Heaven help Zambia
PERHAPS FINANCE MINISTER
Nhlanhla Nene missed a trick during this month’s mid-term budget policy speech. A few weeks ago, almost all of Zambia came to a halt as everyone was urged by president Edgar Lungu to take part in a “national day of prayer” to revive the economy.
There’s no dispute that the country is really struggling. It relies heavily on copper, but the commodities rout as well as the woes of Glencore have hurt Zambia so badly that its currency has fallen nearly 50% against the dollar, reports Reuters.
At the same time, electricity shortages have in some cases lasted up to 14 hours at a stretch. Zambia’s electricity crunch has puts Eskom’s 4-hourly load-shedding schedule (mercifully absent for some months) in perspective. The power problem is due to erratic rainfall, which led to water shortages at Zambia’s hydropower plants in Kariba and Kafue Gorge power stations. The solution to Zambia’s “anxiety and distress”, according to Lungu, is prayer. So soccer matches were cancelled, restaurants shut, bars weren’t allowed to open until 6 pm, and everyone knelt down to plead for an economic revival.
Lungu believes it will work. “Since we humbled ourselves and cried out to God, the Lord has heard our cry,” he said on the day. It remains to be seen whether it works, Prayer is an unconventional tool that seems to have largely fallen out of favour in other economic ministries, where responsibility for fiscal management is seen as a human duty.