Banking and Monetary Policy
The 1974 revolution brought major changes to the banking system. Prior to the emergence of the Marxist government, Ethiopia had several state-owned banking institutions and private financial institutions. The National Bank of Ethiopia (the country's central bank and financial adviser), the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia (which handled commercial operations), the Agricultural and Industrial Development Bank (established largely to finance state-owned enterprises), the Savings and Mortgage Corporation of Ethiopia, and the Imperial Savings and Home Ownership Public Association (which provided savings and loan services) were the major state-owned banks. Major private commercial institutions, many of which were foreign owned, included the Addis Ababa Bank, the Banco di Napoli, and the Banco di Roma. In addition, there were several insurance companies.
In January and February l975, the government nationalized and subsequently reorganized private banks and insurance companies. By the early l980s, the country's banking system included the National Bank of Ethiopia; the Addis Ababa Bank, which was formed by merging the three commercial banks that existed prior to the revolution; the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation, which incorporated all of the nationalized insurance companies; and the new Housing and Savings Bank, which was responsible for making loans for new housing and home improvement. The government placed all banks and financial institutions under the National Bank of Ethiopia's control and supervision. The National Bank of Ethiopia regulated currency, controlled credit and monetary policy, and administered foreign-currency transactions and the official foreign-exchange reserves. A majority of the banking services were concentrated in major urban areas, although there were efforts to establish more rural bank branches throughout the country. However, the lending strategies of the banks showed that the productive sectors were not given priority. In l988, for example, about 55 percent of all commercial bank credit financed imports and domestic trade and services. Agriculture and industry received only 6 and l3 percent of the commercial credit, respectively.
To combat inflation and reduce the deficit, the government adopted a conservative fiscal management policy in the 1980s. The government limited the budget deficit to an average of about l4 percent of GDP in the five years ending in EFY l988/89 by borrowing from local sources. For instance, in EFY l987/88 domestic borrowing financed about 38 percent of the deficit. Addis Ababa also imposed measures to cut back capital expenditures and to lower inflation. However, price controls, official overvaluing of the birr, and a freeze on the wages of senior government staff have failed to control inflation. By 1988 inflation was averaging 7.1 percent annually, but it turned sharply upward during 1990 as war expenditures increased and was estimated at 45 percent by mid-1991. Moreover, money supply, defined as currency in circulation and demand deposits with banks (except that of the National Bank of Ethiopia), rose with the expansion in government budget deficits, which reached about 1.6 billion birr in EFY 1988/89. To help resolve this deficit problem and numerous other economic difficulties, Addis Ababa relied on foreign aid.
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