Of prayers and national development

Of prayers and national development

KABRAL'S CEDI STORYI write this piece with a prayer for forgiveness and mercy, should I inadvertently cross any red line in religion. I can live with Justice Atuguba’s red line but not any line, pink or yellow in the religious realm.

I begin with a question-Is there a link between prayer and national development or can prayer alone deliver a nation out of underdevelopment?

In the last few days public discourse on the airwaves has evolved around a sermon by Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams in which he is reported to have declared: “I hold up the cedi with prayer and I command the cedi to recover and I declare the cedi will not fall any further. I command the cedi to climb.

I command the resurrection of the cedi. I command and release a miracle for the economy”.

These are powerful and prophetic words that doubting Thomases and unbelievers like Karl Marx, one of the ideologues behind Communism, who described religion as nothing but “opium for the masses and the sigh of the oppressed creature” will dismiss as mere fantasy and hallucination.

Even economists who are Christians may have a problem with any attempt to link the recovery of an economy, or the exchange rate of any currency to prayers but for many believers like Archbishop Duncan Williams, with prayer everything is possible.

He may not be alone in this thinking since Divine intervention as per the Bible has saved nations from calamity and bondage, the story of Moses leading his people out of captivity from Egypt, and the spectacular passage through the Red Sea, a testimony to what God can do for nations.

WITH GOD EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE, the songster inspired by the Bible sang. Ghanaian footballers, notably Coach Silas Tetteh and goalkeeper Richard Kingston, if asked to testify,  will sing praises about how prayer can be the difference between victory and defeat even if some football pundits say it is training and proper investment in the game that ultimately determine winners.

When Ghana won the FIFA under 20 Cup in Egypt not too long ago, Coach Tetteh attributed it to Divine intervention through Pastor T. B. Joshua of Nigeria. Richard Kingston similarly attributed his recall to the national team, Black Stars, for one of their 2014 World Cup qualifying matches to prayer and Pastor Joshua.

Let them pray, all those who believe prayers determine everything at the personal and even national level but I want us to give some serious thought to very pragmatic policies  and interventions at the human level.


Even the Bible is on the side of prudent fiscal management and investment according to the parable of a rich man who on the eve of a journey generously gave money to his servants without any specific directives about what they were to do with the monies.

When he demanded how they had handled the funds on his return, he scolded the person who took the non-risky option of keeping the money intact by just keeping in under tight security but was full of praise for the servant who wisely invested the money in business and had good returns to show.

The fall of the cedi and any economic woes Ghana and other African countries are going through cannot be blamed on the heavens or the skies. The fault lies squarely with human incompetence, avarice and greed.

God like the rich man in the Bible endowed Ghana with abundant resources and expect our governments as managers of these resources to show credit balances every day to the citizens of the land.

When countries and people are faced with difficulties, governments do not or should not order their people to stop praying to their God because that is a special and personal relationship people have with God through their faith.

Neither can governments order the faithful to stop fasting if that is what they believe will earn them promotion and financial empowerment. The response of the American Government to the depression of the 30s was the NEW DEAL programme of President Roosevelt. Similarly President Obama in the wake of the economic crunch of recent times relied on a policy of economic stimulus and federal bail-out to ailing industries to turn the economy around.

The International Monetary Fund together with European governments and the US government put in place practical fiscal measures to streamline the banking sector whose malpractices had contributed to the global recession.

China may have a relatively smaller population of believers in any of the faiths or religions but it cannot be classified as a praying nation and so what explains its economic success when a  few decades ago it was  almost a third world country?.

China is today the largest net creditor to the US and straddles the world economy as a super power in Africa and everywhere.   Its good are everywhere, in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.

When China realized that Communism could no longer be the key to its economic development they borrowed from capitalism. The country which once believed that the state should control the commanding heights of the economy today allows individuals to have a pitch in the economy. China now has millionaires.

Owning property is no more thievery in the bastions of Communism. It is even encouraged.

That wind of pragmatism has blown over Russia and has reached Cuba which for years  resisted any changes in its Soviet-style communism even after the Berlin Wall crumbled.

If the cedi is sky-falling and our economy is not doing that well, we should be looking for earthly solutions which God in his infinite powers granted us.

Those in business, from Kantamanto market to the super industries would tell you that you are bound to have problems when you “dollarize” your economy, particularly when your whole economy is import-driven.

You are also going to have problems with your economy when the tax system leaves so many people out of the tax-bracket. As a fellow at Harvard University for just a year, I was roped into the American tax system and went through the drills of filing my tax returns, something many Americans, those within and outside do as an annual ritual.

From what millions of Americans, home and abroad pay as well as temporary residents pay in taxes, the US is able to finance its development at the federal and state level. It is from the American tax-payer that the US finances aid projects such as the George Bush Highway in Ghana.

A nation that seeks to emerge out of economic doldrums also tries to build and expand its industrial base which explains why they give tax incentives  to local industry and  why countries who are apostles of free trade resort to protectionist policies.

Since the times of Nkrumah when there was an aggressive import substitution policy to build local industries throughout the country, Ghana has drifted to a stage where even toothpicks that can be produced locally are imported.

We have become like other oil-producing countries in West Africa which does not refine their crude oil but import oil.  Nigeria built oil refineries which became “white elephants”. Ghana, even when it had no oil saw the wisdom in building a refinery to refine imported crude oil. But now that we have oil, the refinery has been allowed to go to sleep.

Our beloved cedi is bound to suffer if we must use scarce and hard-foreign exchange to import refined oil from afar.

In this regard any hope that the discovery of oil will be our greatest  blessing may become a mirage unless we learn from countries such as Norway where there is a deliberate policy to ensure that  the bulk share of its oil and gas riches  is invested in the welfare of today and unborn generations.

Again I am of the view that any nation that seeks to strengthen its currency and improve the general economy must look for alternative sources of revenue in the global market. I learnt through my years as a diplomat in Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire where the United Nations had peacekeeping missions that some nations whilst serving the cause of peace, also manage in the process to add millions of dollars to their national coffers.

The 20 million dollars the Bank of Ghana is reported to have poured into the market to alleviate the situation of the falling cedi is chicken-feed compared to what Ghana can make if it exploited the economics side of modern peace-keeping.

Ghana can earn a “cool” 200 million dollars or more, a year from peace-keeping as other countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are doing. Just imagine what this amount can do to the economy.

And finally because we all know that political corruption has been the bane of Africa’s development, let us imagine for a moment that the nation plugged all the leakages and seepages through which millions of cedis are funneled into personal accounts..

It is a crusade government after government pledge to, but this is one area that the Churches and Mosques can exercise some influence over our political leaders, politicians and civil servants.

On Sundays and Fridays, these people are among the faithful who listen to commands from revered pastors and imams that God abhors stealing in any form.

They leave the face of God and return to their evil ways that drain the economy and keep our people impoverished. Although the Bible and Quran ask us not to judge others, the Bible and Quran would not frown on words of admonishment to all those who keep the people poor.

Will prayer solve the problems? If it has the potential let us not cease praying and commanding but because the heavens help those who help themselves, let us make the work easier for God by taking pragmatic, earthly policies which we are empowered to do by God for peace, justice and progress.

By Kabral Blay-Amihere