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MPW and Liberia’s Complex Infrastructural Problems

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Liberia is Africa’s oldest independent nation, history tells us so. This position occupied by us is the pride of our and our prestigious boast in international forums. When it comes to development in Africa, we always prefer to remain silent- reason being that we know our backwardness. If we must proffer a reason for being under-developed, our presentation becomes most logical. “We cannot be compared with South Africa. The whites built it before the blacks took over. We cannot be compared with Ivory Coast. The French built it before independence.” The list goes on and on.

When we travel to other countries and return home, it’s like we have returned to a village. This vexes the soul. Our capital city can be likened to one of Nigeria’s developed local government areas. When these thoughts are expressed, we take offense and become defensive. “Monrovia was not planned and no matter what efforts indeed we are such an interesting people.

In buses, taxis, and drinking places, debates take on interesting patterns and reasoning. Some have no logical foundations at all. Others have but relate the backwardness of Liberia to the civil war. Prominent among the debates is the issue of Samuel Kanyon Doe-the man history refers to as a tyrant- is being recognized to have been the most visionary leader who, if not overthrown and murdered, would have changed Liberia’s infra-structures and turn this nation into a paradise. Even those responsible for his death publicly admits the enormous infra-structurally developments he brought to Liberia. They argued that each visit Doe made outside Liberia to a developed nation, he would be determined and challenged to bring such developments to Liberia. He was development oriented, they emphasized. The vision of Government having its own structures to house ministries and functionaries is being attributed to Samuel Doe. Today, that vision is being grasped and the debate goes on.

What bothers me about us is that we condemn and destroy and at another point, we hailed that which we have condemned and destroyed. Like the late Doe would say, “Liberians do not know what they want.” However, it is better to realize wrong doing then not to realize at all. Liberia’s infra-structural development has become the desire of every Liberian. We want to see sky scrapers, good roads network, flyover bridges, paved highways, and a capital with sparkling cleanliness and lightening systems.

Our strong desires for these have brought and continue to bring us in daily confrontation with the Ministry of Public Works. When there are so many potholes and the vehicle in which we ride seems to take hours to reach us to our destination, we become contumelious and the Ministry of Public Works becomes our victim. Why? This is the Ministry we know that should give us the luxury of modern structures and infra-structures. And so, when we hear of millions being spent and we see dangerous holes on the roads, we hold Public Works accountable. Are we doing justice in our condemnations or do we act out of ignorance as regarding the mandate and the challenges the Ministry is facing?

Unfortunately, the complexities of Liberia’s infra-structural problems are not known to us. But in a chat with members of the Press on Tuesday, The Works Minister has contributed some of the difficulties not only to financial resources, but abuse and theft of infra-structures. Much as Government is striving to modernize the nation’s infrastructures, there are vandalizations of structures, misuse of infra-structures and “Don’t Care Culture of Liberians” when it comes to Government properties and facilities.”

Liberia’s beauty is being hidden by Liberians. The streets are occupied by traders who leave filth behind at the end of the day. Traders and vehicles both own the streets now and both seem to have the right. Beautiful structures are hidden by shacks like a shanty town. Drainages have become garbage disposal facilities which, at the end of the day, destroy homes and make streets impassable when rain falls. Scrap business men sent thieves to vandalize lightening and drainage facilities without compunction of mind. Heavy duty trucks ply city roads with containers and add to roads deterioration. There is so much that we have individually contributed to deface the structural looks of the city; yet, we exclude ourselves from the awkward appearance of Liberia’s Capital City.

In the face of all these, Liberia is struggling to match development with other countries. The Ministry of Public Works is currently working with the Japanese Government to end the traffic congestion problem along the Somalia Drive. The Plan is expected to expand the road to four lanes from the Free Port to Red Light. This project may start soon if all designs and protocols are concluded.

The African Development Bank will be investing about $50m to pave the Fishtown/Harper highway. This magnanimous gesture is expected to end the trauma of travelers. The World Bank is also pumping $50m into the Red Light/Gbarnga road pavement. Bids are being tendered and by December, the contract will be awarded. The Ministry of Public Works has budgeted about $3m to conduct the feasibility studies on the Ganta/Grand Gedeh Road as well. By the time these projects are completed, the Ministry would be presenting to us Liberia’s first paved highway from Monrovia to Maryland. These are expected soon.

The Assistant Minister for Operations William Slur has said that the Ministry of Public Works is assiduously working to give Liberians good infra-structures. He said the Red Light Gbarnga Highway is contracted to CICO and work is being done. Also Inter-city road connections such as the Kessely Boulevard to 12th Street, Police Academy to SKD Boulevard, Barnersville/Diggsville to Cardwell as well as Barnersville to Johnsonville are all priority projects the Public Works Ministry will be undertaking. Already, work is being done on some.          

The motorists and residents of Cardwell are expected to be jubilating soon as the Cardwell Bridge would come under construction by February next year. The Ministry of Public Works says feasibility studies and designs have been completed. Perhaps, of all the projects-though very significant-the Chinese gift of a ministerial complex to Liberia has brought about so much excitement.

The significance of this project to Liberia’s modernization cannot be overstated. In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, each state has a complex called state secretariat which houses Government Ministries. The same is with the Central Government. Liberia’s case has been peculiar. Ministries are scattered here and there which makes the transaction of business difficult and costly. The actualization of this project would be a lasting legacy of President Sirleaf. It is also MPW most prestigious project. Kofi might soon lead a delegation to the People’s Republic of China for conclusive discussions.

The President of Liberia in the face of so many developmental challenges is determined to shape Liberia into a model infra-structural state. The capacity to make this happen is not the major challenge; but to sustain modernity is the greatest challenge. Maintenance culture is lacking in Liberia and this has been an obstacle to sustain constructed roads and Government structures. The Ministry of Public Works is said to finding it difficult to secure funding for newly constructed roads. It is believe that at completion, roads do not need maintenance until several years have passed. This mentality adds to the woes of the MPW and subjects it to Public criticisms, Assistant Minister for Operation, Hon. Slurr has elaborated.

On its Colloquial Radio Program, the Fabric Radio expressed the concerns of Monrovians over the dangerous holes around the City. Public Works has been indicted. Holes such as the one on Johnson Street, adjacent to the Access Bank, pose serious threats. The Corrugated iron covering has been vandalized by scrappers thus exposing motorists and pedestrians to danger. The Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation is said to be the owner of the project and not Public Works as being claimed but yet the project is on the road controlled by MPW. Information received is that coordinating efforts are being made to ensure repairs and complete safety.

“As we seek to develop Liberia, it is the responsibility of every Liberian to work cooperatively with institutions to ensure that Liberia is elevated from under-development to development. This responsibility we cannot afford to shun,” says a Lawmaker. What Liberia needs now is true patriotism and not noise making. What the Ministry of Public Works needs is community education programs and community coordinators to ensure that structures and infra-structures are appreciated and not destroyed. We need to collectively make Liberia great.

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