US$27.3M for RIA Rehab

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Liberia has secured US$27.3 million from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to speedily embark on a rigorous upgrade of its only international airport, a statement from EIB said.

Roberts International Airport (RIA), particularly its runway, has serious safety problems, forcing international carriers like Air France and others to pullout of Liberia.

To help upgrade and restore safety at RIA, the international organization approved the funds yesterday. Rehabilitation work on the runway will include improvements to the drainage and lighting which are in a deplorable state.

According to a press statement posted on the organization’s website yesterday, EIB stressed the urgent need to secure the long-term loan to commence “urgent work to upgrade the runway and address safety at Liberia’s main airport in the capital, Monrovia.”

EIB said the agreement came following discussions between Liberia’s then Finance Minister, now Minister for Finance and Development Planning Amara Konneh and Europe’s long-term lending institution, the European Investment Bank, following an agreement signed in Washington D.C. the United States.

“The twenty year loan for RIA was formally agreed on the sidelines of the World Bank, International Monitoring Fund (IMF) meetings in Washington at a ceremony attended by Minister Konneh and Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) Dr. J. Mills Jones.

“The occasion also allowed for detailed discussion of issues of pressing concern in Liberia, the government’s economic recovery plan and EIB engagement in West Africa,” the statement said.

The post quoted the Bank’s vice president Pim van Ballekom as saying that EIB stands side by side with Liberia at this time of need and will continue her engagement with Liberian officials, partner institutions and European Union Delegations in the region and will ensure that any support the EU can provide will be of best use.

“Upgrading Monrovia’s airport is essential for Liberia and we are pleased to share experience from similar projects elsewhere in Africa.” said Pim van Ballekom.

When completed, the document noted, RIA will be in compliance with international civil aviation standards.

Minister Konneh maintained that “the EIB has always been a true partner to the people of Liberia. The airport rehabilitation project is another clear manifestation of that partnership,” he asserted.

This is the first EIB operation with the Liberian Airports Authority and follows recent support for improving electricity generation in Liberia through backing for rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant.

Liberia’s project is being co-financed by the Saudi Fund for Development and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa, EIB asserted.

RIA rehabilitation has over the years under the President Johnson regime become an issue of national concern with serious controversy erupting from the management of the airport.

Of late, former airport manager Ellen Corkrum accused the Unity Party led government of doing nothing to address such major concerns and even “misapplying resources intended for rehabilitating the facility with no regard to safety,” a claim government has repeatedly denied.

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