The recent land lease proclamation
seems to be affecting many people, from daily labourers, who would rather assist
at construction sites than beg for bread, to investors, who would rather spend
their wealth on something long-lasting than simply live for today.
The recently issued proclamation on
urban land leases has been elaborated by the concerned minister and the mayor of
the 125-year-old metropolis. Panellists have also thrown some light on certain
issues and unaddressed questions raised by stakeholders.
Many observers are riddled and still
think that what the minister tried to explain over the media does not confer
with what is enshrined in the relevant proclamation. Others are of the opinion
that the issue ought to have been discussed thoroughly by the general public
before it was presented to Parliament. They hope for reconsideration, as it is
over a vital matter.
One such individual is Tesfaye, a
broker of property transactions who has stayed in the business for over 30
years. He works around Dehab Hotel, Eden Street, usually sipping coffee and
reading newspapers in his spare time. His main preoccupation is to collect
information from a range of sources, particularly from people who want to sell
or buy vehicles, houses, and other property.
He was asked about how business,
particularly house transactions, is going since the lease proclamation was
issued, recently. He did not hesitate for a moment to comment.
He makes comparisons about the
intensity of the number of people that used to crowd in and around the Document
Authenticity & Registration Office (DARO) before and after the issuance of the
land lease proclamation.
“That department is now almost
deserted,” he said. “It is puzzling how we can survive if we are classified as
rent seekers for the mere two per cent commission we seldom earn and our
self-employment is disregarded.”
Similarly, a well dressed
middle-aged man with a cap on his head parked his car in front of a bakery, on
one bright day last week. Hardly had he locked the door of his car when a young
man rushed to him from across Dejazmach Belay Zeleke Street and asked him if he
was looking for labourers. Looking a bit shocked and puzzled, the gentleman was
taken aback by this sudden encounter and remained dumb for a while. He shook his
head, both in bewilderment and in a negative reaction, and left for the bakery.
The young man waited a long time
until the man returned carrying a parcel with bread in it and, then, tried to
display his desire just by rubbing his stomach conspicuously as a sign of
hunger. The man rolled a 10 Br note to him and left. The young man almost
snatched the money from the man’s hand and went to the bakery without showing
any sign of courtesy for what the man had done for him.
After a while, he came back with his
own parcel and crossed the road back to his friends with the intent of sharing
the bread with his fellow job seekers. Some of them greedily crowded him, while
others stood by calmly.
These young men used to work as
assistants for skilled craftsmen working in the construction industry. For
Tesfaye, the scene signifies the paralysis in the private construction sector
resulting from the uncertainty caused by the recent and lease proclamation.
“Have you noticed the recent
downturn in the construction industry, even under the price slump of cement?” he
asks. “I wonder how much the price of cement will go down in the market when the
new cement factory owned by that billionaire starts production in the not too
This state of affairs surely poses a
serious question in the minds of private investors. Indeed, of what good would
accumulating wealth be if it cannot be used for investment in one form or
People do not live only to spend
their money today. They also live for the destiny of their offspring of
tomorrow. Investment is nothing but a wise decision to use one’s money with the
assumption of a better tomorrow.
Ethiopians living abroad work up to
16 hours a day and remit money back to their families not only to help them
cover the rising cost of living but also to invest in the acquisition of shares
and bonds in many sectors. They do so hoping to return home and secure a decent
life with their families.
It is to be hoped that, at a time
when the country has robustly launched multifaceted development projects and the
rather ambitious plan for economic transformation has just started to take off
the ground, the proclamation that meant to fight against clandestine actions
designed to take advantage of market momentum should not, on the other hand,
discourage genuine investment.
Real estate developers, however,
seem to have safely continued to function in full swing. With the growing supply
of cement, their building activities are expected to accelerate even faster than
at other times. But one cannot say that the construction activities carried out
by a few companies can meet the demand for housing.
The transaction of houses is a vital
element in any growing economy, particularly where population grows at an
accelerated rate, economists say. The industry has various cumulative effects
The small plastic sheds or makeshift
shelters, where women vend local brews and food for daily labourers, are typical
examples of backward linkages. People engaged in the production and
transportation of quarry and building materials and their dependents are also
affected directly or indirectly by whatever goes on in the construction
Even with the gloomy economic
reality, the land lease polemics presented over the media does not seem to be
well defended and substantiated by ample facts and figures of specific cases,
although there could be many instances of malicious rent collection and
The proclamation is intended to
optimise the equitable use of scarce resources. One way of addressing the
question of equitable distribution of resources has been the construction of
condominium buildings to be jointly owned by low-income groups provided by
But, these dwellings are either
transferred or leased to middle income groups, who can afford to cover the rent.
The low-income groups can only benefit from the rentals, while still living in
misery, an act that contravenes the basic goals of the construction of the
Virtually, the construction sector remains filled with ever-increasing paradoxes
amid stagnation that is squarely affecting the poor.