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Remarks Delivered by the Honorable Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr at the National Honoring ceremony for out-going World Bank Country Manager for Liberia

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Remarks Delivered by the Honorable Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Hon. Samuel D. Tweah, Jr at the National Honoring ceremony for out-going World Bank Country Manager for Liberia, Dr. Khwima Nthara held on March 9, 2023 at the EJS Ministerial Complex
 
H. E. Dr. George MANNEH Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia 
Dean of the Cabinet, H. E. D. Maxwell Saah Kimayah Sr, 
Distinguished members of the  cabinet
The Doyen and Members of Diplomatic corps
Distinguished Honoree, Chief Sekou Doodoo
Mr. Pierre Laporte, Country Director of world Bank for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana
Development Partners
Members of the press 
Ladies and gentlemen. 
 
Dr. Khwima Nthara’s exudes an air of reticence and quietude that belies the transformative force of nature that underpins the numerous successes for which we celebrate and honor him tonight. No country manager of the World Bank has left an imprint as outsized, as large and as indelible as those of Khwima, as we affectionately call him.
 
 A Cambridge trained economist, he supplants his neo-classical theoretical economic grounding for a more practical and pragmatic development approach, using this approach to embed flexibility and adaptability in his over-arching governing philosophy of raising country  context as a priority. 
 
All of these have been on full display here in Liberia since he arrived as country manager in 2019. Upon his arrival, Dr. Kwhima understood the fragility of Liberia’s transition from an UNMIL supported economy, dependent on inflows unlinked to domestic possibilities, toward the foundations of what Dr. George MANNEH Weah described in his 2023 state of the nation address as ‘macroeconomic fundamentalism’. 
 
Khwima fully understood that development partners had to seriously accompany the Government on this  transition, fraught with political sensitivities, but a transition that had to occur if Liberia were to turn a transformative corner. 
 
It was this particular understanding that endeared him to the policies and programs of the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development and to availing the full panoply of world bank expertise, resources and capabilities to enable Liberia navigate this difficult transition, especially amid the onset of COVID-19. 
So today we honor more than a country manager of the World Bank. We honor an individual who has shared in the philosophy of our development, who has empathized with the unique contexts of our fragility and vulnerability but more importantly who sees the light at the end of the tunnel provided the right policy  frameworks are established, the right actions are taken and the desired coordination among partners is forged.
Khwima, we honor you today because during your  tenure, we have seen the World Bank’s financial support to Liberia increase significantly. While Liberia’s annual IDA allocation is small, Dr Nthara was so committed to Liberia that he took advantage of every opportunity available within the Bank to mobilize additional resources for Liberia. As a result, between 2019 and 2023, the Bank’s net commitment to Liberia almost doubled and now stands at $1.4 billion.
Second, during his tenure, we have seen a significant shift in the World Bank’s portfolio towards addressing Liberia’s critical needs.
 
 For example, when other development partners stopped providing direct budgetary support, the Bank doubled its annual direct budgetary support from $20 million to $40 million. Last year, we actually received $55 million in direct budgetary support from the Bank, with an additional $15 million coming from a window that no other country in the world has so far utilized for budgetary support. 
 
Similarly, we have seen the Bank’s support to key sectors increase significantly under his tenure. For example, when he arrived, the Bank had a $25 million IDA funded project in agriculture, the STAR-P. 
 
However, after President Weah  indicated that agriculture was now a priority sector for Liberia, the Bank’s total commitment to the sector was tripled and now stands at $80 million through the provision of additional financing under the Rural Economic Transformation Project (RETRAP). 
 
The Bank has also helped us mobilize a total of $52 million from the International Fund for Agriculture and Development(IFAD).
 
Another key sector that has benefitted immensely from the Bank during his tenure is the fisheries sector. When he arrived, we were already discussing with the Bank a financing facility for this key sector, in the amount of $20 million. However, this too was doubled to $40 and recently, the Bank helped mobilize an additional $20 million from the OPEC fund. 
 
Under Dr Nthara’s tenure, we have also seen the Bank break new grounds by supporting us in areas where the Bank was never previously involved.
 
 For example, given the critical role that the private sector plays in economic growth and job creation, the Bank worked with us to prepare the Liberia Investment, Finance, and Trade Project, LIFT, in the amount of $40 million. This project was officially launched on Tuesday, March 7th.
 
 It is the first time that such a serious amount  of resources has been made available to support reforms that will make it easy for the private sector to do business in Liberia. 
 
Similarly, for the first time in the history of Liberia, the World Bank Board approved a total package of $44.6 million for the empowerment of women. 
 
No longer is the support to women an appendage to Bank-funded projects in Liberia. Under Dr Nthara’s tenure, the Bank made the support to women and girls center stage. 
During COVID-19, the Bank, under Dr Nthara’s leadership, moved swiftly to re-allocate resources from existing projects to help us in our health response to COVID-19. 
 
Within a short period of time, the Bank had mobilized $16 million that was used to support operations at quarantine and treatment centers, contact tracing, and the purchase of 20 ventilators, up from just 4 that the country had. Later, the Bank mobilized an additional $24.5 million for the procurement and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines. 
 
The Bank also provided $10 million to help informal businesses cope with the impact of COVID-19 and $5 million for the nationwide food distribution program. 
 
Through financing under the crisis response window, the Bank has also recently approved a financing package in the amount of $20 million that will be used to finance a cash transfer program to help poor and vulnerable households cope with the rise in food prices due to the impact of the Russia/Ukraine war.
 
In health more broadly, the Bank’s support has also been ramped up. In 2020, the Bank approved a total package of $59 million to support the completion and operationalization of the new Redemption Hospital as well as continue with the implementation of the performance-based financing that has been very instrumental in improving the quality of health care services in our health facilities. 
 
This package of support was recently supplemented by an additional $31 million, which brings the Bank’s total financing to health to $114.5 million, including the funding for COVID-19.
 
In education, the focus has been to implement the existing $65 million spread across three Bank-financed projects. However, Dr Nthara has already started laying the basis for a future financing package of not less than $60 million to succeed the existing projects in education.
Another sector where the Bank has had a transformational impact is in the Energy.
 
 In 2021, under Dr Nthara’s leadership, the Bank Board approved a financing package in the amount of $64 million towards accelerating electricity access in Liberia. This package was approved in the context of what is known as a Multi-phase approach. 
 
In particular, it means the Bank committed to providing support to the energy sector in Liberia for the next 10 years. When the first financing package is exhausted, we do not need to start from scratch in preparing a proposal for new support. 
 
Liberia was the first country across the whole World Bank to benefit from such an approach in the energy sector.
Under Dr Nthara’s leadership, the Bank was instrumental in supporting the smooth transition from aManagement Service Contract (MSC) of the Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) to local management. 
 
When financing for the MSC under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) came to and end, the Bank stepped up to finance the remaining 2 years of the contract and supported an independent recruitment firm that managed the recruitment of the new professional local management. 
 
On January 30th, 2023, we signed a Financing Agreement for an additional $96 million to add two more units at Mt Coffee and a solar plant. 
 
This financing will result in an additional 62 MW of power being added to the existing 88 MW at Mt Coffee. Preparations have already started to mobilize an additional $550 million for the development of St Paul 2 Hydro power station that will add another 148 MW toLiberia’s national grid. 
 
In the road sector, we faced some challenges raising resources for the road from Ganta to Zwedru. Dr Nthara was again instrumental in finding innovative solutions towards the mobilization of resources for the road corridor, including making a case for a road component under an agriculture project that will finance the 40km stretch from Tappita to Toetown and filling the financing gap for the 85km stretch from Toetown to Zwedru. 
 
The Bank is also in the process of helping us develop a national road master plan that will become the basis for mobilizing additional resources in the road sector. 
More recently, Dr Nthara was also there as a true partner for Liberia by helping us find solutions to the financing of the Census. Not only was the Bank a major financier to the census, but when the census faced a financing gap, the Bank came forward to partner with the Government of Liberia  in helping fill the financing gap.
 
I could carry on and on and on tonight  but the point has more than amply been made.  Dr. Nthara, these successes would not have occurred  were it not for the overwhelming  support you received from my dear friend and brother Pierre Laporte who is the World Bank’s Country Director for Liberia, Ghana and Sierra Leone. Mesdames and Monsieurs, permittez-moi de vous presenter Monsieur Pierre Laporte du Banque Mondial, un tres  bon ami de Liberia. Standing ovation please for the great Pierre Laporte. 
 
We also say a big thank you to your boss Ousman Diagana, World Bank’s Vice President for West and Central Africa, who recently visited Liberia. Without his generous support these successes would not have obtained. And thanks to World Bank staff for all their support to you. 
Dr. Nthara, you have stood on this broad mass of support from colleagues within the Bank and colleagues across the Government to deliver big for both the bank and for  Liberia. 
Congratulations dear brother! On behalf of the staff of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, we present you this plaque as a memento to your outstanding contribution to national transformation under the Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development. 
 
May God continue to bless you as you take on your next assignment in Papua New Guinea. Rest assured that Liberia will continue to make progress and that  the foundations that your work has helped laid will not be allowed to erode. 
I thank you.

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