The Liberian Government delegation to the 2013 annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington DC has concluded various high level meetings geared towards accelerating infrastructure development in Liberia.
This year's Annual Meetings were meant to follow up on show case made on the Agenda for Transformation during the last Annual and Spring Meetings. The meetings, which also included technicians from the Ministry of Finance, Public Works and the Central Bank of Liberia, took stock of progress made on targets set in Tokyo (Japan) and Washington D.C. in 2012 and in Spring of this year respectively, with particular focus on infrastructure including energy and roads.
The delegation was headed by Finance Minister Amara M. Konneh, accompanied by Central Bank Governor Mill Jones, Public Works Minister Antoinette Weeks, Montserrado County District #8 Representative and member of the Legislative committee on Banking and Currency, Munah Pelham, and the President of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment, John B.S. Davis.
While in Washington D.C., the Liberian delegation participated in many high-level meetings including one with the World Bank Vice President Maktar Diop; the World Bank Country meetings on infrastructure; the IMF Country Team, IMF Director and Deputy Director (reviewer for Liberia) for Africa; US Secretary of the Treasury Jack LEW on Power Africa; the European Investment Bank; the Kuwaiti Fund on Gbarnga-Menikoma Highway; the African Caucus meeting; IMFC Meeting with the IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde; the African Group 1 Panel and Constituency; Citi Bank Group on power and port financing in Liberia; AfriEXIM Bank President and the G7+ meeting with the World Bank President.
According to a Finance Ministry release, during the high-level meeting with the World Bank Vice President, Maktar Diop, Minister Konneh highlighted progress made on Liberia's effort towards achieving a vision for sustainable growth and development particularly investing in infrastructure, with special emphasis on the rehabilitation of the energy sector, roads and ports.
He advocated for the reallocation of unused IDA 16 resources to Liberia and an increase in IDA 17 allocation for Liberia when the Bank replenishes it in December, emphasizing that his country, which is currently implementing a robust economic transformation strategy, requires more financial and technical supports towards the successful implementation of Liberia's ambitious development agenda, the Agenda for Transformation.
He particularly stressed the urgent need for the Bank assistance in the infrastructure sector including the energy sector particularly transmission and distribution, capacity building to help GoL separate the regulatory and utility management functions of the energy sector, capacity building on procurement to roll out a comprehensive automated procurement system linked to the Integrated Financial Management System (IFMIS)across government that will reduce corruption, ensure contract management and a speedy implementation of the various infrastructure projects.
Minister Konneh also made a passionate push for support to address the unemployment situation in Liberia by providing more support to youth employment to skills program currently being implemented to address the skills and unemployment issues in Liberia.
Minister Konneh also pleaded with the Bank for financial support towards funding the gap in the resettlement action plan (RAP) to reimburse those who are in the right of way for Liberia's entire current infrastructure projects.
In his response, the World Bank VP Diop promised the Bank's commitment to assist Liberia in removing the impediments, thus fast-tracking infrastructure development in the country. With funding, it is expected that various road projects including the Somalia Drive, Red Light to Ganta-Guinea Boarders, as well as the construction of a new bridge in Caldwell will be accelerated, with works commencing as early as this dry season. Works have already begun on the flagship Paynesville to Ganta Highway's pavement.
During the meeting also with the World Bank senior management team, the head of Liberian delegation highlighted that significant progress has been made on the energy front with the advancement of the procurement of the 10 megawatts Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) Power Plant in Bushrod Island, the ratification of the Liberia Electricity Enhancement Project linking the Monrovia - Kakata corridor transmission.
The Bank commented further on the distribution, provision of capacity to the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy to complete the energy master plan and significant progress on the HFO unloading and storage facility at the Freeport of Monrovia for the 38 megawatts HFO plants being constructed by the Government of Liberia with financing through the national budget, from the World Bank and Japan. Additionally, he enumerated the level of progress that has been made on infrastructure development, including the completion and subsequent dedication of the Monrovia-Buchanan highway and ongoing works on the Monrovia - Ganta highway.
The Bank senior management in response committed to continuing their relentless support towards Liberia's development drives.
Minister Konneh used the meetings to extend thanks and appreciation to the funders of the Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund (LRTF), through the World Bank. He was pleased with the mobilization work by the contractor that is currently underway for the construction of a new bridge that would link Caldwell to Bushrod Island.
He also thanked the Bank's Board for their approval of the government's request to allocate 80% of resources of Liberia's national IDA allocations to fund infrastructure, with the remaining 20% on soft programs including education, health, governance and institution within the Country Partnership Strategy (CPS). This, the Minister added, is consistent with the Government's development policy.
The Treasury Chief was particularly pleased with the commitment of approximately US$80 million by the Bank in the new CPS and the commitment of US$50 million by the Sweden Development Agency towards the Ganta to Zwedru road project. Though this amount fell short of the required sum needed (about US$400 million) to complete this project, Minister Konneh is optimistic that this initial injection will serve as a catalyst to attract funding from other development partners.
He asked the Bank to "leverage its convening power to encourage donors to contribute to the Ganta- Zwedru highway via LRTF." The feasibility study on the Ganta-Zwedru Highway is underway.
Given Liberia splendid performance under its IDA allocation execution, Minister Konneh also pushed for reallocation of unused IDA 16 allocations by other countries to give the government of Liberia more space to carry out its ongoing development projects across the country. IDA (International Development Association) is the funding vehicle of the World Bank to member countries to fund their development programs.
In a related development, the World Bank President has announced that IDA allocation for Fragile States will be increased by 50% in the next IDA (IDA17) circle. The Bank President reiterated this commitment when he met with the g7+ ministers of Finance.
He also pleaded with the g7+ ministers of Finance to join the World Bank in pleading with the donors vis-à-vis funders of the IDA to advocate for IDA 17 replenishment. When this materializes, Liberia is said to benefit greatly as the Liberia Treasury Chief has in previous meetings with the multilateral institutions including the World Bank Senior Management advocated for more support to fragile states. Since becoming Finance Minister, Mr. Konneh has been a leading advocate for increased support to fragile and conflict-affected states.
Given the limited concessional financing and serious risk associated with non-concessional financing particularly through the Europe and Dollars bonds (with high interest and short maturity), Minister Konneh advocated for the use of non-concessional window through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The IBRD being part of the Bank's family has low risk for fragile states.
The Finance Minister also advocated for Guinea Bissau through the African Caucus, particularly emergency funding for the country upcoming elections, emphasizing that "the stability of Guinea-Bissau will contribute to the long term stability of West Africa."
In a meeting with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Minister encouraged with the EIB delegation to move faster with their commitment toco-financing of 50% of the Roberts International Airport's (RIA) runway with initial estimates at about US$60 million.
He informed the EIB delegation that significant progress has been made in the establishment of the Project Implementation Unit (PIU) at the airport to properly manage and fast track implementation. He further informed the EIB that the GoL is seeking to collaborate with the Arab lenders including the Saudi Fund and BADEA to co-finance the cost of the remaining 50% percent.
On the Gbarnga-Mendikoma highway, the Minister met with the Kuwaiti delegation and stressed the need to fast track this project. Coming out of the meeting, the Liberian delegation and the Kuwaiti delegation agreed to an Arab Round Table meeting in Monrovia in the first quarter of 2014 to secure financing for this project once the feasibility study has been concluded by the Ministry of Public Works.
According to Public Works, Lot1 - Gbarnga to Konia has been completed; and that they expect to conclude the feasibility study for Lot2 Konia to Mendikoma in December this year.