9 August 2018

Liberia: World Bank, IMF Okay Eton $536million Loan - Tweah

Photo: The Herald
Forex trader counts U.S. dollars.

Liberian authorities Thursday held talks in Monrovia with Eton Finance Pte Ltd. to conclude financial and technical details of the proposed $536 million loan agreement.

The discussion will continue today at the Ministry of Public Works, Information Minister Eugene Nagbe said at a news conference, yesterday.

International partners have given Liberia the green light to secure the Eton loan with conditions that all transactions should be consistent with international best practice and via the international financial system, Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah told reporters.

He said the Liberian government is responsible and would not enter into a bogus contract that would harm the country.

"Eton has agreed the money will be transferred through recognized commercial banks," said Tweah.

A press release issued late Wednesday stated the following: Dr. Yungseoung Jin, Director of ETON Finance Pte Ltd. arrived in Monrovia Wednesday evening for a two-day visit to meet Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Justice Minister Frank Musa Dean, Public Works Minister Mobutu V. Nyenpan, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel F. McGill and Cllr.Archie Bernard, Legal Adviser to the President and other relevant officials of government.

The ETON loan agreement has generated national and international controversies about its viability and its potential to provide desperately needed financing to construct roads in South Eastern and Western Regions of Liberia. The President of Liberia, H.E. George M. Weah has made road construction the main pillar of his Pro-Poor Infrastructure Agenda.

Opponents of the ETON financing agreement have used all methods of persuasion to prevail on the GOL to cancel the agreement. But in a press conference last Thursday, the Minister of Information dispelled all notions that the government was considering cancelling the agreement. According to the Minister, "The ETON Loan Agreement is now the law of the Land" thus cannot be easily cancelled.

Other arguments in favor of cancellation has suggested that the fifty-day period stipulated in the agreement for the conclusion and disbursement of the first Tranche has expired and the government is well within its rights to cancel the agreement.

However, a close examination of the agreement contradicts that argument. Excerpts from the agreement states: "WHEREAS, it is agreed and understood by the Parties that the transaction contemplated shall comprise the total disbursement of US$536,400,000.00 (United States Dollars Five Hundred Thirty-Six Million Four Hundred Thousand) financing to the Government of Liberia, deposited into the Central Bank of Liberia, in two (2) trenches; it being understood and agreed that the first (1st) trench of at least fifty percent (50%) shall be disbursed within fifty (50) banking days after ratification of this Loan Financing Agreement by the National Legislature of Liberia and the issuance of sovereign guarantee by the Central Bank of Liberia; ... "

According to the agreement the beginning of Fifty Banking Days commenced after the ratification by the National Legislature, signing by the President and issuance of Sovereign Guarantee by the GOL. A careful examination of the timeline since the signing of the agreement by the President on June 14th shows that the 50 banking-days have not yet expired.

Banking days are determined by total number of business days in a month, that being 20. Calculating from June 20th to July 20th there are 20 banking days. From July 20th to August 20th would be another 20 banking days. Up until today's date less than 30 banking days have elapsed since the issuance of the Sovereign Guarantee by the GOL to ETON.

Every Liberian is anxious to see meaningful socio-economic changes taking place in Liberia and the President has committed himself to bring about this change through implementation of his Pro-Poor Agenda. However, Liberians must be equally mindful that positive and meaningful change requires time and commitment.

Patience must therefore be exercised by every true meaning Liberian as we grant the President the political space to execute his agenda for the benefit of the entire country.

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