Zwedru – Southeastern Liberia citizens, who are poised to benefit from the US$536 million road improvement loan must be prepared to pay for it through the taxes.
Report by Bettie K. Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]
The road tarmac pavement, planned for seven counties, including Grand Gedeh, Maryland, Sinoe, Grand Kru, Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa, will have toll booths that will be managed by private companies, according to Dave Sleweon, Director, Highway Construction, Ministry of Public Works (MPW).
“Liberia has a lot of resources, but we can’t see the impact of our them because of our road condition,’’ said Sleweon, speaking Saturday, June 2, at the Zwedru City Hall auditorium during a community media forum, organized by the Liberia Media Development Initiatives (LMDI), with funding from USAID’s Liberia Media Development Program, implemented by Internews.
The forum, held under the theme, “Engaging Citizens on National Budget for Accountable Development,” is one of four under the Liberia Budget Monitoring for Accountability (LMBMA), an initiative designed to engage citizens and media in a discussion on how public funds including the Community Social Development Fund and the national budget are impacting communities nationwide. The other two forums focused on education and health.
The panelists at the Saturday forum included: Wilfred Hoto, MPW Regional Coordinator, who spoke on the current state of infrastructure (roads) and the need for government’s responsive action, Raymond Zaizay, Acting Technical Assistant to the Minister, spoke on the Minister’s Message for Infrastructural Construction and Development in the southeast and Grand Gedeh, James Reynold, Public Works engineer and Dave Sleweon.
All the panelists stressed that improving the road conditions in the country is a major projects under the pro-poor policy initiated by President George Weah.
The road network includes from Zwedru to Greenville 230km, Greenville to Barclayville 316 km Barclayville to Sasstown 21 km, Barclayville to Pleebo 75 km, Tubmanburg to Gbopolu 52 km, and Medina to Robertsport 41 km.
The loan is just one of several financing packages that the government has secured to improve road connectivity in the country. In addition to the US$536 million loan from a Singaporean financing company, the government allotted US$36 million in the Public Works budget for road network.
“So the total budget will be US$532 million plus the US$36 million. This shows that the government wants to connect all the roads,” Reynolds said.
He informed that out of the 12,000 km of roads in Liberia, 94 percent of them are unpaved; adding: “This is a pro-poor government and for the poor people, they are always stuck in the mud,” he added.
“Road improvements will take place as planned because traveling to the southeast is difficult, especially during the Rainy Season when vehicles are stuck in the mud for several days, stranding passengers who are transporting produce or seeking medical attention at referral hospitals in Tappita, Gbarnga and Monrovia,” he said.
Some of the 60 people, who attended the forum at the Zwedru City Hall, said they hope the road improvements will take place as planned because traveling to the southeast is difficult, especially during the Rainy Season.
He informed that the Ganta to Zwedru project will be in two folds: Ganta to Tapitta is funded by the Southeastern Corridor Road Asset Management Project (SECRAMP) being procured under a Public-Private Partnership arrangement.
The PPP transaction structure and contractual provisions prepare prospective developers for the tendering process and at the same time present emerging opportunities in road transport projects which are to be rolled out in the short term. Tappita to Zwedru, according to him, has been signed by a Burkina Faso company.
Zaizay, representing the Minister said the people of Zwedru and other parts of southeastern Liberia, has not been forgotten; adding: “There are ongoing projects from Harper to Pleebo and from Pleebo to Fishtown.”
He added that the ministry plans for the next five years captured all of the counties’ capitals.
“We are looking at inter-regional connection; we have plans at the regional level, ECOWAS has this corridor called the Trans African highway network.”
Zaizay said ECOWAS along with South and East Africans are thinking on connecting African countries. “The links from Dakar to Abidjan passing through five countries, which Liberia will benefit from, has to do with making the two-lanes to four lanes.”
The Trans African corridor passes from Sierra Leone to Boa Waterside to Monrovia, Somalia drive to Red-light to Gbarnga to Ganta, Tappita to Toe Town and to Todee.
John Kollie of LMDI urged officials to avoid eating the loan; stating, “It will do well for this country, because if more people get better the nation gets better if few people get better the nation gets worst, violence sets in, hungry people are angry people to the extreme they are mad people. Let’s managed the money that taxpayers pay to manage our country including building the roads.”
He urged constituencies to hold their lawmakers and government accountable on how the money is spent.
“The problem in this country we steal, steal and build mansions. All of us have the responsibility to do this for our country. We need the roads; citizens have to pay their taxes and government has to manage the money properly.”
However, Maureen Sieh, Media Trainer at Internews, said road was promised by many of the candidates during their campaign.
“Right now the government has named the loan for the road, we hope the money will bring relief for you all because the only people who can build Liberia are Liberians. You can’t depend on donors.”