Story by Sidiki Trawally
Washington DC-The Liberian delegation to the World Bank and IMF spring meetings in Washington DC has been making a strong case for the Bank’s intervention in supporting the country’s new development agenda under the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) by asking for an increase in and frontloading of Liberia’s International Development Association’s (IDA) credit allocations for fiscal year 2014 (FY14).
At two high level meetings with the Bank’s Country Manager for Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone, Yusufu Crookes and the World Bank Institute Wednesday, Finance Minister Amara Konneh who heads the delegation including the chairmen of the two Ways, Means and Finance Committees of the national legislature stressed Liberia’s urgent need for financial resources to ensure the successful implementation of the AfT that currently has a funding gap of $2b.
Minister Konneh at the meetings emphasized that the Government of Liberia’s main priority is the rehabilitation of the country’s energy and transport infrastructure which are integral component of Liberia’s macroeconomic development strategy.
The Liberian Treasury Chief used the meetings to review progress on financing current infrastructure projects as well as proposing a $10 million dollars Economic Growth Stabilization Fund for social contingencies related to ongoing and future projects such as the increasing cost of resettlement action plans to compensate those who occupy the right of way. He also showcased the AfT at a session attended by key stakeholders from the donor community to build support and mobilize resources for the five-year plan.
The Liberian official who knows first-hand what developed roads and access to electricity can bring to the developing nations, particularly in a post- country like Liberia also underscored the urgent need for restoring the energy sector which is vital to sustainable growth and development.
The Finance Minister is a leading voice of the administration’s campaign on energy access for all Liberians and remains an outspoken advocate who to ensure the acquisition of affordable but sustainable power that benefit Liberians. He is optimistic that with energy, most especially, with the Mount Coffee hydro coming back on stream, Liberia’s economic output would register unfettered growth that will benefit all Liberians.
During the meetings, Minister Konneh pushed the Bank very hard on financing the paving of the Ganta-Fishtown highway, a crucial link to the south of the country and to eastern Cote d’Ivoire on which feasibility studies begin next fiscal year. He maintained that to keep the Liberian economy booming again, investing in the energy and transport sector was critical.
Mr. Crookes in response welcomed the Liberian challenge and assured that something concrete would be done to support the AfT implementation. He lauded the Liberian Government for opening up its fiscal space, indicating that such move has reduced the risk associated with financial assistance, especially in the form of loans.
The Bank official said the World Bank is committed to leveraging financial sources to help the AfT process. He disclosed that the Bank will work with the Government to develop a framework through which the Bank’s supports would be channeled. “We will be more than happy to help Liberia,” Mr. Crooks assured.
Liberia has put together a growth-driven development plan known as the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) that is fully participatory. Minister Konneh believes the AfT will transform Liberia as the delegation resolved to seek broad based support from the World Bank and IMF for its successful implementation.
Meanwhile, Minister Konneh and delegation will be holding several bilateral meetings with main stakeholders including the Saudi government to seek support in the form of bilateral grants and concessional financing. “We will mobilize resources from lenders because we cannot finance our AfT programs domestically,” says the Minister, who also hinted that the delegation will make similar case to the IMF for flexibility in fast-tracking the allocation of funds to Liberia’s development agenda. RELATED STORY
Additionally, he will be pledging to the IMF, on behalf of the Government, commitment to undertake additional key structural reforms within the financial management systems. It is worth noting that prior to his departure for the Spring Meetings, the Minister issued a Policy Brief which included the setting up of a SoE Reporting Unit to ensure compliance with the PFM Law, the creation of a Project Management Office to work with M&As in developing projects with high economic yields and the introduction of a Treasury Single Account, to ensure prudent liquidity management of government’s finances.