CBL JonesThe Central Bank of Liberia, through its Loan Extension and Available Facility (LEAF), has awarded loans to microfinance organizations in five counties including Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Margibi and Montserrado.

The organizations are microfinance institutions, credit union and Village Savings Loans Association (VSLA); receiving forty seven million one hundred thousand Liberian dollars (L$47,100,000.00), eight million twenty five thousand Liberian dollars (L$8,025,000.00) and five million five hundred eight five thousand Liberian dollars (L$5,585,000.00) respectively.

Speaking at the occasion, CBL’s Executive Governor, Dr. J. Mills Jones, said the loans program is the institution’s commitment to prioritizing entrepreneurship, which members of the Board of Governors and other stakeholders have since agreed to embark upon.

According to Governor Jones, the event marked the realization of an idea which was reviewed for months to place Liberian entrepreneurship at the center of the economy. “Our being here today marks the commendation of many months of hard work to transform an idea into reality.

The idea of the Central Bank, reaching out in the direct way to have a positive effect on the lives of small business people and those who need loans to help make ends-meet,” he said. Governor Jones termed these people as a significant segment of the Liberian society.

“We’re here today, not only to say that we see you, we hear you, but we are committed to helping you help yourselves,” the CBL Governors told beneficiaries.

He said this is the job of a public servant, adding that coming into public life is not the matter of looking for the job, but to serve the nation and its people. In this light, he praised President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the government and people of Liberia supporting his administration in its endeavors.

Governor Jones also disclosed plans to hold subsequent regional programs for other beneficiaries during the course of May. He said one regional group will comprise Grand Bassa, Sinoe and Rivercess Counties and the program will be held in Sinoe County. According to him, another group will comprise Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland and River Gee Counties and the program will be held in Grand Gedeh County. The other group will include Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties, and the program will be held in Bong.

Governor Jones said he had held discussions with staff of CBL to making sure that all counties are covered, adding, “Financial inclusion means inclusion for all.”

He was quick to stress the need for loan beneficiaries to pay back. Governor Jones warned in these words: “Let me make an important point here. We expect loan beneficiaries to pay back the money. This is not what you call free government money. The money is coming from the reserves of the Central Bank; and it is different from the funds held by the Central Bank in the account of the government, which is disbursed by the authority of the Ministry of Finance. This is a separate account.”

Governor Jones intimated that paying back the money will maintain the reserve position of the Central Bank, and also help to keep the economy going, calling on beneficiaries that “we are counting on all of you to help us.” He reiterated that the CBL is subject to external audit, and so paying back the money will assist in this direction.

In a related development, the CBL Governor revealed that the 2011 audit of his institution has been completed with a ‘clean bill.’ Governor Jones recalled that two years after he took office, they put into place a system which gives the CBL position when it comes to audit. He said the external auditors have given them a clean opinion about international financial best practice.

He quoted the auditors as saying, “Nothing came to our attention about suspected or actual fraud during the audit.”

Based on this, Governor Jones underscored the need for people borrowing money from the institutions by taking the loans to pay so that the institutions will be able to pay, for the CBL to maintain such a clean record.

He expressed the hope that the loan program will help empower over one thousand people, who will, in turn, help others. He explained that the funds being provided to the institutions will be paid within three years at a low rate.

Also speaking in separate remarks, representatives of recipients praised CBL for the loans. They vowed to make payment as stressed by Governor Jones; something they said will enable them request more.

At the same time, the Chairman of Committee on Banking & Currency at the House of Representatives, Representative Julius Berrian has expressed happiness for efforts being applied by CBL to empower Liberian entrepreneurs. Rep. Berrian lauded the management of CBL and pledged his committee’s support to CBL in its endeavors. “We will make sure that the CBL will not stand,” Rep. Berrian averred.

The occasion was also attended by representatives of other local and international microfinance institutions as well as other staff of the CBL and the Business community.