The World Bank had offered to loan the government of Liberia $500m to begin constructing a modern road system.
The offer was revealed by Eugene Nagbe, the information minister, at a press conference last week. He said the government was considering the offer, which is roughly equivalent to a quarter of the country’s GDP, and the whole of its government revenue.
Nagbe said the loan was being offered at a rate of 0.5%.
If the Liberian government accepts the offer, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank will make a further $500m available.
Liberia is the same size as South Korea, but whereas the Asian country has 90,000km of paved road, Liberia has 4,600km.
The remaining 60,000km are notorious for dissolving into rivers of sticky mud during the May-to-October rainy season.
The first priority is to complete the Coastal Highway running from Monrovia in the north to the southeast of the country, a scheme that President George Weah said would cost $3bn in a speech in January.
In March of this year a Liberian delegation led by Finance Minister Samuel Tweah visited Hong Kong and Japan to raise funding for the coastal road scheme. This succeeded in signing a memorandum of understanding with a group of Asian investors for a reported $560m loan over 22 years.
The lack of roads and a reliable power grid are the two main structural constraints on the Liberian economy, according to a report from the country’s Millennium Challenge Corporation.
Image: A Children in Crisis aid shipment passes a car that has been struck in the mud for days (Children in Crisis)