The signing of the US$257 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) grant is a big deal for Liberia. It reinforces two critical development pillars of the Sirleaf administration, Roads and Energy, as it seeks to address binding constraints to growth.
The compact negotiated between the two governments will support the GoL fund key projects including the largest contribution to the rehabilitation of the Mt. Coffee Hydro Power Plant, rehabilitation of the water intake and pipeline from Mt. Coffee to Millsburg, construction of regional road maintenance centers in River Gee and Tubmanburg, and construction of a LEC Training Center.
Beyond the sheer size of the grant, the single largest bilateral infrastructure aid, it has three other significant implications of interest. First, and as Vice President Joseph Boakai declared, it represents an acknowledgment that in spite of all the challenges and domestic criticisms of the government’s performance records, it has made notable progress in improving the governance landscape. As meeting the MCC eligibility requirements mean a country must score well across key governance indicators, many of which are informed by third party assessments.
Matched against the MCC’s own sets of stringent criteria, reaching a pass mark is no mean feat and for the few countries that have made progress in the program’s history, it is always a monumental affair. Therefore, it is uplifting to see that Liberia is being recognized as a “governance success story” even in the face of domestic criticisms.
As the Liberia Compact was prepared largely by Liberian professionals working on the ground in Liberia through the direction and leadership of Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh, it goes to show that Liberia despite still suffering the effects of a prolonged civil conflict is blessed with individuals possessing the expertise and courage to successfully engage with an international process of such repute. It is easy to misunderstand what the MCC is especially from a layman’s point of view, but diving deeper into the complex sets of regimes that a country must navigate to be deemed eligible you will appreciate the enormity of work required to even make successive rounds of qualification. And whether you hate or like Konneh, this might be his single most important achievement of his tenure as Liberia’s Minister of Finance.
And finally, the MCC grant comes at an opportune time for the country, when considering the severe economic consequences left by Ebola and the less than favorable global economic downturn that could potentially trouble the country’s balance sheet in the near future. Through this assistance, the Liberian government can now air a sigh of relief that one its signature projects, the restoration of the Mount Coffee Hydroelectric dam will happen as hoped. Not many might have known that Ebola in itself had brought an unexpected cost overrun on the Mount Coffee project and also that the GOL was struggling to raise its share of counterpart contribution to the joint fund through which the project was financed. But with this support, those concerns can now be allied at least in the interim.
When put together, it can be seen that this grant is a phenomenal life saver for a country so desperately in need of a lift, following a rather terrible disaster as was the Ebola crisis. But while the country dances to the music, we all are consumed by the euphoria forget to acknowledge the hands behind the orchestras set, who worked tirelessly in making what had seem in 2013 as a far-fetched hope to now become a reality in the works. We must applaud Amara Konneh and his team and all his predecessors who worked in making this dream a reality.
Indeed Liberia has won!
About the author
Lawrence Randall is former Executive Director of the African Peer Review Mechanism, Liberia Office. A program development specialist and lawyer with extensive experience in the media and communication sector. Randall has worked in media and civil society for an extended period. He is a student of Public Policy studies at Georgetown University, United States.