Conference name, dates, place

International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, August 16-18, 2001, Kalamazoo, Michigan

Document Type


Presentation Date



This paper provides some normative perspectives on sustainable economic and political reform in contemporary Ethiopia, by focusing on the need to establish enabling institutions for economic growth and development. The paper begins with the basic premise that poverty in Ethiopia is primarily a problem of institutional failure, and that at a successful economic reform not only must be focused on poverty-focused economic growth in a country where about 50 percent of the population is below the poverty line, but it must also be accompanied with institutional reform and development that may result in a positive-sum outcome for all constituent groups of the country. The paper reviews some economic concepts of institutions and their role in development, and their implications for democratic institutional development and public policy reform. Some of the current institutional and structural roadblocks to a successful political and economic reform and transition to a market economy, including the appropriate role of government in this process and the potential role of the Diaspora in the development process are also briefly discussed. The paper is intended to contribute to a process of constructive dialogue that may inform current and future institutional and development policy reforms by raising some policy issues, and by providing normative perspectives that can be enriched by future empirical research based on actual realities in Ethiopia.


This paper is a revised draft of paper presented at the EAF International Conference on Contemporary Development Issues in Ethiopia, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, August 16-18, 2001. It is a work in progress intended for discussion. I thank the individuals who have taken the time to read and offer written comments on the first draft of the paper. I am responsible for the views expressed. I welcome comments on this draft. I caution against a possible misinterpretation of some of the normative perspectives advanced in this paper by those who may hold extreme views on the current situation in Ethiopia. None of the views in the paper are intended to support or oppose any political party or group. Instead, the paper is intended to provide non-partisan perspectives toward democratic institutional building required for economic development and poverty alleviation in Ethiopia. Some of the views are subject to empirical verification based on the current realities and data from Ethiopia.