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The Reincarnation of Bagdad Ali in Ethiopia as a Prosperity Gospel Preacher

Yonas Biru, PhD

Bagdad Ali was the Iraqi Minister of Information under President Saddam Hussein, during the US invasion of Iraq. He got the nickname Bagdad Ali in the US, Comical Ali in the UK, Ali il Comico in Italy, and¬†Šä†Šąä¬†ŠČÄŠč抹∑¬†in Ethiopia because he was making laughable media briefings about the war that was wildly at odds with reality. One of his signature briefings included a claim that there were no American tanks in Baghdad, when in fact they were within a spitting distance from the press room where he was speaking, and the briefing‚Äôs attendees could already see through the windows of the briefing room American tanks rolling toward them.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali’s yesterday’s briefing before the Ethiopian Parliament appeared a reincarnation of Bagdad Ali christened with Prosperity Gospel theology and driven by a mission to transcend Ethiopia out of its poverty and political ill through ecclesiastical devotion and positive thinking. The speech reminded me of a high-octane evangelical mother who refused to take her cancer-stricken child to the hospital, choosing instead to praise the Lord, believing her devotion to God and positive thinking will save her child. Almost always such children die when they could be saved by medical doctors who themselves are creations of God.

If the Prime Minister’s speech about Ethiopia’s economic progress over the past five years was translated to English and read by a native English-speaking person without naming the country, people would think the speech was about Singapore or Korea. Considering the claimed impressive growth in every sector of the economy, unsuspecting economists would think the economy is overheating from excessive economic growth and advise the government to slow it down to avoid hyperinflation.

Here are the highlights of the Prime Minister’s speech.

The Prime Minister claimed that this year alone some 180 new manufacturing outlets were established. The reality is different. According to Melaku Alebel, the Minister of Industry of Ethiopia, in 2022, 446 manufacturing industries stopped production. Rather than admitting the government is trying to salvage the manufacturing sector from disaster, the Prime Minister talks about a flourishing manufacturing sector. This is right out of Bagdad Ali’s handbook of comical deception.

The speech further highlighted that the country’s phenomenal growth in wheat production is acknowledged and praised by international partners. He also added that when he took power in 2018, only 300,000 loaf of bread was produced in Addis Ababa per day. Today, he claimed the figure is 4 million. The average food inflation between 2003 to 2018 was 16 percent. The corresponding figure from 2022 to 2023 is 33 percent. The question is: if production of bread increased by 13.3 fold, how can food inflation go from an average of 16 percent to 33 percent?

Speaking of inflation, IMF’s projection for Ethiopia for 2023 is 31.4 percent. By 2024, the projection is 23.5 percent. The median inflation for Africa is projected to be 5 percent by the end of 2024. Ethiopia’s inflation is amongst the worst 10 inflationary countries in the world. Yet, the Prime Minister tried to deceive the nation by mentioning the worst inflationary countries in the world such as Venezuela, Argentina, and Zimbabwe. Somehow, he tried to make Ethiopia look better by comparing her with the worst countries in the group of 10 worst countries. Think of your leader bragging about being 190th out of 200 countries, by nothing he was the top best amongst the bottom 10 countries. This is the positive thinking of Prosperity Gospel going awry.

The most absurd claim is the decrease in imports that the Prime Minister touted as a sign of his policy’s success. Let us cut the crap, Mr. Prime Minister. Import is down because of shortage of foreign exchange, not because of some successful import-substitution policy. The drop in imports is bad, not good. This is one of the reasons why the manufacturing sector is dying or functioning below capacity. This has been documented in a Harvard study that found the chronic forex shortage was harming manufacturing firms who need imported inputs.

Another area the Prime Minister peddled as success was the drop in debt to GDP ratio. He claimed this was because of his success in paying the debt. This is utter crap. There are two factors for the decline in the debt to GDP ratio. First is the drop in foreign borrowing because of sanctions. The IMF and World Bank have held up $5 billion in new loans. There are other loans in the pipeline held by sanction. This is not a success. The second factor is the inflated fictional GDP figure. Simple arithmetic tells us that when the numerator drops because of sanction and the denominator is inflated, the result is a drop in the ratio.

The Prime Minister’s lack of integrity was manifested in his claim of tons of food delivered to starving people in Tigray, Amhara and Afar. Even Bagdad Ali would roll his eyes at this. The world knows the Prime Minister’s government was engaged in massive theft of international food aid that was meant for the starving poor in Tigray, Amhara and Afar and exported it.

The Prime Minister claimed he donated 3 billion Birr to regional governments from his last book sales. This amounts to $55 million. For those who are wondering why the Book has not made it to the New York Times bestseller list, the story is different. The Prime Minister allocates hundreds of thousands of books for each regional government. Each regional government is required to cover the cost of publication allocated to it and sell the books to recover their cost and use the rest for development projects. They publish the books and require businesses to buy them in bulk and distribute them to their employees, friends, and relatives. This is a double-decker extortion that the Prime Minister touts as success.

2 thoughts on “The Reincarnation of Bagdad Ali in Ethiopia as a Prosperity Gospel Preacher”

  1. Comparison to Bagdad Ali: The comparison to Bagdad Ali is unfair and unfounded. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali’s speech was delivered in a legitimate parliamentary setting, not during a time of war or invasion. Drawing parallels between a media briefing during a war and a parliamentary speech on economic progress is an apples-to-oranges comparison.
    Misleading Economic Progress Claims: While the author points out challenges in the Ethiopian economy, it is essential to acknowledge that every developing nation faces obstacles on its path to progress. The Prime Minister’s comparison to developed countries is likely meant to inspire and motivate the population. Furthermore, focusing solely on inflation rates without considering other economic indicators can be overly simplistic.
    Manufacturing Sector Misrepresentation: While there may have been some issues with specific manufacturing industries, it does not necessarily invalidate the Prime Minister’s claim about establishing new manufacturing outlets. Economic growth often involves a mix of successes and challenges, and isolated instances of problems in one sector don’t negate overall progress.
    Inflation and Economic Reality: Comparing Ethiopia’s inflation rate to that of Venezuela and Zimbabwe might indeed be a way to emphasize that the situation is not as dire as in those countries. The intention could be to reassure the public and highlight that the government is working to address inflation.
    Import-Substitution Policy and Forex Shortage: While a forex shortage may indeed be a concern, it is important to note that the import-substitution policy is a long-term strategy aimed at reducing dependency on imports and fostering local industries. Any initial challenges are not uncommon during policy transitions.
    Debt to GDP Ratio: The author’s attribution of the reduction in debt to GDP ratio solely to sanctions and an inflated GDP figure seems speculative. The reduction could also be a result of effective fiscal management and debt repayment strategies undertaken by the government.
    Food Aid Mismanagement: While there may have been isolated reports of mismanagement, it is unfair to generalize and question the integrity of the entire food aid distribution process based on those instances. The government’s efforts to deliver food aid should be acknowledged, as addressing food insecurity is a complex task.
    Book Sales Donations: The accusation of double-decker extortion in the book distribution process is a serious claim that requires substantial evidence. Without concrete proof, it remains a mere allegation and should not be used to dismiss the Prime Minister’s philanthropic efforts.
    In conclusion, while the author raises valid points worth considering, it is crucial to avoid overly harsh criticism and take a balanced approach when evaluating the Prime Minister’s speech. Constructive feedback and a nuanced understanding of the country’s challenges will be more productive in fostering meaningful dialogue and progress.

  2. Abiy Ahmed Ali is a Wahabi Moslem who only uses the prosperity gospel as a disguise and a way to get the backing of the naive Ethiopian protestants and a few unsuspecting westerners. Prosperity Gospel is not a christian religion by any measure. It is a cult that destroys the very soul of its followers by first divesting them of their empathy to their fellow human being.
    Dr. Yonas is a very insightful person but somehow enjoys happily keeping this blindspot that makes him see Abiy as a protestant despite Abiy Ahmed’s own public admission that he is a Moslem. A Moslem appearing to be a Christian, was how he exactly described himself at the First Congress of PP.

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