He, too, hails from one of the nation’s oldest counties, in fact that which is second only to Montserrado County. It is Grand Bassa County, the second oldest county in Liberia. Yet Grand Bassa is plagued with the identical problem as Montserrado and all the other counties. The vast majority of the Liberian people live in thatched huts, zinc shacks and mat and cardboard dwellings.
It is this grave habitation crisis that John B.S. Davies, President of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), seeks to address. He must have always known about the housing problems in Liberia, for he grew up with them. But he probably got his inspiration to get in involved from Central Bank Governor J. Mills Jones who with the approval of his Board of Governors, in November 2012 allocated US$10 million to LBDI to start a mortgage program. The aim was to start a lending program at a very low interest rate of not more than 8% to empower ordinary Liberians to build their own homes. As an added incentive, the period to repay the mortgage is eight to 10 years.
Shortly after the Governor announced this mortgage program Mr. Davies told the Daily Observer Business Correspondent that the US$10 million was only the beginning. He believes that in time his bank, working with CBL, other banks and Liberia’s development partners, could raise as much as US$100 million to expand the program throughout Liberia and make a big difference in the standard of the dwelling places of Liberians.
On Thursday, December 22, 2014 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh, CBL Governor Jones, John Davies and the Managing Director of the National Housing Authority (NHA), Sam Wlue, met in the LBDI Conference Room for a special occasion. That was when the NHA handed out to 18 homeowners in the NHA’s housing estate in Brewerville, Montserrado County, temporary certificates of ownership.
Business Correspondent George Kennedy spoke with President Davies shortly following that program. It was then that Mr. Davies disclosed that LBDI would, within the next two years, raise an additional US$20 million to continue the mortgage program in various parts of the country. That would raise the mortgage fund to US$30 million and the bank would be looking for another US$70 million to push the program far and wide in Liberia.
We reckon it would take far more than US$100 million to fix housing in Liberia, but we take pride and joy in the fact that the process has finally begun. When this problem finally gets underway throughout the country, the majority of our people will begin taking the great leap forward by dwelling in modern, affordable homes where, for the first time, they will be cooking, bathing, going to the bathroom, studying and sleeping—all under one roof!
President Sirleaf who witnessed the NHA certifying of home owners, was herself thinking ahead. She told the gathering that she had asked the Managing Director of the National Social Security and Welfare Corporation, Mr. Dewitt von Balmoos, to invest in the housing program. He, too, was present for the occasion, a clear indication that he saw merit in the program and was most probably willing to join in supporting this timely, worthy cause.
We believe there are other public enterprises that could be called upon to tap into this revolutionary program. One is the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC), another, the National Port Authority (NPA) and a third the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). All of these parastatals are run by dynamic and forward looking leaders who we believe would welcome the opportunity to invest in the housing sector and do something more for their people.