The government of Liberia’s (GOL) delegation attending the ongoing Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the United States has strongly requested the Bank to make available about US$300 million for the construction of the road leading from Ganta, Nimba County, to Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County,, in the Southeast of Liberia.
Finance Minister Amara Mohammed Konneh, as head of the Liberian delegation, made the request Wednesday, April 9, in a meeting with World Bank Group’s vice president for Africa, Maktar Diop.
Konneh also made specific request for the Bank to use its convening to help Liberia raise additional and alternative financing model for the Ganta-Tappita-Zwedru highway, estimated at about US$386 million.
“This corridor,” Konneh said, “has key economic and political importance for our country, and it is critical that we direct investments and accelerate engagement with other actors to have those projects finalized.”
So far, Liberia has landed US$80 million dollars in the Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) committed funding for the Ganta to Zwedru road, but says it would need over US$300 million to complete the financing requirement for this project, a dispatch from the US said.
Minister Konneh also briefed the Bank’s officials on other road financing initiatives including possible Arab financing of Lot One of the Gbarnga-Mendikorma Highway and the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) potential financing of Lot Two of this project and a possible European Union (EU) financing of the Duala-Bo Waterside road project.
The meeting with Mr. Diop, a former Finance and Economy Minister of Senegal, centered on addressing bottlenecks affecting Liberia’s portfolio performance and disbursement rate under the IDA financing arrangement on key projects, including support to the health sector, direct budget support and financing of the Red-light to Gbarnga to Guinea border road project. The IDA is the World Bank’s fund for the world’s poorest countries.
Konneh used the platform to heap praises at the World Bank Group’s country team for considerable progress in accelerating Liberia’s portfolio and acknowledged challenges faced by the government (legislature) in speeding up ratification of funding agreements which has adversely affected the rate of disbursement on Liberia’s IDA portfolio.
“We as a government and a country are concerned about these delays, but we have ourselves at a critical intersection of democratic maturation, where our legislature has grown independent and are reviewing most of these instruments in ways and manners never seen in our history. These kinds of scrutiny take time and result in delays, so we will work with our colleagues to find the requisite balance so that our growth agenda is not affected,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Minister Konneh and delegation has enjoined the Bank to increase Liberia’s portfolio under the 17th IDA allocation, with approximately 80% of this support directed to the investments in energy and transport.
He also emphasized support for the agriculture and youth sectors, underscoring their critical linkage to economic growth and job creation.
Receiving the Minister and delegation, the World Bank Group vice president Maktar Diop praised the Liberian treasury chief for his “impressive leadership” support for IDA 17 and serving as a “voice for Africa”.
Diop added: “Mr. Minister, I must stress you have articulated a lot about the need for more resources for Africa, especially fragile states and you have been a key voice for Africa in discussions with the G7 +, something we have taken note of and we have made progress in this direction.”
On Liberia, Diop said, modalities for support under the IDA 17 was being finalized, but stressed the need for a more regional approach to the energy issues and needs in West Africa, within the framework of the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) and the sub-regional Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Interconnection project.
He said the Bank was committed to supporting Liberia’s development strategy and encouraged Minister Konneh to keep pushing for Liberia’s priority projects.
Minister Konneh, who is also National Coordinator of the Liberia Development Alliance (LDA), is expected to hold discussions with the IMF, and other multinational and bilateral institutions with view of securing additional financing for the Agenda for Transformation.
Officials traveling with Minister Konneh include Dr. Florence Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Antoinette Weeks, Minister of Public Works, Dr. J. Mills Jones, Executive Governor, Central Bank of Liberia and Mr. Lewis G. Brown, Minister of Information and Tourism.
Others are Mr. L. Eugene Nagbe, Minister of Youth & Sports, Mr. Boima Kamara, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Liberia and Mr. Tolbert G. Nyenswah, Assistant Minister for Preventive Services, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.