7 December 2012

Liberia: U.S. Support to LEC Nets Over U.S.$50 Million

Photo: Arne Hoel/The World Bank
Hydropower plant.

U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac and Liberian Government authorities Thursday (Dec 6) signed a US$9.1 million grant that will expand electricity supply to Monrovia and its environs, bringing the total U.S. Government support to Liberia's post war electricity sector to at least US$50 million.

The LEC will use the money to purchase equipment and installation supplies to supply electricity to 7,000 new customers in downtown Monrovia and the Sinkor area.

Acting Finance Minister James Kollie and the Board Chair of the LEC Francis B. Cooper signed for the Liberian Government while Ambassador Malac signed for USAID, the agency through which her government is channeling the grant.

"It gives me great pleasure to be here today to mark the inauguration of a new and exciting partnership between the U.S. and Liberian Governments to link new customers to the Liberia Electricity Corporation's expanding grid", the U.S. Envoy stated.

She said her government understands that energy is front and center in the Liberian Government's Agenda for Transformation (Vision 2030) which will be launched next week," adding, " Early in her tenure, President Sirleaf recognized that energy supply is key to balance economic growth and has made rehabilitation and expansion of the country's energy infrastructure the government's highest priority."

Amb. Malac asserted that the U.S. Government is proud to support this high priority of the Sirleaf Administration. "The United States has been involved in helping restore electricity to Liberia since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accords in 2003. To date, we have invested over $50 million in the sector. We agree with the President that widely available and reasonably priced electricity is one of the central pillars on which Liberian development and prosperity will be built."

With this new funding agreement, she furthered, the U.S. Government, through USAID, "will provide $9.1 million directly to the LEC to expand the electricity grid in Monrovia - both downtown and along Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor. This agreement will provide electrical service to 7,000 new customers - more than doubling the current number of customers."

The U.S. diplomat said the agreement first, provides funding to the LEC directly which reflects the Obama Administration's policy to support the Paris Declaration, the Accra Agenda for Action and Busan in promoting host country ownership of the development process. "This is the second such U.S. Government agreement in Liberia. We signed a similar agreement with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare just over a year ago," she recalled.

The Ambassador said the U.S. willingness to provide direct funding to LEC reflects "our confidence in LEC's increasing management capacity," and that the direct responsibility for use of these funds will further strengthen their ability to manage complex, large scale activities.

Amb. Malac disclosed that the U.S. Government is working closely with the Government of Norway to support LEC's Accelerated Transmission and Distribution project. "Between Norway and ourselves, LEC will receive just over $20 million to significantly increase the number of connections while improving the technical capacity in the energy sector."

The energy sector in Liberia, she averred, benefits from enormous cooperation between international donors and the Government, but indicated that "there is still much to do, so we urge all stakeholders to continue to work together to improve this vital pillar in Liberia's development agenda." She promised that "the U.S. Government will continue its support to the energy sector."

Acting Finance Minister Kollie, in a brief remark, lauded the U.S. Government's support and stressed the need for the Liberian government to invest more in the energy sector as a means of providing affordable electricity for the masses. In the absence Liberia would not succeed in its development drive, he observed.

Kollie noted that with the assistance from the U.S., it is now the responsibility of the Liberian Government to look after the transmission and distribution aspects, indicating that the government has already up to US$8 million in the current fiscal budget towards the restoration of the country's damaged hydro.

LEC Board Chair Cooper applauded the strong relationship between the U.S. and Liberian Governments and relished the level of huge international goodwill the entity is receiving from partners. The money, he said, would be used for the intended purpose.

The lack of electricity in all parts of the city, least to mention the rest of the country, remains a major stumbling block to socio-economic development, creation of employment opportunities and delivery of basic social services.

The Government is working with the World Bank to restore the systematically looted and damaged Mount Coffee Hydro plant that supplied power before the destructive civil war erupted in 1989. At least US$300 million, half of the country's fiscal budget for 2012/2013 is needed to inject new life into the hydro, Finance Minister Amara Konneh has said.

The Ministry of Finance has stated that it is currently finalizing Credit Agreement with the European Investment Bank in the amount of US $65 million (and not US $875 million as it previously stated) for the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee hydro dam. D Kaihenneh Sengbeh/

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