Ethiopia Passes ‘Pro-Poor’ Budget as It Moves to Open Up Economy

(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia’s parliament passed a 346.9 billion birr ($12.6 billion) budget, about two-thirds of it poverty reduction programs involving health, education and food security, as the Horn of African nation tries to quell unrest while sustaining the momentum of the continent’s fastest-growing economy.

In televised comments, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed described the budget as “pro-poor” and said the government still needs $7.5 billion to finish so-called mega projects, including sugar factories and the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. As a result, it won’t begin new projects in the 2018-19 fiscal year, he said.

Abiy took office in April, facing the task of bringing an end to several years of sporadic regional protests over alleged land grabs and political neglect that threatened to detail the boom in Ethiopia’s state-planned economy. The ruling party has announced plans to open up state monopolies including sugar, airlines, and telecommunications to foreign investors, while opposition political groups have begun to be tolerated and thousands of detainees released.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.