By Melissa Chea-Annan
The President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Bank for Investment and Development (EBID), Bashir M. IFO, says Liberia has made remarkable social and economic progress, since the county returned to democratic governance in 2006. Mr. IFO who spoke at the opening session of the EBID 12th ordinary Meeting of the Board of Governors in Monrovia on Monday stated that sustained economic growth and stability have allowed the country to make notable progress on key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target.
He pointed out that the proportion of the population living below the poverty line is estimated to have fallen from 64.5% in 2007 to 56% in 2010.
According to Mr. IFO, in spite of daunting challenges, the Liberian Government continues to create the enabling environment to achieve socio-economic progress and constructively engage the international community.
Mr. IFO expressed satisfaction that since the re-establishment of democratic governance in Liberia, the country has been seriously engaged with the Bank by attending all of their meetings and making firm commitments to settle its financial obligations to the Bank.
The EBID boss pointed out that in 2013, the total assets of the Bank expanded by 12.3% from UA 359.5 million at the end of December 2012 to UA 403.6 million at the end of December 2013.
“During the period under review, the Board of Directors approved 21 projects in the amount of UA 153.7 million or roughly US$ 232.9 million. On a year-on-year basis new approvals increased by 17%,” the EBID president disclosed.
According to him, new commitments for the bank amounted to UA 118.7 million or US$ 180 million for 15 projects in 2013, indicating an increase of 40% over the level recorded in 2012.
According to Mr. IFO, the availability of concessional resources to the Bank is key, in ensuring that it attends to the enormous developmental needs within the sub-region. He also commended the Board of Governors for the immense contributions made and continues to make in positioning EBID as an important player in the sub-region’s quest for rapid economic growth poverty reduction, and improved infrastructure.
In her opening remarks, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf stated that in the face of the slow payments of capital by regional members, it is important that the Bank and the shareholders consider opening up of a capital portfolio to non-regional members and other institutional investors.
According to her, the admission of non-regional members will enable EBID to contribute to the economic and social development of Member States through low interest loans and that with a larger membership, the Bank will be endowed with greater expertise, and the credibility of its partners would allow it to have access to the markets of non-regional Member States.
President Sirleaf indicated that it is important if EBID is to play a key role they have envisioned for it in regional growth and development, the Bank has to be properly resourced, something that will require commitment from all stakeholders.
“This means that Member States should act in concert to ensure that the Bank is well funded. Also, the Bank should be seen by regional institutions and foreign partners as an important player within the sub-region,” President Sirleaf added.