Monrovia- As the Government of Liberia continues to identify infrastructure development as its priority, the Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Liberia, Mr. Lenn Eugene Nagbe has announced that the World Bank through a consortium that include the African Development Bank, International Monetary Fund and European Union has presented an offer of $500 million United States Dollars to the Liberian Government for the funding of road works in the country.
Speaking during the regular MICAT weekly press briefing on Thursday, Minister Nagbe told reporters that negotiations on the offer between the Liberian Government and the Consortium is nearing completion as final details are being work out. He said, the loan will be given to Liberia at a 0.5% interest rate with the President of Liberia asking that the amount be released to Liberia in a three-year period as it the time frame set for the completion of major roadworks in the country. Min. Nagbe also said that the $500 million dollars is an initial offer, with a leverage of additional $500 million and will sum up to $1.5bn in total financing. The Minister also indicated that the financing proposed by the World Bank is in direct relations to feasibility studies conducted by the Ministry of Public Works and international partners and financed by the European Union. He said, “The President held several meetings with officials of the World bank, European Union, IMF and African Development Bank and presented their own feasibility study to them when asking them for the funds. He must be highly credited for this”.
Responding to rumors about the ETON and EBOMAF loans being dead, Min. Nagbe said, “ETON and EBOMAF agreements are law. This is something that was passed as an act of the Liberian Legislature. It has not been changed, and once it is law, ETON and EBOMAF have responsibility to Liberia, as the Government has her own responsibilities toward both agreements”. The Minister told reporters that the idea of loans being sought by the Government didn’t just derive out of the blue. He said, for agricultural and other developmental activities to fully commence in all parts of Liberia, roads connectivity is very vital. Minister Nagbe pointed out, “The Millennium Compact Constraints Analysis highlighted two main constraints to Liberia’s development; roads and energy. We are concentrating on roads because it enhances development immediately, and without good roads, even energy distribution will not be possible”. The Minister concluded by informing reporters that President George Weah is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping soon and will seek more funds for road development. He added, “France has provided an initial 5 million Euros as part of 10 million Euros promised the Liberian government for budgetary support to the Liberian Government when president Weah visited the country, and also made a commitment of additional 5 million Euros for youth development”.
During his presentation, Mr. Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan, Sr., Minister of Public Works informed the gathering that Liberia has a total of 12,000 kiliometers of road network, however, only 1,000 kilometers have been paid in Liberia’s 171 years history. He said, “The road situation in the country is a threat to national security, and during the rainy season, the country is usually divided, and most of the rural parts of the country can be disconnected”. Minister Nyenpan also told reporters that Liberia needs $3.4-$3.5 billion to improve the road network in Liberia. The Minister added that in 2015, the Government of Liberia contributed US$20 million dollars toward road construction, while international partners provided US$150 million toward Liberia’s road network development. Mr. Nyenpan added, “If road work continue at its pace, it will take 2,000 years to pave the country whole road network”. The Minister cited challenges in Liberia’s road construction but also pointed out government’s commitment to complete projects started by past governments. He identified the dedication of the Coca-Cola road project, the Capitol Building annex completion and dedication and said that the Executive Mansion rehabilitation will be completed and dedicated in the first quarter of 2019. Minster Nyenpan then went on to identify several projects that are in the making or ongoing, naming, Coca-Cola to ELWA junction four lanes with street lights on both sides, road maintenance work between Gabriel Tucker Bridge and St. Paul Bridge, four lanes between RIA to ELWA Junction, interchange between the Ministerial Complex and S.K.D. boulevard, interchange between Kesseley boulevard and Sinkor, Ganta to Zwedru, Ganta to Yekepa, among others.
Reacting to news about the 25 cents tax levied on petroleum for road construction and maintenance, the Public Works Minister told newsmen that the road funds deposit were halted due to court order after an importer sued the government and prohibition was placed on the process. Minister Nyenpan said, “Despite the prohibition, the 25 cents were still being paid by consumers, and after a meeting between the President and importers, the case has been withdrawn from court and importers have agreed to pay”. The Minister also told reporters that the Liberia Revenue Authority has been instructed to commence collection from importers, and the road fund office has been reactivated and a manager subsequently recruited. The Public Works Minister further indicated that an annual $35 million dollars is expected to be collected from this 25 cents road funds tax thereby buttressing government road construction efforts. In closing, Mr. Nyenpan said, “Liberians will be put to work and local economies will be stimulated as a result of road works around the country. The government priority is road network because road brings development”.
The news of $500 million dollars offer to Liberia by the World Bank and partners is welcoming as the government has been exerting efforts in locating funds to begin major road projects she has earmarked. When concluded, this would boost government’s efforts to a very large extent. Good road network has been a major challenge to Liberia’s growth, and if projects highlighted by the government are completed, it would provide significant relief to the nations economic activities.