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Akufo-Addo's plea to God in turning economy around, while bent on building a $450m National Cathedral

The president has insisted on building the National Cathedral amid the economic hardships

Sat, 21 Jan 2023 Source:

GhanaWeb Feature

Prior to becoming Ghana’s elected president for the first time in 2016, Akufo-Addo campaigned on the wings of what became a popular phrase thereafter: "The battle is the Lord’s," teased from the biblical verse in 2 Chronicles 20:15.

Without much of a direct statement to that effect, however, there have been several reasons for people to believe that President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has unshaken faith in the omnipotent God, whether or not his political life is reflective of that.

But that wasn’t quite enough. On assumption of office in 2017, President Nana Akufo-Addo made a bold move to build a cathedral for God.

A project that is to become a major reference point for many faith believers in the country and, for the most part, a significant tourist site for people from across the world.

President Nana Akufo-Addo described this project as "an opportunity to redeem a pledge I made to Him before I became President."

But almost immediately, there was a rebellion against this personal pledge that, along the way, became one of the biggest government projects in the country.

Even an economic crisis brought on by the aftermaths of the novel Coronavirus and, more recently, the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war has not been able to deter the president from completing his ambitious construction of the national cathedral.

By the way, that project is going to cost a whopping $450 million—the kind of money that could drastically change the present economic fortunes of the country.

But it appears President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s faith in this project isn’t as resolute as before. Seemingly controversial, the president has made two very different statements, one about how firm his faith is in God and the other about the construction of the National Cathedral.

Take note too that while this is a project that the president has declared he is building for God, he has also affirmed the fact that he needs the help of the same supreme being to be able to complete it. The magnitude and financial demands of the project have informed this.

But even more interesting has been the fact that these two statements were made within a span of two days. Before we analyze the two statements, here is a breakdown of what the current economic situation in Ghana is like:

Domestic Debt Exchange:

The government of Ghana, through the Ministry of Finance, announced a debt exchange programme dubbed the Domestic Debt Exchange (DDE) programme recently.

The announcement led to some commotion in the labour sector, and after threats of strikes, the government amended some details of the DDE.

However, many bondholders have kicked against it, with many arguing that the time value of money is not something that they can work with. That is, even though bondholders will get their investments back, getting it at a future date means the value of the money they receive will reduce due to inflationary pressures.

In other words, bondholders are complaining that, for instance, the GH¢100,000 they can use to buy a house in 2023 may not be able to buy them the same house in 2027, with the same amount.

Besides, some bondholders live on the interest they receive from the government and so, not getting it will affect their livelihood.

Ghana at the IMF:

After an initial bold stance that Ghana would not return to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the president of Ghana, through his Minister of Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, announced in mid-2022 that the country was going to the international body for help in managing its economy.

After months of several discussions and engagements, agreements, and conclusions, the government of Ghana reached a staff-level agreement on economic policies and reforms to be supported by a new three-year arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) of about US$3 billion.

A statement released on the Fund's website said the IMF Mission Chief for Ghana, led by Stéphane Roudet, noted that "I am pleased to announce that the IMF team reached staff-level agreement with the Ghanaian authorities on a three-year program supported by an arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) in the amount of SDR 2.242 billion or about US$3 billion.

"The economic program aims to restore macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability while laying the foundation for stronger and more inclusive growth."

The statement also noted that the staff-level agreement is subject to IMF Management and Executive Board approval and receipt of the necessary financing assurances by Ghana’s partners and creditors.

This, in essence, showed the level of Ghana’s economic lowness.

Now, let us take a look at the statements that have been made by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo that draw in his unwavering desire to build God a cathedral; the National Cathedral of Ghana:

Come what may, I’ll build the National Cathedral – Akufo-Addo:

On Tuesday, January 10, 2023, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo addressed a prayer service at the seat of Ghana’s government, the Jubilee House.

Among the things he said, he stated that he will not be deterred by naysayers who have been trying to make his national cathedral project unpopular and eventually stop its construction.

He reaffirmed his resolve to pursue the building of this 5,000-seater edifice.

"I am determined, come what may—I have two more years—that whatever the case, the National Cathedral will be at a very advanced stage before I leave office. I think it is important that we do it.

"All the reasons that I’ve given and continue to give, there will still be critics and naysayers. I think we have to take it as they are all part of life. But it should not be a sign of discouragement to us to be able to go forward," he added.

Those were the words of a very confident president, especially when, while he was making these statements, there had been a lot of recent backlash about the insistence of his government to still pursue this project.

The critics' reasons were that in 2022, the same year the Akufo-Addo government admitted that the country had hit an all-time economic low, most of the sectors of the economy had experienced a lot of unbelievable challenges.

The Ghana cedi, fuel prices, and inflation had hit the roofs, and many economic interventions were being made, one of which included the country returning to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) all in an attempt to ease the untoward financial strain on Ghanaians.

But only about 24 hours later, there were new reports that put into question where exactly the president’s faith lied.

We need a divine intervention:

Turning to the clergy, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo called for their spiritual support in seeking divine help from God in coming out of the present economic challenges being faced in the country.

Reiterating his commitment to seeing Ghana prosper in a just and peaceful environment, the president urged the clergy to remember him and his administration in their prayers.

"Let me plead strongly with the church to bear the nation and me continually in prayers. As God’s children, we may be tempted to allow struggles to define our worth; however, our ultimate victory is guaranteed," President Akufo-Addo said.

Yet, the president would not pause the construction of the National Cathedral when, from all indications, the project has been embroiled in a lot of controversies and accusations, many of which have been about some alleged corrupt practices.

The National Cathedral of Ghana is expected to be completed and commissioned on March 6, 2024, but as of January 2023, the progress of work on the project is still at the foundation level.

In 2022, the National Cathedral Secretariat was forced to put the project on hold because of a lack of funds.

As it stands now, with the resignation of some key trustees of the project, notably Bishop Dag Heward-Mills of the United Denomination Originating from the Lighthouse Group of Churches (UD-OLGC) and Rev. Prof. Cephas Omenyo of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana, as well as mounting pressure from interest groups for their representatives on the board to resign, it is unclear what the future of the project would be.


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