The Liberian Government under the stewardship of George Manneh Weah on October 25, 2018 signed a financing agreement with the European Union (EU) for the construction and pavement of the road linking Sanniquellie, the capital of Nimba County, to the border town of Loguatuo on the Liberian-Ivorian border.
Loguatuo is an important gateway and main transit point to the Ivory Coast through Nimba County. It sits astride the West African Highway trunk running from Dakar, Senegal, to Lagos, Nigeria. According to the Liberia Revenue Authority, Loguatuo is a major revenue generating port of entry through which thousands of dollars’ worth of goods transit every day, thus making it one of the largest revenue generating ports of entry.
Since the inception of this administration in January, it has made strenuous efforts to arrange financing for its proposed road projects. Some of these arrangements like those of the Eton Finance PTE Ltd Agreement of US$536,400,000, and the EBOMAF Agreement under which $426 million was arranged.
President Weah may have had good intentions when he commenced his quest to secure funding for the road projects, however his officials abjectly failed to exercise adequate due diligence to ensure that the proposed agreement was in the country’s best interest. Not even the Legislature was of any help; for before “forty gods could skin a flea”, they had resoundingly passed the agreement with calls coming from them for the sourcing of more loans.
Naysayers expressing opposition to the loan arrangements were quickly hushed and their voices silenced. But as it turned out, the loan agreements have since fizzled out. Reports say that over the last month or two, Eton executives have flown to Monrovia seeking the Liberian government’s cooperation to cough up some one million dollars in keeping with the signed and approved loan agreement. Reports also say the Eton executives were given a cold shoulder by the responsible and relevant government officials.
But the apparent demise of the proposed loan arrangements served to lay to rest public apprehensions about the opaque nature of those agreements which, according to sources would have required the surrender of the country’s reserves to the loan financiers as a collateral.
The signing of the road financing agreement with the EU is therefore a welcome development which should serve to help steer the country away from the trend of shady arrangements with obscure financing companies.
The European Union (EU) road financing agreement for the pavement of the Sanniquellie-Loguatuo road stretch has, unlike the failed Eton and Ebomaf loan arrangements, put smiles, for good reasons, on the faces of government officials and warmed the hearts of the Liberian people.
This was when the EU Head of Delegation, Ambassador Hélèn Cavé and Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah, on October 25, signed on behalf of their respective countries US$6.87 million for the construction of the 47-kilometer road commencing from Sanniquellie to Loguatuo at the Liberia-Ivorian border in Nimba County.
The agreement to pave that road is not only welcoming to the Liberian Government, but to the citizens living in that part of the country as well.
This road, as strategic as it is to the Liberian economy and intra West African trade and regional integration, it has perennially been pothole laden during the dry season and a virtual mud pool during the rainy season when it becomes virtually impassable to vehicle traffic. As Ambassador Cavé alluded, the road is the shortest route that connects the Ivory Coast with the rest of West Africa extending westwards.
When paved, it will open new windows of opportunity for commerce and trade and regional cooperation.
For the Liberian economy, this route will serve to enhance trade between Ivory Coast and Liberia, and will promote revenue generation at that strategic Loguatuo border.
In the first quarter of 2017/2018 budget year, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) recorded a reported total of US$147,000 from the Loguatuo border and $231,000 from the Ganta-Guinea border respectively, which constituted the highest amounts collected in taxes that year in taxes in rural Liberia.
The agreement to pave the Sanniquellie-Loguatuo road is just one of the many laudable ventures for which the EU can be fondly remembered.
Additionally, the EU supports road maintenance projects in Liberia such as the Cotton Tree-Buchanan Highway, and the Babangida Highway from the Po River to Bo Waterside in Grand Cape Mount County. Even the Paynesville-Ganta Border highway project came a 10-year maintenance agreement to ensure the longevity of the road investment and the transfer of knowledge and expertise in road engineering to Liberians involved in the project.
The EU is also involved with forest conservation efforts to help preserve the country’s biodiversity and enable communities living around the forests to benefit from the proceeds. We say thanks a million, EU!
The agreement between Liberia and the EU gives Liberians the assurance of impactful results because of its transparent nature unlike the Eton Finance whose executives are reportedly in town lobbying with the Liberian Government to provide at least US$1 million as a collateral to enable them source out the loan.
The significant aspect of this EU loan arrangement stems from the fact that the money is not landing in the hands of Liberian Government officials which, in such case may likely end up in deep private pockets. Instead, payment will go directly to the company that wins the bid to construct the road.
With the nation already on pins over the unsolved disappearance of billions of newly printed Liberian dollar banknotes, public skepticism about the EU loan financing agreement for the pavement of the Sanniquellie-Loguatuo road, however appears to be virtually nil.
This newspaper welcomes the agreement for the pavement of the Sanniquellie-Loguatuo road which, by all accounts, is a legitimate and transparent arrangement far removed from those of the bogus Eton and Ebomaf arrangements.