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Cablegate: Liberia,S Arrears to the Nigeria Trust Fund

VZCZCXRO6541
OO RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHC #7303/01 2340425
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 211610Z AUG 07
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA IMMEDIATE 2778-2779
INFO ECOWAS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHMV/AMEMBASSY MONROVIA PRIORITY 1553-1554
RUEATRS/TREASURY DEPT WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY 8807-8808

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 STATE 117303

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (SENSITIVE CAPTION ADDED)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EFIN LI NI PREL
SUBJECT: LIBERIA,S ARREARS TO THE NIGERIA TRUST FUND

REF: ABUJA 1265

STATE 00117303 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) ACTION REQUEST: Post is requested to seek a
meeting with Finance Minister Usman and deliver the

attached letter (see para 9, PDF version will be sent to
the Embassy) from Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson as soon
as possible, preferably before close of business Tuesday,
August 21.

2. (SBU) Over the past 18 months, the United States has
taken an active part in working with the G-8 and the
international financial institutions (IFIs) to help Liberia
clear $1.4 billion in arrears to IFI and bilateral
creditors so that it could qualify for new development
financing and debt relief. A plan to finance arrears
clearance at the World Bank is largely in place and
progress is being made on financing packages at the IMF and
African Development Bank (AfDB). For its part, the United
States is prepared to contribute $50 million bilaterally
(of which at least $15 million will be used for AfDB
arrears), redirect $150 million in funds held by the IMF,
and forgive in due course $391 million in U.S. claims on
Liberia.

3. (SBU) At the IMF, Fund management has proposed a
financing package that provides a reasonable basis for
mobilizing the $800 million necessary to clear arrears. G-
8 member countries have already committed to provide their
portion of the financing package. Fund management is now
soliciting contributions from non-G-8 members and has
secured about half of the $300 million needed from non-G-8
countries.

4. (SBU) At the AfDB, while significant progress has been
made in securing financing for clearing Liberia,s regular
arrears (about $200 million), Liberia still has $44 million
in arrears to the Nigeria Trust Fund window of the AfDB.
Nigeria has an important role to play in ensuring that
Liberia regains its access to AfDB financing. As Nigeria
is the economic and political leader of West Africa, we
would expect that the GON would agree to forgive the $44
million that Liberia owes to the Nigeria Trust Fund. If
Nigeria does not forgive the full amount, other donors will
have to cover the NTF arrears, since Liberia does not have
the financial resources to make payments (Liberia,s total
revenue in the 2007/2008 fiscal year is only expected to be
$182 million). Finding other donors to cover NTF arrears
will be difficult and will further delay Liberia,s
regaining access to development finance from the AfDB.

5. (SBU) A/S Frazer raised the NTF issue with President
Yar,Adua at his inauguration in May (see reftel) and AfDB
President Donald Kaberuka has also recently spoken with
Yar,Adua. Yar,Adua appeared forward leaning in both
conversations but in his discussion with Kaberuka noted
that a final decision would not be made until his Finance
Minister was in place.

6. (SBU) On Thursday, August 16, 2007, staff in the U.S.
Executive Director,s office at the AfDB spoke with the new
Nigerian Executive Director, Mansur Muhtar (formerly of the
Nigerian Debt Management Office), on this topic. Muhtar
reported that he would be meeting with Minister Usman on
Tuesday, August 21 to develop a recommendation for the
President. The timely delivery of this letter to Minister
Usman would reinforce the importance the USG attaches to
this issue and could help influence Usman,s recommendation
to the President.

7. (SBU) Begin suggested talking points.

-- Liberia has made enormous strides since the Johnson-
Sirleaf administration took office in January 2006 but the
country continues to face equally enormous challenges
including an external debt burden equal to 700% of
Liberia,s annual GDP and limited access to concessional
financing from the IMF, World Bank and AfDB.

-- Obtaining concessional financing and debt relief will be
critical to stabilizing Liberia,s economy. However, to

STATE 00117303 002.2 OF 002


achieve these two goals, Liberia,s arrears at the IMF, AfDB
and World Bank must be cleared.

-- Liberia has extremely limited budget resources devoted
to priority expenditures and is unable to contribute more
than a token amount to arrears clearance.

-- The U.S. has worked diligently with the World Bank, the
IMF, and the African Development Bank and within the G-8 to
secure the needed financing to clear the arrears. There is
a financing plan in place at the World Bank and we are
making progress at both the IMF and the AfDB.

-- Nigeria will play a critical role in clearing arrears at
the AfDB and we hope that Nigeria can again fulfill its
role as the region,s political and economic leader by
forgiving Liberia,s arrears to the NTF.

-- We are certain Nigeria can empathize with the major
impact that debt relief will have on Liberia,s economy.

-- Secretary Paulson is looking forward to learning of
Nigeria,s forgiveness of Liberia,s NTF debt.

End suggested points.

8. Begin letter text.

Dr. Shamsuddeen Usman
Honorable Minister of Finance
Federal Ministry of Finance
Abuja, Nigeria

Dear Dr. Usman:

Congratulations on your assumption of the post of Minister
of Finance.

The economic reforms carried out in Nigeria over the last
three years have been impressive, and I hope that you and
President Yar,Adua will continue these efforts. The
Department of the Treasury remains committed to supporting
Nigeria through the provision of a resident technical
advisor in the Debt Management Office.

On an issue of mutual concern, we understand that your
staff has already had initial discussions with the African
Development Bank about Liberia,s $44 million in arrears at
the Nigerian Trust Fund (NTF). I would greatly appreciate
hearing from you regarding the progress being made on this
issue. The United States and the international community
are committed to supporting the clearance of Liberia,s
arrears to the international financial institutions as
quickly as possible.

Again, accept my sincere congratulations on your new
position. I hope that the ties between the Department of
the Treasury and Federal Ministry of Finance will continue
to grow in the coming years.

Sincerely,
Henry M. Paulson, Jr.

End letter text.
RICE

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