Many of the TPLF leaders have been devoid of commonsense economics that any normal individual can possesses by reading introductory economics text books. The sad part of it is, even though they have ministers and advisers who claim to have a Master’s degree and PhD, they never worked for it. In a nutshell the degree is bought from fake diploma mill Universities through correspondence. As a result, they possess the fake degree but lack even the basic and elementary economics knowledge of the benefits of trade specialization advocated by Adam Smith and David Ricardo centuries ago. The two great economists agree on one very important message. Even if you can produce a multiple of goods efficiently, you will be better off by producing more of the one product that you are more productive of and exchange it with others of the other products.
The problem with TPLF is not only of being devoid of the knowledge of such simple principle of economics but also being immersed in the destructive Zero Sum game mentality. For them if their neighbor can produce a good they should produce the good not because it benefits them, but because it makes their neighbor lose. Their mind does not accept any win-win strategy. For them, for someone to gain someone has to lose. Fortunately, the world does not work that way. In fact, the realty is If you are working hard to make your neighbor lose, it is more likely that you are going to lose more than your neighbor does. The reason for that loss is, because Zero sum game theory is a double sword. In fact there is no better evidence to such claim than the current economic and political down ward spiral of TPLF’s Ethiopia.
Although TPLF has harbored ill wish against Eritrea all its life, the Zero Sum game mentality devised by the ex- Economics student, Gebru Asrat, after the independence of Eritrea, showed nothing but TPLF’s total ignorance. When Eritrea officially became an independent country in 1994, it was logical for the Eritrean government to draft an economic policy that helps the country to recover from years of war and enemy’s intentional destruction. On that account, the Eritrean government organized an Economic conference in Asmara that was attended by many scholars and practitioners from every corner of the world. In the meeting TPLF was represented by a delegation led by Gebru Asrat. After a long discussion, the meeting was closed with one consensus. Many of the participants agreed that the best economic policy for Eritrea was an export led Strategy. The reason behind the agreement was mainly the small size domestic market and the historical existence of old manufacturing firms that were inherited from Italy centuries ago.
When Gebru and his delegation returned to Mekelle, they did not waste any time to set the panic alarm. They said Shabia was trying to make the Ethiopian market a dumping ground for cheap manufactured products. To be honest I do not blame Gebru Asrat for setting the Alarm in Mekelle for two reasons. First coupled with his extreme hatred of Eritrea and Eritreans, at that time that was the only thing he knew. Second, because he was an ex-economics student, his colleagues who always regarded him as the economic brain of TPLF listened to him and echoed his sentiments. In short he was the one eyed person in the TPLF’s party of blinds. These two bad combinations led to a bad start on the economic relationship between Ethiopia and Eritrea. After that Gebru and his followers started blocking Eritrean manufactured products from Ethiopia. Furthermore, they commenced a study of all manufacturing firms in Eritrea and began installing an exact copy of manufacturing firms in Tigray. Their industrial policy was based on the simple principle that for every factory that existed in Eritrea, another one should be installed in Tigray. Sadly, because many of the factories were not built out of clear economic necessity, they turned out to be a big failure.
Any government official who knows about economics and International trade between neighbors does not do what Gebru did. However, for anyone who knew the complicated relationship between TPLF and EPLF, Gebru’s action was not unexpected. From the outset TPLF’s agenda was to use EPLF’s superior military power to reach Addis Ababa and later initiate plan B, i.e. to weaken Eritrea and ultimately achieve the old agenda of greater Tigray with the red sea its getaway to the outside world. Hence, Gebru’s ignorant economic policy was partially driven by TPLF’s design to weaken Eritrea and achieve its old hidden expansionist agenda. Gebru’s action explains that TPLF’s decision to have no economic relationship with Eritrea, including the use of ports, was decided not 1998 but 1994.
The ultimate TPLF strategy was after the objective to weaken Eritrea was achieved, to use the combined TPLF and ex-Dergue military power for the final knockout blow on Eritrea and make it part of Greater Tigray. Consequently, the border problem that was Ignited by Gebru and Siye Abraha in bada and Badme was part of the overall TPLF agenda to weaken Eritrea over an extended period of time. It may be true that the war that started in 1998 may have exploded earlier than TPLF thought it would. But there is no question that, sooner or later attacking Eritrea was part of TPLF’s broader agenda.
If TPLF had a good intention about the relationship between the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea, there was another way to explain Eritrea’s Export led strategy. First of all, the strategy is not specific to Eritrea. It is natural for any country that has a small population and limited domestic market to draft such strategy. Moreover, because Eritrean old and inefficient manufacturing sector was inherited from Italian colonizers more than 50 years ago (counting back from the 1990’s) and it was fulfilling the fractional needs of the Ethiopian market, there was no reason for Gebru Asrat to Sound the Alarm about Eritrea’s Export led strategy. In fact, a study that was made 1994 indicated that the more the manufacturing firms in Eritrea exported to Ethiopia the more money was lost. So the manufacturing firms were more of a symbol of economic relationship between the two countries than a symbol of Eritrea’s trade gains over Ethiopia. Had Gebru known better, he could have established factories that did not exist in Eritrea to serve not only the Ethiopian market but also Eritrea. That is called a win-win industrial policy. By blocking the Eritrean manufacturing firms from Ethiopia, Gebru and his colleagues decided to disseminate the entire Eritrean manufacturing sector so that Tigray could have the replica. The question that begs an answer is after Tigray having the replica “Then what”? That is where the TPLF ignorance comes into light.
I am sure now after Gebru Sees the Chinese, Indians, and Turks dumping cheap textiles in the Ethiopian market and the Arabs buying the Ethiopian land, and looking at TPLF’s failed hidden agenda to make Eritrea part of Greater Tigrai, he may have learned enough lesson about his ignorance and its consequences. Moreover, there is no question that the fire that is currently raging in Ethiopia is the result of the extension of that Zero Sum Game Mentality that Gebru and Siye tried to impose on Eritrea. Instead of trying to cooperate and benefit from the strengths that each state in Ethiopia has to offer, TPLF tries to make each killil a colony that its resources destined for the none existent growth in Tigrai. Instead of sharing power with all Ethiopians and leave in peace, TPLF thinks power is its private property and expects others to obey and be its servants. Instead of working with its neighbors, it works hard to be the best western messenger to impose itself on its neighbors. I can go on and on.
For the people of Eritrea, the TPLF Zero sum game was a blessing in disguise. It enabled them to build an economy that will not be influenced by TPLF’s Ethiopia. It is remarkable for Eritrea, that was linked to Ethiopia for decades to achieve that status within twenty-five years. Above all, it helped the Eritrean people to bond together and build a country that is united and alert to defend itself. Morer important than that TPLF’s Zero-sum game taught the Eritreans that if they can secure their port there is someone who can pay in US dollar for the services than Birr. Yes, it taught them not to put their eggs on unstable and erratic TPLF’s Ethiopia. Over all it helped them to build economic, political and social identity that is based on their inheritance, history and independent choice.