Alexander Cummings: There Needs to be Full Transparency in US$536M Loan Agreement
Monrovia – It’s still beating the minds of many why the government of Liberia is yet to make public details of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the US$536 million loan signed with a Singaporean firm in Hong Kong.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Alexander B. Cummings, political leader of the opposition Alternative National Congress (ANC) says concealing the details of the loan, no matter how good it’s purpose may be, depicts lack of transparency on the part of government.
The loan, which is being sourced from Eton Finance Private Limited is said to be geared toward construction of roads linking Monrovia to the Southeast region of Liberia.
“We are owed as a people what the terms of the loan are, what is the collateral, what fees are being paid to whom? We need that transparency?” Cummings said.
Speaking on the 5050 talk show on Sky FM in Monrovia on Wednesday, Mr. Cummings questioned the intent, mode of repayment and the economic benefit of the loan to the country.
He noted that it would be detrimental for Liberia to find herself back in the era where she owed US$4-5 billion.
“We don’t want to find ourselves where we owed around 4-5 billion dollars, where we had to go around begging for forgiveness because loans were taken, they were misused, they didn’t generate economic activity and we couldn’t pay back,” he said.
Unanswered questions surrounding the loan continue to linger over US$536 loan agreement, and the Pro-Tempore of the Liberian Senate, Senator Albert Chie, told reporters Tuesday that the President George Weah’s promised coastal highway to be constructed from Buchanan to Harper would likely not happen as the country is not in the position to bear the cost attached.
Providing an alternative to the coastal highway to connect Grand Bassa County to the rest of the Southeast region which includes Rivercess, Sinoe, Grand Kru and Maryland Counties, Senator Chie called for the pavement of the existing stretch of roads connecting Buchanan and Pleebo, Maryland County.
“This is not the coastal highway that has been talked about over many years as it would be very costly to construct due to the many rivers, marshlands and other harsh terrains along the immediate coastline,” said Senator Chie, who is a mining engineer.
According to the Pro-Tempore, the legislature is informed that the Executive Branch is presently engaged in talks with international financial institutions to arrange a loan deal for the construction of road segment as well as roads leading to Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties at a cost of approximately US$535 million.
Not A Good Idea
The ANC political leader believes using US$536 million to rehabilitate existing roads isn’t worth it, especially when they are heightening concerns over the collateral, mode of repayment and its contribution to the economy.
“You should be generating internal revenue to fix existing roads and if you’re going to take loan of that size you should be building new roads – whether it’s going to be a coastal highway or whether you’ll complete the highway from Ganta to Sanniquiellie all the way down, go through up to Rivergee, Grand Gedeh and so forth – but rehabilitating existing roads, it seems to me that funding should be coming from existing resources to do that.
Loan Not Needed Now
As a young government with a troubling economy, Cummings says seeking loan at this point in time is premature. The government, he says, should be making sure the economy is moving in the right direction and generating growth, generating revenues and simplifying the tax system and growing the tax base.
“I would have made sure all of these things were in place… then I would have considered how could get monies, loans to accelerate the growth and to give the lender confidence that we can pay the load; to give the Liberian people confidence that we can the loan,” he said.
The Loan Controversy
Investigation by FrontPageAfrica has uncovered that Eton, which operates as an investment company in the asset management industry is an unlisted private company with no public information on the total capitalization or its net asset value (NAV).
Further investigation by FPA has also uncovered that the company, like the controversial Israeli firm, Elenilto, which was given rights to Liberia’s Western Cluster, is fairly new. Eton Finance Private Limited was incorporated on August 22, 2016 and was recorded as private company limited by shares. As so far this company has running for 1 year(s) 237 days, our investigation has found.
This is why many are wondering why Mr. Weah, who ran on the backs of a Pro-poor agenda is resurrecting one of the most controversial figures from Liberia’s troubled past and visibly parading him around the world. Mr. Shaw was also on the delegation to Paris, France, one of Mr. Weah’s first overseas trip.