World Bank Earmarks US$80m For Ganta-Fishtown Road…Boosts Liberia Energy Sector With US$35m

The World Bank has earmarked 80 million United States Dollars to frontload a new infrastructure project in Liberia, the construction of the Ganta-Fishtown Highway. The commitment constitutes an initial contribution towards the project, subject to the approval of the Bank’s Board in a scheduled May 2013 meeting.

The latest funding was secured in Washington DC at the recent World Bank and IMF Spring Meeting, where the Liberian delegation, headed by Finance Minister, Amara Konneh made a strong case for the Bank’s intervention in supporting the Agenda for Transformation (AfT), by negotiating an increase in and frontloading Liberia’s International Development Association’s (IDA) credit allocations for fiscal year 2014 (FY14). The delegation further secured preliminary commitment from the Bank to allocate 80% of the country’s development envelop to infrastructure and 20% on human and social services.

In a release issued recently, the Ministry of Finance said during a high level meeting with the World Bank Africa Vice President Mr. Makhtar Diop, Minister Konneh and team raised the importance of sustaining economic growth and development through investment. “Liberia has made tremendous progress towards its infrastructural development program out of which we have made infrastructure including energy our number one national priority”, Minister Konneh stated.

He said due to shortfalls in the revenue envelope, the current national budget was recalibrated to ensure that funds were available for capital expenditure. In response, Mr. Diop lauded the progress Liberia has made and pledged additional support from the World Bank towards infrastructure projects.

The construction of the Ganta-Fishtown Highway would link the adjourning Fishtown-Harper Highway project, which is being funded by the African Development Bank and the Liberia Government.

The new funds are being secured as part of the World Bank Country Partnership Strategy and would be applied in the upcoming 2013-2014 National Budget.

The Liberian government has consistently stressed the need for investment in two critical sectors, “roads and electricity” as key catalyst to accelerate inclusive growth and the cornerstone of its medium term development agenda the “Agenda for Transformation”.

On the regional front, Minister Konneh stressed the need for a more regional approach to building infrastructure in the Manu River Union. In response, the World Bank Vice President for Africa lauded the Liberian Government for opening up its fiscal space, indicating that such a bold move has reduced the risks associated with financial assistance, especially in the form of loans. He also urged Manu River leaders to unite and push hard for regional projects, reassuring Minister Konneh and his delegation of the World Bank commitment to supporting this effort.

In similar development during a discussion held between the IMF Managing Director and the Africa Consultative Group, the Minister of Finance encouraged members of the development comm unity to focus on the need for development financing while looking at reforms to the debt limit policy in IMF

programs, noting that flexibility and simplicity in the debt limit policy will improve adherence to it, as well as allow the realization of development plans.

As part of the Government’s efforts to secure resources for projects in the ambitious Agenda for Transformation, the Minister also had successful meetings with the non-traditional development partners including Brazil, Saudi Arabia and India.

At the same time, following days of intense negotiations with global financial institutions and stakeholders, Liberia has managed to secure a US$35 million loan from the World Bank to expand the country’s demanding energy sector.

A dispatch from Washington, DC says the deal was brokered during a recent high level World Bank-IMF Spring Meeting where Finance Minister Amara Konneh, leading a high power delegation, made a sterling case for continued support to Liberia’s medium term development drive, the Agenda for Transformation(AfT).

Out of the total US35 million World Bank loan commitment $20 million will go towards the transmission and distribution lines from Paynesville to Kakata, Margibi County to provide access to electricity for about 18,000 new customers, while $11 million will go towards constructing facilities to off-load, store and pump Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) for power generation. The remaining US$4 million will be used for capacity building at the Ministry of Lands Mines & Energy.

According to the agreement, the Liberia Accelerated Electricity Expansion Project (LACEEP) will finance a 66 kV sub- transmission line between the Paynesville substation in Monrovia and the city of Kakata, providing electricity to new customers that will include residential users, small businesses, institutional consumers, and a few agro-industrial customers.

The HFO facilities will include a large storage tank in Bushrod Island, and a pipeline connecting the Bong Mining Company (BMC) pier of the China Union concession to the storage tank with a pumping statfon.

Commending the World Bank officials for the loan facility granted Liberia, Minister Konneh however reiterated that the total demand for energy today in ‘Liberia is astronomical. “Before the war, the (Mt. Coffee) hydro produced about 64MW; today the demand is close to 250MW. Therefore we need to do something about the energy issue quickly to encourage production and manufacturing in the country, which will lead to creating jobs and engender strong and sustained growth in our economy,” he stated.

The Liberian delegation also made strong case for the Bank’s intervention in supporting the country’s new development agenda under the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) by nedating an increase in and frontloading Liberia’s International Development Association’s (IDA) credit allocations for fiscal year 2014 (FY14), ‘

Meanwhile, the Government of Liberia has stated it will continue its talks with other potential partners to ensure funding is available for other infrastructure projects.

The credit agreement with the World Bank will now go before the World Bank’s Board in May of this year, after which it is expected to be signed and ratified by the Liberian parliament.