I may be wrong, and I hope I am, but it seems to me that rules are hardly followed, and I observe a worsening trend here. Last week, heavy machines were working throughout the night, near my residence, excavating a building site. Next to a friend’s house, a make shift auto garage opened shop and entertains the neighbourhood with loud panel beating noises throughout the day and even the weekend. Next to the garage a tent church has its evening services, using public address system, set at maximum volume, just for a handful of believers. The issue is that there are rules that should help control these actions, but they do not. Following rules and regulations is indeed hardly done. The most obvious opportunity to observe this is traffic of course. Having said that it remains quite mindboggling to observe what drivers and pedestrians do to navigate their way. Some time ago I had a visitor and while driving around town he all of a sudden asked me: “Are there no traffic rules here?”
“Yes, there are.” I answered, which prompted my visitor to ask: “So what are the rules?” He obviously could not recognise much of what is common behaviour in traffic throughout the world. Where else will you see the old and the young of both genders jump the dividers on a highway as if they are practicing hurdles for the next Olympic Games? Where else do you see the majority of drivers use their mobile telephone instead of the exception? Where else does almost nobody use seatbelts and allow parents their small children to lean against the dashboard on the way to school? Where else do you see pedestrians cross a busy junction diagonally, ignoring all zebra crossings and the traffic police, trying to control the rest of the traffic? Where else do drivers honk impatiently at the same traffic police officer, when they think they have waited long enough? Where else do drivers pass another car, which just stopped for a zebra crossing, allowing pedestrians to cross the road? And where else do drivers honk at other road users in a way which means “Get out of my way!” instead of using it only in case a dangerous situation evolves? Admittedly, there will be places where similar behaviour may be observed but do we want to be associated with it? I would not think so. And yet we want to think of ourselves as a people, a nation and a culture which compares with the best of international standards. I see more and more businesses associating themselves and their services with international standards as can be seen from their names and advertising. We have international hotels, banks, businesses and the like. So while we want to achieve international standards, there should be a lot to learn from the experiences of those that went before us in development and we should do so gladly in order to avoid making the same mistakes and unnecessary damage on the way. Or are we immune for the dangers and risks that others have learnt to reduce over the years? Why, for example would seatbelts not save lives in this country and can we do without them? Why, for example would using the mobile telephone while driving not dangerously distract us? Why, for example don’t we need to apply and follow certain safety measures in factories? And why for example don’t we need to follow certain standards and rules in production and construction if we want to achieve high standards? Why, for example are lanes not divided and traffic diversions not marked, when oncoming and going traffic need to share half of the road, while construction is going on at the other half? Not doing so causes dangerous situations as one-way lanes all of a sudden become two-way lanes, without any warning whatsoever.
I could go on, but I won’t. The reader will have his or her own similar stories to tell. The point is that nobody seems to care. Where there are rules and regulations to follow, they would help but it seems very difficult for many of us here to follow rules at all. After all, in Ethiopia, we live in a so-called particularistic society in which most people are of the opinion that it is good that there are rules, but they don’t apply to them as their particular situation is different than that of others. They can therefore ignore or bend the rules to fit their interest.
From the point of view of the development of the private sector, this may have serious consequences. Issues that come to mind here include waste management, pollution, mixed industrial and residential areas, handling of dangerous goods etc. If we continue to go about our business without considering its side effects, we may end up becoming a threat rather than a contributor to the economy and welfare of the country.
Back to our ambition to achieve results that can compare with international standards, we have no option but to follow certain principles, standards and rules that have proved to work elsewhere. In an earlier article I mentioned that the results we get from what we do depend on the combination of three factors: Knowledge, Skills and Desire. Said differently: I know, I can, and I want. So, do we really want to achieve high standards? Do we really want to compare with international standards? Do we really want to move forward? Knowledge and skills can be learnt but motivation is rooted deep in our inner personalities. The answer is ours.