The New Year holiday atmosphere is
hovering in the air. Well wishes and cards are being conveyed everywhere.
Banks are robustly advertising money
transfer options offering quick deliveries. Ethiopians in the Diaspora are
remitting veritable fortunes in hard currency, with service charges trickling
down tolocal banks.
Annual windfalls seem to be fetching
happiness and pleasure for dependent families, although not all members of
families spend their money wisely and thriftily. The deceptive traps into which
many fall are too numerous.
The temptation for squandering money
is fanned by the ubiquitous commercials that fill airtime on electronic media,
broadcast by journalists that seem to equate their voices to their brains. As
usual, it is wining, dining, and merrymaking to the heart’s content that is
Doorways of big hotels, restaurants,
and city centres are adorned with Christmas trees, flickering electric bulbs,
and folded drapes hanging down from shopping windows. Some shops, where garments
and footwear are displayed for sale, offer discounts, although some of them
never had any price tags on them prior to the holiday shopping spree.
In spite the holiday spirit that
drenches Ethiopia, the Ethiopian New Year trails behind the rest of the world by
at least seven years and nine months. Some people take this difference as a
blessing in disguise because Ethiopians in the Diaspora remit money through the
banks twice. Indeed, the banks, if judged by their current tantalising
commercials, seem to be making hay, while the sun is still shining.
Speaking of sunshine, many people
agree with celebrating the New Year at the dawning of the spring season in
September, after a three-month rainy season. In fact, nature’s benevolence,
reflected by the beautiful meskel flower, seems to endorse the Ethiopian New
Year as the appropriate time to start the calendar.
But, then again, the earth has a
spherical shape. The whole world starts its New Year as of the first of January,
except for a few countries like Ethiopia.
There may not be any problem with
starting the New Year in the second week of September. But, for all intents and
purposes, there is no convincing logic, many people argue, for not synchronising
fiscal calendars in Ethiopia with that of the rest of the world.
Ethiopia is now an economically
emerging country that deals with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the
World Bank Group (WBG), and various international nongovernmental organisations
(NGOs). Accordingly, it has transacting institutions that open and close their
accounting books in January and December respectively.
A fiscal calendar is nothing but a
timetable that divides the year into 12 months, showing the beginning and the
end of a budget year plan. In fact, nature supports the Western world or the
European fiscal calendar against that of Ethiopia, in particular. December
happens to be the time of harvest when farmers make money in Ethiopia.
December and January are the months
that weddings and festivals are lavishly thrown by farmers and businessmen who
find the season convenient, even for travelling from place to place.
As telecommunications planning
experts, this writer and a friend of his had to take pains to convert the annual
performance reports, which were received in the Ethiopian fiscal quarterly
periods, into the Gregorian fiscal calendar year, as the accounts had to be
settled and reported subsequently to the International Bank for Reconstruction &
That was not all. Annual reports
from the IBRD had to be converted to match the Ethiopian budget year.
Many NGOs, dealing with the relevant
ministries and project offices, either withhold the matching funds until their
respective heads of office abroad release the money, or the pertinent personnel
have to be waited for until they return from their annual holiday coactions.
As it stands, Ethiopia depends on
its agricultural products for its foreign exchange earnings. Obviously, the
international transactions are not only accounted for in accordance with the
internally accepted, recognised, and standardised fiscal calendar, but they also
compete with other countries in terms of financial performance.
The country’s economic growth
achievements in each sector can be reflected on the basis of similar parameters
that can easily be reported without having to do cumbersome computations.
A simple example is the
representation of the volume of forecasted or expected yields of harvests in any
given year. One has to write two consecutive years like 2010/11 for last year’s
yield or 2011/12 for the coming year’s expected harvest.
While defending a senior essay full
of data converted into the Gregorian fiscal calendar, this writer once got cold
feet when asked why Ethiopia chose the month of July to be the opening balance
date for its annual budget and not January, instead. The only thing to do was a
simply shrug the shoulders and look sheepish for lack of any tangible paradigm
as a response.
Another aspect of the benefits of
synchronising the Ethiopian government’s fiscal calendar with the rest of the
world pertains to the growing role that the country plays in the social and
political forums among African countries and the rest of the world.
After all, even the Julian calendar
that renders the country over half a dozen years behind other countries is an
imported one, although adjustments were made in due course. There should be no
reason why Ethiopia remains always trailing behind its counterparts in terms of
fiscal calendars, if not adopting the Gregorian calendar in general.