Liberia's Debt Portfolio Skyrockets to US$217.28M

Mar 31, 2024 - 20:14
Mar 31, 2024 - 20:15
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Liberia's Debt Portfolio Skyrockets to US$217.28M

By: W. Roland James

Monrovia: The Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Anthony Myers, has disclosed an increase in the country's debt portfolio from US$ 99.81 million in Fiscal year 2023 to US$ 217.28 million in Fiscal year 2024.

The Deputy Minister said as captured in the draft national budget for the Fiscal year 2024, the country records a US$ 117.69 million increment in both domestic and external debts from the last Fiscal year but empathized that efforts are currently being exerted by the government in servicing its debt portfolio.

Speaking when he made the disclosure on Thursday at the Ministry of Information regular press briefing, Deputy Fiscal Minister Anthony Myers noted that some US$129.00 million dollars have been allocated in this year's draft national budget by the government to embark on servicing the over US$ 200 million prevailing debts owed to local and international partners.

"On the payment side, we have programmed 129 million (USD) debt servicing to reduce the debt slot, domestically and externally. And on the domestic debt front, it is important to note that commercial banks in Liberia were taken from non-performing loans taken by government contractors who could not pay back pre-financing loans that they took for various projects undertaken on behalf of the government".

"On the external front, we were at risk of losing our place and our status in many ways, for example, the African Development Bank which Liberia is a founding member, threatened to drop Liberia or take some punitive measures against the country if we didn't pay a required debt."

"On the other hand, a lot of disbursement comes from various structures that are managed by the World Bank coming to Liberia, there was a payment that we needed to make to trigger inflow into the many projects here that were founded by the bank. And we speak, weekly we do our best to make sure that we meet all the timelines and schedules for the debt that we have to service", he pointed out.

However, the newly appointed Deputy Fiscal Affairs Minister also mentioned that the debt increment on the local scene came as the result of some amounts transferred into the government's account that are yet to be accounted for.

He added that while investigation is underway into the matter by the General Auditing Commission (GAC), the Ministry has understood the government took initiative for some of its contractors who could not pay back banks pre-financing loans for projects undertaken on behalf of the government from past administration, something he said has contributed to the increase in debts.

Meanwhile, Deputy Minister Myers said the Government through the Ministry has put in a strategy to manage the increment in the debt portfolio, by reducing the amount of leverage for borrowing to US$ 40 million as included in the 2024 draft Fiscal year budget.

"For that reason, we have decided to manage the debt, managing the debt there are two actions that you can take, you reduce your borrowing as well as you as well as pay some of the debts you owe. So let's start with the reduction in borrowing, if you look in the budget it is only 40 million borrowing that's going to happen this year.", Dep. Minister Myers disclosed.

As Liberia grapples with its debt portfolio under President Joseph Boakai's administration, many citizens are of mixed views on whether or not it was the immediate past administration of Former President George Weah that is responsible for the huge domestic and external debts owed by the country.

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William K Howard William K Howard Jr is a young Liberian Journalist who is focused on investigative and human-interest reporting. He comes with about 10 years of experience in mainstream journalism. William K Howard is currently the Deputy Director of News at Liberia Limited, Kool 91.9FM/TV. His hard work has also earned him several professional certificates in journalism including Journalist of the year 2022/2023 in Liberia's biggest city, Paynesville.