On Monday, November 22, 2010, the Minister of Finance, Augustine Ngafuan announced to the nation a deal reached with two firms on debts incurred by Liberia since the 1970s.
The two companies- Hamsah Investment and Wall Capital, according to Ngafuan, consented to the payment of three-percent of the US$43m Liberia owed them.
The Caribbean-registered firms are reported to be among what many critics referred to as “vulture funds”, which buy up defaulted debts of poor countries and then demand swift repayment.
The Liberian Finance Minister was one of these many critics, but with the recent deal, Hamsah Investment and Wall Capital have now become “partners of Liberia”, assuring that the country would never again build up such huge debts.
Liberia had vowed to challenge the order to repay the debt, but now seems to have decided that reaching a settlement would be the easier option. This latest development followed two separate court cases in London and New York lost by Liberia to the two companies over its debts.
Even though the original details of the case are still unclear, it is believed that country actually borrowed US$6.5m from the US-based Chemical Bank in 1979 and that debt may have been resold a number of times, thus accumulating over the years.
We salute the tireless efforts of the country’s financial management team headed by the young and progressive Finance Minister in finding this common ground.
We are also very grateful to international civil society organizations, including the Jubilee Debt Campaign with which the Government of Liberia worked to take extraordinary measures not only to ensure that monies coming to Liberia were not seized, but to reach this settlement.
May we also pat the government’s financial management team for putting into place the structures to ensure that it did not rack up debts it could not afford to repay.
We are reminded about similar efforts by the government of Liberia which resulted to debt waiver by the World Bank and International Money Fund, some five months ago.
Again, we believe that these achievements are being made because of our country’s re-entry into the comity of nations, through the efforts of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
This is an achievement that all of us-Liberians must embrace, cherish and welcome irrespective of all of the divides.