our case it has become a family affair cemented along ethnic lines. That is why it has been very difficult to crack. Declaring a war economy may not be a bad idea then making those who are caught in this murderous act examples with severe penalties so others will think twice. It will not eliminate the carnage on the nation’s coffers but will slow it down. It will remain to be a nightmare for countries like the old country. I hope and pray that this sudden and appropriate action by the regime will help bring back the much needed cash into legal circulation. Let’s all wish the regime success in the effort. Godspeed!!!

  3. How does this affect the value of our contribution to EDTF? “You said: Ethiopia is undergoing economic hardship not only because the Forces of Evil are working day and night to undermine the economy and politically destabilize the country but equally because those of us who can do something about it are indifferent or do not care. “Well, you were supposed to be the chief fundraiser for Ethiopia in the Diaspora, but you failed because you’re too busy politicking and dividing people instead of helping your country as you falsely promised. As Matthew 7:5 says: You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” As Albert Einstein would profess “Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth. The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it.” In the end you are just part of the noise. You have no good solutions, except the same old small talk. Sad.

  4. Diaspora Ethiopians got more financial problems than the Ethiopians in Ethiopia. Ethiopians in Ethiopia had been living in ever geowing cost of living for decades they are more ready to navigate through the hard times by now, while on the other hand diasporas are caught with their guards down when coronavirus started affecting their incomes in foreign lands, many are not sure how to make a living in this pandemic times where charity religious organizations got their doors closed , I personally know numerous people who are getting ready to move back to Ethiopia just so they don’t end up homeless in the diaspora.

    Living in the diaspora is heaven for half of the Ethiopians but hell for the other half diaspora families. Out of the Ethiopians currently living outside Ethiopia more than half are on a verge of homelessness being evicted from their homes due to coronavirus disease , loss if jobs followed by inability to pay rent or mortgage payments for the last six months. Only very few diasporas can contribute money to EDTF in 2020 , the majority are neck deep in debt after CoronaVirus started.

  5. The only reason why EDTF failed is because it is associated with Alemayehu G/Mariam, who is known as a very divisive politician not because of lack of money from the Diaspora. Ethiopians are one of the most educated and affluent immigrant populations in America. Most are doing just fine during the pandemic. EDTF is a case study in Diaspora political dysfunction. Let’s call a spade a spade, not a gardening tool, which refers to calling something “as it is”, that is, by its right or proper name, without “beating about the bush” that under the right leadership the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund would have flourished. Blame the chair not the people for screwing up this historic opportunity. Very sad.

  6. Ato Alemayehu.:Your focus in this and in previous articles has been on personalities and groups targeting real and imagined enemies. Can you now scrutinize systems of governance in Ethiopia , please?
    The government system/structure that Abye is leading is identical to TPLF/EPRDF used over 27 years. Prosperity Party(PP) is essentially EPRDF with a shiny veneer. At its core it espouses socialist federalism using developmental state, revolutionary democracy and government centralism etc as its ” modus operandi” . It is a hybridization of Marxist and market economies, the brain child of Meles Zenawi. The system spawns and stokes ethnic entrepreneurs whose allegiance is to the central and ethnically based coalition government but not to the Ethiopian nationals. The livelihood of many in a leadership position depends on a patronage system created by TPLF/EPRDF and now inherited by PP lock , stock and barrel. The suppression of competing ideas, imprisonment of opposition figures and the lack of independent judiciary should be anathema to you as a human rights activists and constitutional lawyer.
    What makes you think that the same system led by different personalities would give different and salutary outcome? What is your advise to the PP to create a prosperous fair and united Ethiopia ? Hopefully it won’t be to maintaining the status quo.
    Please use your considerable rhetorical skill to answer the questions in a future commentary . Perhaps the powers that be will pay attention to you as an unabashed and unreserved supporter of the Prime Minster.

  7. Alemayehu has lost his credibility a long time ago he has neither rhetorical skill nor capability of analyzing systems of governance. He has no clue what that means. He is only good for small talks like this. Plus based on his record of telling falsehoods about other people everything he says must be taken with grain of salt.

  8. Project X. ብሎ በብቸኝነት ገንዘብን ማሰብ አንቅልፍ አይነሳም? ለጉንዳን ደም የለው ለገንዘብ ቤት የለው።

    The currency change is a good thing, but it was not as a secret as you made it sound at all in this rather foolishly self praising essay. Demonetizing Ethiopian currency was publicly discussed on social media for over two years and suggested by the people. Abiy just took the idea and run with it which is a good thing. Most of us support the changing of the currency for the same reason that you do. but nothing in Democracy should be a secret or celebrated for being hidden from the public.

    Next time PM Abiy should let the people, parliament and media know what he is doing so we can discuss and debate it. In a democracy transparency is better than the so called Project X.

    ሁለት ጊዜ ይፈርዱ ጉድ ይወልዱ ይላል የአገርህ ሰው። Sorry to say that the more we read your articles the more convinced we become that you have a dictatorial bent that’s not in the best interest of the public. Your knack for dystopia, a society that is undesirable or frightening and full of secrets and lies, is as comical as the actual Project X , which is a 2012 American black comedy film.

    The movie follows three high school friends who plan to gain popularity by throwing a party, a plan which quickly escalates out of their control. The title Project X was initially a placeholder for a final title, but interest generated by the secretive title kept it in place. In Project X After purchasing party supplies, the boys go to buy marijuana from drug-dealer T-Rick. Costa steals his lawn gnome to use as a party mascot. T-Rick arrives armed with a flamethrower, setting fire to the trees and cars in search of Costa and in an attempt to reclaim his gnome, forcing the guests to flee and the party to end. The police shoot his flamethrower pack and it explodes. Thomas, Costa, J.B., and Dax flee with the other guests as Thomas’ house (and the rest of the neighborhood) is left aflame and the SWAT team moves in to retake the neighborhood. By morning, the boys return to their respective homes to discover what punishment awaits them. After his parents return, Thomas’ father commends him for managing to throw the party because he thought he was a loser, but he uses Thomas’ college fund to pay for the damages. At school, the boys are cheered by the students and Thomas reconciles romantically with Kirby. The epilogue reveals that T-Rick is recovered alive following the explosion; Thomas is convicted for disturbing the peace, contributing to the delinquency of minors, and inciting a riot, while Costa and J.B. are acquitted; Costa because of his expensive lawyer, and J.B.’s parents convinced the court that he is mentally incapable and unfit to stand trial. Costa, however, awaits the results of three paternity tests. Dax, meanwhile, is under investigation for the disappearance of his parents. In a TV interview Costa promises his next party will be even better.

    ለሂያጅ የለውም ወዳጅ።

    So the moral of the story is the term Project X should have no place with unelected politicians whose salary comes from the public. It’s stupid and sets bad example for future leaders unless your philosophy is that እምዬ ኢትዮጵያ ሞኝ ነሽ ተላላ የሞተልሽ ቀርቶ የገደለሽ በላ።

  9. Why the federal government of Ethiopia chose the latin alphabet “X” to name this project is not explained to the public yet.
    We know “X” means ‘kiss’ in English or we know “X” means ‘variable’ in mathematics, both does not make sense in this context.
    Project kiss does not seem to be what Abiy intended to say when he named this project “X” .

  10. Project X???? The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits. It would be nice to spend billions on schools and roads, but right now that money is desperately needed for political ads. As to the writer, nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.

    As usual I have learned nothing from this scribble. Waste of time.

  11. Politicians are just the same as lawyers; the only difference is that lawyers merely rob you, whereas the former rob you and kill you too. Can’t stand political lawyers.

  12. Mintesinot,

    የዛሬው   ምርጥ ምሣሌያዊ አባባሎች

    ለማያውቅ ፎገራ ዱሩ ነው

    ለማኝ ቢያብድ ስልቻውን አይጥልም

    ለማየት የፈለገ አይኑን ይገልጣል

  13. Yes, indeed, Alemayehu G Mariam is the queen of small talk and bad mouthing. That’s why as we can see people who are clearly much younger than him (including my children) in the Diaspora are totally turned off by him don’t identify with him politically. He is completely out of step with their reality. They are correctly upset at my naiveté in supporting EDTF.

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