The Dean and Members of the Cabinet;
His Excellency Michael A. McCarthy, United States Ambassador to Liberia;
Other Members of the Diplomatic Corps, here present;
Other Officials of Government;
Our International Partners;
The Chairman and Members of the Board of Directors of the Millennium Challenge Compact – Liberia
The Management and Staff of the Millennium Challenge Compact – Liberia
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am delighted to be here today to participate in the closing ceremonies of this phase of the Millennium Challenge Compact, as well as the commissioning of the new Water Pipeline that will deliver raw water from this site in Mount Coffee to the water treatment plant at White Plains to serve the City of Monrovia.
The Millennium Challenge Compact grant of $257 Million marks a significant high point in US-Liberia relations, as it represents the largest non-emergency assistance ever given to Liberia by the United States. The Millennium Challenge Corporation enjoys broad-based bi-partisan support within the US Congress, which makes the compact a true reflection of the support of the American people to the people of Liberia.
Liberia is fortunate to be among the very few countries in the world that became eligible for a Millennium Challenge Compact. Our selection puts us in a privileged group of beneficiary countries that have performed with distinction when it comes to democratic rights and the control of corruption as reflected in what is known as the MCC country scorecard.
This significant support brings along with it an urgent responsibility to build upon the gifts of the American people by ensuring that the projects are undertaken are protected, used for their intended purposes, and managed in a sustainable manner. As President of Liberia, I take this responsibility seriously and hereby assure the American People that my government will prioritize the due care required of the investments made under the compact.
Liberia will not remain complacent with only one compact, but we will make it our mission to strive for a second compact, as other countries have done before us. Eligibility for a compact requires that a country should score at least ten (10) out of twenty (20) points on the MCC country scorecard. Two years ago Liberia scored eight (8) points, and last year we scored nine (9) points. In order to ensure that Liberia’s performance on the MCC scorecard is realized, I have directed the MCC Compact Eligibility Committee to work closely with the US Government and MCC to enable us to qualify for another Compact in the future.
The speakers who preceded me to this podium have already given you many details of the purpose of the grants and the benefits which Liberia has received under the Compact, in terms of energy and road development, and I will not attempt to repeat all of them here. However, I would like to highlight a few of these that we see as having a significant impact on the Liberian economy.
For example, since the MCC Compact provided funding for the rehabilitation of the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant, Liberia has experienced major growth in the energy sector that has increased access from 4% to 12% with over 82,000 customers being connected to the national grid, while our generation capacity has more than doubled. LEC staff are better trained to meet the demands of a modern electrical network and a demanding customer base.
Additionally, the Liberia Electricity Regulatory Commission is now fully functional and will have full budgetary support provided by the Government of Liberia in the next fiscal year. The establishment of this Commission marks a turning point in our energy sector as it creates an enabling environment for private sector participation. We see the private sector as an engine for growth and as a means to meet the future energy demands of our economy.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
The support of the Compact to the electricity sector and specifically to the Liberia Electricity Corporation has been critical. As a country, we have struggled since the end of the civil conflict to put the LEC back on its feet and to make the LEC commercially successful. The Compact support to the Management Services Contract with the Irish company ESBI aims to make LEC more viable. The government will continue to work with ESBI for the duration of its contract to ensure that this happens.
One of the major factors contributing to commercial losses at LEC is power theft. Accordingly, my Government has recently passed a power theft law that makes stealing power a criminal offense. We are working to enforce this law, and I must use this opportunity to inform all Liberians and communities that stealing power is illegal and criminal and the Government will not hesitate to prosecute those who are in violation of the law.
I am charging the LEC management and the Ministry of Justice to cooperate on enforcing the power theft law. It is my understanding that the LEC has organized community programs to prevent power theft. We must do all we can to stop the leakage of revenue to the LEC and the Government is committed to doing its part.
The Government is also committed to paying its electricity bill to LEC. When I became President in 2018 and under very difficult financial circumstances, the Government settled all LEC arrears left by the previous administration, which stood at almost $9 Million United States Dollars.
Last April, even as we were in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Government became current and owed LEC zero dollars. As a Government, we are committed to paying our bills and we will continue to make LEC payments an expenditure priority for this Administration.
As we aim toward a new compact, we must ensure that this current Compact comes to a successful close by addressing all outstanding challenges. One of these challenges is the lack of transformers and meters for accountable distribution of power. In this regard, Government, through the LEC, is now providing transformers to various communities and meters to many homes that have not had these items for many years. We urge the Management to move very fast on installing the new meters because this lack of meters is part of the power theft story.
DISTINGUISHED LADIES AND GENTLEMEN:
The Compact has also facilitated a new approach to road maintenance by enabling evidence-based maintenance planning. We now have a Road Asset Management System that will be regularly updated with data on our roads, which will allow us to develop annual road maintenance plans. Our road maintenance program will be funded by the National Road Fund, which will ensure sustainable financing of our road projects.
Today, we will commission the raw water pipeline, an $18.5 Million component of the Compact that will deliver raw water from Mount Coffee to the water treatment plant at White Plains. This raw water I understand will be free of salt intrusion that takes place in the St. Paul River basin, thus improving the quality of water that will be supplied by the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation to Monrovia and its environs.
I would like to recognize the efforts of our country teams in successfully implementing the compact, under the able leadership of the MCC Resident Country Director and the Chief Executive Officer of the Liberia Millennium Challenge Account.
On behalf of the People of Liberia, I extend our deepest gratitude and profound appreciation to the People of the United States for this gracious and transformative gift, which is in full alignment with our national development program. Reducing poverty, which is the objective of the Compact, is the hallmark of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Development and Prosperity, and I and my Government will continue to work diligently until we lift every Liberian out of the cycle of poverty.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentle:
I will like to recognize the efforts of Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of the Republic of Liberia, for initiating this compact and not forgetting other personalities including Amb. Linda Thomas Greenfield, former Ambassador of the United States of America, Madam Christine Elder, former Ambassador of the United States of America.
And to our Vice President, Jewel Howard Taylor, and also to members of the 53rd National Legislature for rectifying this instrument. And let me not forget, that I was the co-chair too.
I thank you.