Liberia: Finance Minister Samuel Tweah Concedes to De-Ratification of ETON, EBOMAF Loan Agreements

Monrovia — Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah has admitted that close to US$1 billion ETON and EBOMAF loans failed because the companies did not have the capacity to deliver the money to the government.

The much-trumpeted Eton (US$536.4 million) and EBOMAF (US$420.8) loan agreements were signed in the early stages of the Weah-led government and ratified in June 2018 by the Legislature for the implementation of the government's so-called costal highway construction project.

However, more than two years following the ratification of the loans, nothing has been done to indicate it is being implemented.

Predicated on this, the House of Representatives recently invited Minister Tweah, along with the Ministers of Justice and Public Works, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean and Mobutu Nyenpan to appear before its plenary this to give the status of the loans.

Speaking to reporters following a closed door meeting with the House, Tweah, for the first time acknowledged that the loans were not attainable and will be de-ratified by the Government of Liberia.

"Those loans were never disbursed, the country did not receive any amount, so they are not loans. And it is just an understanding of de-ratifying or losing those loans," the Finance and Development Planning Minister said in an interview with reporters at the Capitol Building.

Responding to what went wrong, Tweah said probably the companies were not able to disburse the money.

Speaking further, he said the government has learned a lesson from the failed Eton and EBOMAF loans and was now engaging reliable lenders and partners to secure more funding for the implementation of its development plans.

The ETON Financing loan agreement was signed between Liberia and Eton Financing, an amalgamation of Asian investment companies for the construction of 505.3km of roads including rest stops.

On the other hand, the EBOMAF SA Loan covers the pavement of 323.7 km roads including the Somalia Drive via Kesselley Boulevard to Sinkor in Monrovia (16km), Tappita to Zwedru in Nimba and Grand Gedeh Counties respectively, and from Toe Town in Grand Gedeh County to Ivory Coast Border (10.2km) road.

Speaking further, Tweah revealed that the Government is in the process of disbursing social development funds to Bong, Grand Bassa and Nimba Counties paid by Arcelor Mittal.

Representative Samuel Kogar (District #5, Nimba County) threatened to take the government to court if it does not pay the county social development fund in the tune of US$6.8 million within a month.

Rep. Kogar, in a letter to the Plenary of the House on Tuesday, June 30, said since 2017, the government has failed to pay Nimba County's share of the Social Development Fund (SDF) paid by Arcelor Mittal.

In addition, he said the Government has refused to disburse the County Development fund (CDF) in the tune of US$800,000 appropriated in the national budget.

But Tweah told reporters that the Government has been disbursing the funds since it took over. He added that currently money is available at the Central Bank for the three counties and will be ditched out following the completion of the necessary protocols.

"The government has been paying [Arcelor] Mittal Steel Social Development fund. We provided money to Nimba last year. And fund for Bong, Nimba and Grand Bassa is already at the Central Bank."

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