At least 150,000 rural Liberians are expected to benefit from renewable energy, which will be made possible through a US$25 million grant from the World Bank Group to the Liberian government.
The US$25 million is part of an overall US$32 million package that the Bank is going to release to the government.
US$5 million of the US$32 million is going to be given as direct budget support to the National Budget, while the least US$2 million is a credit from the International Development Association (IDA).
The US$32 million was given to the government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).
Following the signing of the agreements between the government and the Bank on Friday, February 19, Ms. Inguna Dobraja, World Bank Liberia Country Manager, said she was glad that the Bank is helping Liberia to address the huge needs of the post-Ebola economic recovery process.
Ms. Dobraja also stated that the Liberian Renewable Energy Access Project (LRENAP) and the Bank’s Second Poverty Reduction budget support operation are crucial as the nation continues to move towards its development goals.
“Production and expansion of electricity is crucial to the economic growth and development of Liberia. The LRENAP, approved by the World Bank Board of Executive Directors on January 11 this year, targets 150,000 Liberians to gain access to affordable and reliable electricity,” the Bank’s Country Manager said.
She added that they at the Bank are particularly glad that this project seeks to foster the use of renewable energy sources in Liberia. Ms. Dobraja named the sources to include wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectric, which according to her, “provides substantial benefits for our climate, health and economy.”
The Bank’s Country Manager stated that at least 50,000 persons residing in Voinjama, Foya, Kolahun, Massambolahun/Bolahun and surrounding areas in Lofa County will benefit from the LRENAP.
She added: “The project would also assist an additional 100,000 people nationwide who would gain access to stand-alone solar systems and lanterns. One of the major benefits of renewable energy projects is that they can expand access to electricity in remote areas that are not likely to be connected to national grids in the foreseeable future, and to promote nationwide use of renewable sources of energy away from more expensive and harmful fossil fuels.”
Touching on the US$5 million direct budget support, the Bank’s Country Manager stressed that the need to support Liberia’s budget cannot be overemphasized as the nation goes through a challenging period in stabilizing its economy.
She stated that the money, which was given by the government of Norway as part of its broader Liberia Forest Sector program, is supplementary to the Bank’s development policy operations approved in November 2014. “It will help the Liberian government recover from shocks experienced during the Ebola outbreak and lowering prices of Liberia’s two main export earners: rubber and iron ore.”
In a very brief remark, Mr. Augustus Goanue, Executive Director, Liberia Rural and Renewable Energy Agency (LRREA), said the project is a major milestone in bridging the electricity gap between rural and urban dwellers. The LRREA is going to be the lead agency of the Liberian government to implement the LRENAP.
Responding, Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara M. Konneh stated that he was pleased to sign the agreements, especially the US$5 million portion, which is a direct support to the National Budget.
Min. Konneh disclosed that the nation’s two chief exports – rubber and iron ore – are facing difficulty on the world market; consequently, it is posing serious strains on the Liberian economy.
Recently, the government, through the MFDP, had to do a recasting of its National Budget as it disclosed that the economy will experience a loss of US$70 million. Government functionaries saw their budgets slashed by several thousands.
Speaking further, Min. Konneh thanked the Bank for the support to the nation’s energy project and also for the US$2 million loan. He, however, didn’t say when and how the loan will be repaid.