The Executive Director of the National Investment Commission (NIC), George Wisner, says the government used up to US$100 million on public investment infrastructures, which is not enough to reach the minimum standard of infrastructure growth in the nearest possible time.
He said this situation is impeding infrastructural growth and there is the need for the government to ensure new, quality infrastructure investment in the country.
“For some time now, our government has been propagating an economic policy that emphasizes diversification away from the extractive sector and the NIC is the arm of the government responsible to help its economic policy by ensuring quality new investment in every area of the economy.
“We have been working with stakeholders over time to see what could be the best approach to speed up government’s development objectives,” said Wisner, during the start of a two-day meeting last Monday to review the Public Private Partnership (PPP) readiness assessment report on Liberia in partnership with the British Embassy and the Altra Capital Limited from the United Kingdom.
“We realize that getting PPP skills are not easy and we are in competition with many other nations for investment in skills. Therefore, Liberia needs to put in the required regulatory environment and build capacity in order to bring forward some of our economic and social developments through PPP.
“That is why Altra Capital Limited from the United Kingdom, in partnership with NIC and with support from the British Embassy, was commissioned to carry out the PPP Readiness Assessment,” he said.
Wisner said Liberia has to spend at least US$300 to US$500 million annually on average within the next ten years to meet the minimum standard of infrastructure growth.
The assessment report, according to Wisner, is intended to give Liberia a picture of its status to access the country’s preparedness and challenges that must be mitigated in implementing the PPP policy.
The NIC boss described PPP as the best policy to accelerate development and put the country on par with other countries that have met the minimum standard set for infrastructure growth.
“We think PPP is the best way to speed this up since government does not have the budgetary might; and if even they have, government does not have the time to do all that is required to build our infrastructure,” Wisner asserted.
He said though agriculture has been emphasized as a key sector to diversify Liberia’s economy, it would be possible if there are necessary infrastructures to do that.
“Whether it is road or port infrastructure, sea and airport, whether it is telecommunications infrastructure, electricity or water, you have to have them in place,” Wisner said.
These infrastructures are important to accelerate the diversification of Liberia’s economy, and government’s partnership with the private sector is the surest way to foster these developments, said Wisner.
He said the United Kingdom has been generous by partnering with Liberia to move the PPP policy forward, while describing the PPP as a long journey which started with the development of policies that are now at their final stages of validation.
At the same time, Mr. Wisner questioned Liberia’s readiness to undertake the PPP relative to the country having the requisite knowledge, competence and skills since the struggling economy has created hindrances.
The NIC looked forward to having a key role in the process of using PPP to improve Liberia’s infrastructure and public services for the benefit of the citizens, he said.
British Ambassador accredited near Monrovia David Belgrove said the PPP is an important tool that can promote infrastructure growth in Liberia.
He said it is important for Liberia to maximize the policy.
Ambassador Belgrove said the partnership has benefitted other countries, including the United Kingdom.
“The UK is one of the first countries that used the Public Private Partnership to improve its investment and there were lessons learnt along the way,” Ambassador Belgrove said.
The team of consultants, including John Davie and Stephen Harris, recognized as two of the world’s best known and leading experts in PPP strategy and delivery, pointed out that because “there is often too much theory in studies such as this,” they gathered together a wide range of opinions from organizations, including public and private sectors professionals, NGOs and personnel from the international donor community working in Liberia in various sectors.
Meanwhile, the two-day meeting brought together officials from the National Port Authority, Central Bank of Liberia, Public Procurement and Concession Commission and others to discuss findings, challenges and recommendations contained in the assessment report.