Chinese Ambassador to Liberia, Mr. Zhang Yu, has unveiled the new Roberts International Airport’s terminal, at a ceremony to finally pen down a US50 million loan agreement for its construction.
Mr. Zhang told President Ellen Johnson – Sirleaf that construction work on the new terminal and runway will be speedy but of quality. The official signing of the US$50m loan agreement took place on Monday, 3 October at in the Cabinet Room of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – the President’s temporary office. The Chinese EXIM Bank will provide the funds.
Following the approval of Act ratifying the loan agreement on Monday, President Sirleaf witnessed the signing of the loan agreement by Liberia’s Finance Minister, Mr. BoimaKamara and Chinese Amb. Mr. Yue, President Sirleaf said her government had planned to reconstruct the airport before its expiration, but hospitals and schools were given priority.
Two separate Chinese companies are expected to do two separate contracts in the project, with one responsible for the construction for the terminal which is expected to last for 18 months, while the construction of the runway by another company may take six months, even though the companies were not named.
President Sirleaf admitted that visitors would always wonder when the country will be developed upon arrival and observing the conditions of its airport. But she, however, suggested that the use of the airport was a privilege, and that her government had planned to do the airport before the administration expires.
While acknowledging the importance of the airport to the growth and development of the country, she, however, emphasized that the government had already targeted schools and hospitals throughout the country, knowing that it would do the airport before the administration expires.
Mrs. Sirleaf said ten years of Sino-Liberian friendship has yielded so many things and supports, stressing that the signing of the US$50m loan agreement for the airport project has made it even stronger.
Some of the key Chinese supported projects, she cited, include the yet-to-begin Ministerial Complex, she said, will ease government’s burden of leasing private buildings, construction of roads, the S.K. Doe Sports Complex in Paynesville and extension of the Capitol Building, while also working with Liberian entities and companies to achieve development.
She indicated that the government would be counting on China as per its assurance to do a quality and speedy construction of the airport. Chinese Ambassador Yue said at the request of President Sirleaf, China did not hesitate to take on the project which costs about US$50m provided by Chinese EXIM Bank.
Amb.Yue noted that people like to see China’s quality, indicating to President Sirleaf that “we guarantee” quality and speed for the RIA project that to be done by Chinese construction companies.
He said the project was a follow-up after President Sirleaf visited China last year, as he underscored the importance of airport connectivity. He said substantial job started in July, with everything done from that time to the end of September.
Amb.Yue described the project as a miracle for Sino-Liberia relations, having expressed disbelief that today the work could be done. Liberia’s Finance Minister BoimaKamara said upgrading the RIA Terminal will enhance the country’s economic growth, with an estimate of more than 4000 flights a year.
He expressed the government’s deep commitment to the partnership between Liberia and China, and also lauded the support received. The Liberia Airport Authority or LAA Board Chairman Milton G. Findley said the ground-breaking ceremony for the project is expected soon, saying the runway project will take six months, while the terminal project will take 18 months.
Mr. Findley said the airport will not be shut down during the time of the project.
By Winston W. Parley