In fulfillment of some of his campaign promises to empower Liberian-owned businesses, President George Weah launched a US$3 million Pro-poor Loan Scheme aimed at empowering “struggling Liberian businesses to surmount their ordeals.”
It can be recalled that in his inaugural speech early this year, the President promised to enunciate policies and programs towards the empowerment of Liberians to take ownership of the country’s economy, instead of them being mere spectators.
The program, which was held at the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) branch in Red Light, Paynesville City, brought together government officials, business people, partners and superintendent of the Red Light market, Janjay Dennis.
President Weah said the launch of the US$3 million micro-finance loan scheme for Liberian businesses indicates concrete steps to place citizens in a controlling position of the economy.
He said one of his greatest desires has been to find ways by which Liberian-owned businesses would benefit from loans to move them from low to high business levels; from traders to manufacturers.
“Since I took over as President, there have been so many programs and occasions in which I have participated to support and advance the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development,” President Weah said.
He added, “the launch of this scheme is just another milestone in helping you overcome poverty, and become masters of your own destinies.”
He reassured Liberian businesses that his government would prioritize their interest and offer programs to help them become more competitive.
“Today is the launch of the Liberian Business Development Fund (LBDF). We are here today to witness a promise fulfilled. The LBDF has been established by my government as a multi-million dollar loan scheme exclusively for Liberian businesses and micro-finance institutions,” he said.
He said Liberians will have borrowing access to the LBDF to enable them produce goods and services for the domestic market.
“My desire is to strengthen and support you, so that ordinary business people will be able to move from sidewalks to stores,” Weah said.
He continued, “this is to help them move from the level of petty markets to manufacturing, and from being spectators to being active participants in the national economy; so that in the near future, Liberian businesses will be able to take ownership of the Liberian economy.”
He said the interest rate on the loan scheme remains pro-poor in nature, one of the lowest in the Liberian financial market, with flexible collateral requirement and payment procedure over time.
Weah then admonished potential borrowers that the loans are not free money and they must exercise responsibility and seriousness in repaying their loans on time in order to create access for other Liberians.
He said the micro-loan scheme will be available and accessible in all the 15 political sub-divisions of Liberia and will be intended for vulnerable business struggling to recover and compete.
The President used the occasion to assure Liberians that his government would use every available cent on developing the country.
John B. S. Davies, president of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) lauded President Weah for ensuring that such money is provided to Liberian-owned businesses.
Mr. Davies said the launch of the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development earlier in Ganta, Nimba County will serve as a focal point for rallying the growth of the economy.
“As president of LBDI and chairman of the Liberian Bankers Association, along with colleagues across government, see it necessary to incentivize the pro-poor agenda for prosperity and development,” Mr. Davies said.
“Today, we sow a seed as a partnership with the government to ensure that access to finance for small businessmen and businesswomen who, in any country, serve as the bedrock of the economy,” he said.
Of the US$3 million, Mr. Davies said the government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning made available US$1 million, while the LBDI made the remaining US$2 million available, lauding the Board of Directors of LBDI for making such worthy initiative.
He said the US$3 million will impact over 1650 small businesses across the country, stating: “It’s our expectation, honorable President, that five major areas will be affected positively, including trade, agriculture, service, manufacturing and transport.
According to Mr. Davies, beneficiaries of the loan will pay only 7 percent as interest rate for a year on the money received.
Mr. Davies continued: “everyone who has tertiary education knows that small business is the way to grow an economy. We agreed that it’s in our interest and a number of things will be done through this initiative.”
He also assured the government and the Liberian people that the money will go to small businesses.
Mr. Davies added that the loan also stands to be gender sensitive, and will also prioritize the vulnerable people who over the years have been overlooked, including the visually impaired people.
Wilson Tarpeh, Minister of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), said the provision of the loan was as a result of President Weah’s steadfastness and support for private sector development.
Minister Tarpeh said the Commerce Ministry along with partnering institutions is poised to ensure the success of the US$3 million loan scheme.