The NEWS (Monrovia)

14 April 2014

Liberia: GOL Seek Support for Ganta-Zwedru Highway

Finance Minister Amara Konneh and delegation at the ongoing spring meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund have made specific request for the World Bank to assist Liberia raise additional and alternative financing model for the Ganta-Tappita to Zwedru highway estimated at about US$386 million.

"This corridor has key economic and political importance for our country and it is critical we direct investments and accelerate engagement with other actors to have those projects finalized," Minister Konneh said.

According to him, the government has so far raised US$80 million in IDA commitment for the Ganta to Zwedru road, but would need over US$300 million to complete the financing requirements.

The request was made when the Liberian delegation held country-level discussions with the World Bank's Vice President for Africa, Mahktar Diop on support for Liberia's development agenda.

The meeting with Mr. Diop, former Finance and Economy Minister of Senegal, centered on addressing bottlenecks affecting Liberia's portfolio performance and disbursement rate under the International Development Association (IDA,) financing arrangement, on key projects, including support to the health sector, direct budget support and financing of the Redlight to Gbarnga to Guinea border road project.

Konneh praised the Bank's country team for considerable progress in accelerating Liberia's portfolio and acknowledged challenges faced by the country in speeding up ratification of funding agreements which has adversely affected the rate of disbursement on Liberia's IDA portfolio.

"We as a government and a country are concerned about these delays but we have ourselves at a critical intersection of democratic maturation, where our legislature has grown independent and is reviewing most of these instruments in ways and manner never seen in our history. These kinds of scrutiny take time and result in delays, so we will work with our colleagues to find the requisite balance so that our growth agenda is not affected," Konneh noted. He also briefed the bank on other road financing initiatives including possible Arab financing of Lot 1 of the Gbarnga to Mendikorma highway and Millennium Challenge Corporation potential financing of Lot II of this project and a possible EU financing of the Duala to Bo-Waterside road project.

Meanwhile, Konneh and delegation have enjoined the Bank to increase Liberia's portfolio under the 17th IDA allocation, with approximately 80% of this support directed to the investments in energy and transport.

He also emphasized support for the agriculture and youth sectors, underscoring their critical linkage to economic growth and job creation.

Receiving the Minister and delegation, the World Bank Vice President Maktar Diop said "Mr. Minister, I must stress you have articulated a lot about the need for more resources for Africa, especially fragile states and you have been a key voice for Africa in discussions with the G7 +, something we have taken note of and we have made progress in this direction."

On Liberia, Diop said, modalities for support under the IDA 17 was being finalized but stressed the need for a more regional approach to the energy issues and needs in West Africa, within the framework of the West Africa Power Pool and the sub-regional Cote D'ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Interconnection project.

He said the Bank was committed to supporting Liberia's development strategy and encouraged Minister Konneh to keep pushing for Liberia's priority projects.

Minister Konneh, who is also National Coordinator of the Liberia Development Alliance (LDA), is expected to hold discussions with the IMF, and other multinational and bilateral institutions with a view of securing additional financing for the Agenda for Transformation.

Officials traveling with Minister Konneh include Agriculture Minister Florence Chenoweth, Public Works Minister Antoinette Weeks, Central Bank Governor Mills Jones, Information Minister Lewis Brown and Youth & Sports Minister Eugene Nagbe.

Each Spring, the IMF's International Monetary and Financial Committee and the joint World Bank-IMF Development Committee, meet to discuss progress on the work of the IMF and the World Bank Group. The meetings feature seminars, regional briefings, press conferences, and other events focused on the global economy, international development, and the world's financial markets. Thousands of government officials, journalists, civil society organizations, and invited participants from the academia and private sectors, gather in Washington, D.C. for the Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank Group.

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