–Over Passage of Loan Agreements
By Reuben Sei Waylaun & T. Saye Goinleh
Controversies over the passage of the loan agreements between the Government of Liberia and Eton Private Finance Limited (US$536million) based in Singapore and Groupe EBOMAF SA (US$426million) based in Burkina Faso continue to go on even among members of the House of Representatives.
The two loan agreements amounting to US$962million was recently signed by the Liberian Government awaiting ratification by the National Legislature.
On Monday June 4, 2018, the first public hearing on the US$536million was organized by the joint committees of the National Legislature on ways, means, finance and development planning, Public Works and Judiciary and subsequently passed on Tuesday June 5, 2018; while the loan agreement with Groupe EBOMAF SA and the Liberian Government was passed on Thursday June 7, 2018 respectively.
Both loan agreements have been ratified by the Liberian Senate and awaiting the official signing by the Liberian chief executive.
Amidst the controversies, President Weah has informed the lawmakers that the objective of the loan is to finance the coastal corridor connection of the country’s county capitals’ road project and construction of the Buchanan-Cestos City-Barclayville Road, the Barclayville-Sasstown Road; the Barclayville-Pleebo Road; the Medina-Robertsport Road; the Tubmanburg-Bopolu Road.
According to the plan, also to be constructed are rest stops and roadside service areas; the construction of a vocational training center in Greenville, Sinoe County; the construction of mini soccer (football) stadiums in Harper, Maryland County, Barclayville, Grand Kru County; Greenville, Sinoe County; Cestos City, Rivercess County; Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County; and Bopolu, Gbarpolu County.
President Weah informed the lawmakers that the principal amount of the loan is payable in 15 years by level payment at an interest rate of 1.46% per annum, with a seven-year interest-free and principal-free grace period.
Meanwhile, several lawmakers have distanced themselves from the passage by the National Legislature.
Representatives J. Nagbe Sloh of Sinoe, Yekeh Kolubah of Montserrado have all made their dissatisfaction over the passage of the loan agreements by the House of Representatives known to the Liberian people.
Speaking on Okay FM Monday, Representative Sloh said he doesn’t care whether his county will benefit or not, but he wants the right things for the country so the next generation will not suffer to pay debts. For Representative Kolubah, the loan agreements are not in the interest of the Liberian people and as such, he has since distanced himself from such and his district is aware of that.
on Thursday June 7, 2018, the day the EBOMAF loan agreement was ratified by the House of Representatives, Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe of the opposition Unity Party was heard in the chambers shouting and expressing his disappointment after being reportedly denied by the presiding, Speaker Bhofal Chambers.
Previously, Bomi County Senator Sando Johnson questioned the legitimacy of the loan agreements, especially the one the government signed with Eton Finance Private Limited based in Singapore.
Lawmakers In Favor of the Agreements:
Representatives Moses Acarous Gray, Thomas Fallah, Solomon George of the governing Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) have all saluted the executive branch of government for the loan agreements.
For Montserrado County electoral district#17 Representative, Hanson Kiazolu, the two financing agreements are legitimate and have no negative financial aftermath on the country.
Representative Kiazolu said as former Comptroller-General of the Republic of Liberia with vast knowledge in financial issues; he perused the documents pertaining to these agreements carefully and thoroughly before giving his vote for its ratification at the lower house.
Speaking to a team of reporters in Monrovia recently, the Montserrado County lawmaker said the legal and financial aspects of the agreements were critically reviewed by financial and legal brains at the Lower House before its passage.
“As a Representative of the people, I will not put to paper any arrangement that will undermine the interest of my constituents and the development agenda of the country, Representative Kiazolu intimated”.
The Unity Party stalwart was quick to point out that he strongly supported the passage of the two loan agreements to help address the challenges of road connectivity across the country to insure the smooth and adequate movement of Liberians.
Representative Kiazolu said the decision to vote for the ETON PTE Limited and the EBOMAF agreements in the tune of nearly one billion US dollars was in the best interest of development for the country and his district.
“This loan agreement will not only benefit the Southeast, but the western region and most importantly our District Seventeen. Such development package will significantly benefit the people; where roads are major challenge’’; he pointed out in a joyous mood”.
Rep. Kiazolu has at the same frowned on those who he says are attempting to politicize the entire loan agreements and urged them to consider the economic impact through the pavement of major roads across Liberia as it will definitely boost trade and commerce.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have come under serious and sustained criticisms over their latest action which many termed as a 4G ratification with debates continuing in many quarters across the country.
Besides, other lawmakers both and the lower and upper houses have greeted the passage of the two agreements with total jubilations.
Fear of Liberians and Others:
It is now of much concern that the two loans now raise the country’s domestic and external debts to over a whopping US$2 billion—including those former President Sirleaf secured in the latter part of her administration.
This huge sum, much fear, now places the country in an uncomfortable zone that would significantly cause some level of embarrassment.
These developments signal that the country is gradually luring itself again into the distasteful Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) status just a little over a decade after being relieved of the mammoth US$4 billion debt through the initiatives of the Unity Party government under the leadership of ex-President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
On June 29, 2010, the IMF and World Bank decided to support the final stage of debt relief for Liberia that in total amounted to US$4.6 billion in nominal terms. This helped to reduced Liberia’s external debt stock of more than 90 per cent to about 15 percent of GDP.
The decision was reached after Liberia met the requirements for achieving the final step under HIPC Initiative.