A pharaonic project amid crisis: Ethiopia to build $10 billion palace | the world

Ethiopia faces an economic crisis, warring militias and conflicts with neighboring countries. To address these difficulties, the African country has received billions in humanitarian aid, particularly from the UN. Amid many emergencies, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who won the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, has decided to build a national palace and luxury villas for his senior officials. Construction cost? No less than 10 billion dollars (more than 9 billion euros, editor's note).

One of the world's most expensive palaces is to be built on a forested hillside overlooking the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the size of 500 football fields. Besides the monument, three artificial lakes, a waterfall, a luxury hotel, villas, conference rooms, a zoo and a cable car will also be built, The Globe and Mail reports.

Massive construction would require expropriation of local residents. Those interested in observing the site may be disappointed, as soldiers have already blocked the roads leading to the construction site, German newspaper Die Welt notes.

A huge expense

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed told parliament that the mega-project, which will cost around $10 billion, will be financed by private and international donations. This is a huge amount when the country is practically bankrupt and facing inflation of almost 30%. By comparison, construction costs make up two-thirds of the state's annual budget.

Amid the crisis, the Ethiopian government has said it needs about $20 billion (€18.24 billion) for post-war reconstruction in Tigray, of which $2 billion (€1.8 billion) has already been disbursed by the International Monetary Fund. Additionally, Ethiopia has received billions in humanitarian aid from the United Nations and other non-governmental organizations in recent years.

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Opaque finance

The financing of this vast building is shrouded in secrecy and parliamentary control is not recognized. The United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia's closest ally in the Gulf region, is said to be one of the potential donors. The question of where all the other funds will come from remains unanswered today.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali wants to continue his valuable and useful projects, according to him, for his country of 120 million people. “The government believes in growth at all costs,” a local engineer told Die Welt. “But I think the damage done outweighs the benefits. In some areas, the water supply has been cut for more than six months, forcing residents to leave. It's unfair.”

Prime Minister Abi Ahmed Ali. © AFP

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