13 September 2012

Liberia: Minister Konneh Stresses Importance of Investing in Energy, Infrastructure

Finance Minister, Amara Konneh has underscored the need to invest in energy, manufacturing and road infrastructure sectors of Liberia.

Speaking at a meeting with members of the Liberian business community held at the Liberia Chamber of Commerce in Monrovia recently, Minister Konneh said electricity (energy) and manufacturing sectors are critical to job creation.

Minister Konneh; "Electricity and manufacturing are critical to job creation. The image we all have in our heads when we think of creating jobs in Liberia is the extractive sector of the economy. And such jobs fill a crucial space in the economy, allowing people with good skills but limited education to earn a decent living. The trouble is: the jobs that are created by the concession companies are few, relative to the proportion of unemployed Liberians."

Manufacturing today accounts for only about 5.3% of the Liberian economy, and is derived mostly from small-scale industrial activities such as the manufacture of cement, bricks, beverages, and wooden furniture, according to Minister Konneh.

"There are few and limited opportunities to expand the manufacturing sector, due to the absence of sufficient and cheap electricity for such reason," Minister Konneh further stated that the "government, with the support of Germany, Norway, the European Development Bank, is moving aggressively to rehabilitate the Mount Coffee Hydro Power Plant, beginning this fiscal year, to increase energy production, transmission and distribution, within the next three years."

He said The Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy is working with all relevant stakeholders to complete the bidding documents, while the Ministry of Finance is ensuring that funds to finance the project is available on time.

Minister Konneh also said that the government has established an Energy Trust Fund to manage the more than US$30 Million appropriated in the FY2012/13 to complete the access road to Mt. Coffee; install a 10 megawatts thermal diesel plant during this fiscal year so as to reduce the current cost of energy in the country by 50%; which is from $0.54 to $0.24; and build a transmission line from Mt. Coffee to LEC's Bushrod location.

The Finance Minister also disclosed that government, through the National Investment Commission (NIC), plans to attract manufacturing companies in the same way that it has attracted big mining and agriculture companies that are today operating in Liberia.

"While we do this, we must also invest in skills building through technical and vocational education, as well as strive to institute apprenticeship programs along with the private sector, such as the cooperative education program that is also supported in the budget;" Minister Konneh stated.

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