- Published on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:18
- Written by Sidiki Trawally
Liberia’s Finance Minister Amara Konneh knows first-hand what access to electricity can bring to the developing countries, particularly in his post-conflict Liberia where the need for restoring the energy sector is vital to sustainable growth and development. Now Minister Konneh, an outspoken advocate of energy access for all Liberians is working to prove that there are smarter power strategies that can benefit Liberians. He is optimistic that with energy, most especially with the Mount Coffee’s hydro coming back online, Liberia will flourish and tempt high productivity in the economy.
The passionate energy campaigner has taken his campaign to this year’s annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) convening in the industrial city of Tokyo, Japan. Minister Konneh and his young team of technocrats are expected to hold high-level meetings with the IMF and World Bank officials to solicit enormous supports to the country’s energy program.
Minister Konneh maintained that to keep Liberian economy booming again, no one Liberian should be left in the dark. Therefore, “investing in the energy sector is key,” Minister Konneh said when he arrived at the Imperial Hotel, where the Annual world conference is held Monday. The youthful Liberian delegation includes Christopher Wallace, Deputy Planning Minister for Economic Affairs, Bernard Jappah, Coordinator of the Public Financial Management Reforms Coordination Unit (PFMU) and Mohammed M. Sherif, Chief Economist of the Ministry of Finance.
Minister Konneh pointed out that Liberia will continue to make the case for donor financing to ensure the country energy infrastructure is revamped to benefit the country’s development process.
Finance Minister Konneh showcased an element of Liberia’s Agenda for transformation when he held his first meeting with the Fiscal Affairs Department (FAD)of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Technical Assistance to Liberia Monday. This assistance will go a long way in buttressing Liberia’s commitment to fiscal discipline as the country implements its first ever Medium Term Budget. During the meeting, Minister Konneh urged the FAD to focus on the big issues that will benefit Liberia in the short, medium to long term, prominent among them includes capacity building.
“We are on train wheel, but it requires lot of training and pushing to get it done. We know you have your own constrains, but we need your support in building capacity in our financial management sector,” Minister Konneh appealed. According to him, “Our strategic goal is to expand the tax base to about 10 percent. We need support for our revenue policy unit to accelerate a lot of reforms including the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) that will ultimately yield more revenues to meet our pressing infrastructural needs.”
Minister Konneh told the FAD officials that Liberia intends to consolidate on what “we have gained and at the same time expand the revenue base.”
The Treasury Boss, along with his team is also expected to hold crucial meetings with stakeholders, including the German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Mr. Dirk Niebel and deputy finance Minister Tsutomu Okubo of Japan to push Liberia Development Agenda.
Minister Konneh noted that investment is necessary to reduce long term energy costs, especially targeted investment in hydroelectricity. “We will do everything necessary to provide basic power to our people,” he said when he addressed a forum on the African energy’s infrastructure challenge.
Minister Konneh stressed the need to identify new sources of financing to address the many infrastructural challenges faced by the country. Access to finance remains one of the largest challenges faced by the Government in the midst of the glooming global environment. According to Minister Konneh, Liberia intends to finance the construction of a heavy fuel oil plant on Bushrod Island to provide inexpensive fuel to replace almost 50 percent off current generation in a year and half.
He said the construction of Mt. Coffee hydroelectric plant including the construction of the reservoir is very crucial. Minister Konneh also explained that an agreement with the World Bank through its regional IDA credits and multiple countries to build a connecting line between Liberia and her neighbors as part of a power sharing plan under the West Africa Power Pool (WAPP) plan. “This will further reduce costs and provide us with a future market for hydropower.”
In the distribution process, he said over US$40million will go towards distribution between Liberia own funding and donor contributions in order to expand distribution within and outside Monrovia.
He said the investment plan to reduce this cost including the funding for WAPP is estimated to about US$730 million that is being invested in power transmission, distribution and generation in 3 years.
“We have found support from multiple agencies willing to work on funding energy projects. We will fully support the efforts of the AfDB to set up an infrastructure bond, which we hope will give further scope for projects for countries in the future,” said Minister Konneh.
According to him, “It is important that funding be made available quickly for major projects; because expectations of people are high and our own aims are high.”
Liberia was one of the first countries in Africa to have an operating hydroelectric plant, financed through a loan of US$20 million from the United States. Says Minister Konneh: “We have plans to expand the hydro-network adding more plants.”
Mt. Coffee was destroyed during the civil conflict; the spillway clogged and part of the Dam wall has been destroyed; the internal workings of the power station have been removed. The current costs of electricity are extremely high, amongst the highest in the world.