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“We are Proud to Serve”- Acting Minister of Public Works:

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… After careful review, I am, indeed, similarly disappointed, much more by the detailed presentation of the Acting Minister of Public Works, who is the assigned, policy-decision implementing official of government, than the report of the Minister of Information, who is the assigned mouthpiece or simply, the spokesperson of the government.

A Response

Introduction

An elder, life-long public servant and eternal nationalist/political animal, I applaud and commend young, Honorable Victor Smith, Acting Minister of our Nation’s Ministry of Public Works (although reportedly suspended from office) for his commitment, loyalty and patriotism to our common patrimony, the Republic of Liberia, and dedication to service – building roads, highways and bridges for the nation and its citizens. This was expressed, very eloquently, with specific achievements, delineated in his press statement, “We are Proud to serve a Progressive Government” (The Analyst, July 5, 2013).

In the light of the thrust and elements of the press statement delivered by the Honorable, Acting Minister of Public Works, it is reasonable to conclude that the presentation, which included, among many others, specifics of the completed, on-going and planned or “ear-marked” projects, was or is an attempted answer to my Response/Questioning (“What it means . . .” – Minister of Information: A Response, New Democrat, June 27, 2013) of the elaborate, rather aggressive   press-briefing/report by the Minister of Information, regarding national, public policy prescriptions/implementation and achievements made to date, on the theme of “what it takes . . .”,  with a 7-point rationalization and analysis.

Appreciation with Disappointment

In that response to the Minister of Information, I observed that “while I applaud and appreciate the clear understanding of and expressed commitment to the . . . goals . . . outlined (by the Minister of Information) and the . . . critical challenges that we face, I am deeply disappointed . . . by the conspicuous absence of or failure/refusal to address (let alone implementation of such top priority of) . . . the following plans/programs, critical to successful national reconciliation and, eventually, ‘sustaining our peace’ and democracy”, particularly, Item #4 of the Minister’s 7-point listing of national, economic development declared policy, plans/programs.

This, we argued, was and is the conspicuous absence or failure/refusal to address or mention prioritization or “Prioritize the declared, public policy and decision to building national, all-weather roads/highways, the ‘premier, multiplier effect’ in national, economic development. This development not only facilitates mass movement of people (‘bringing our people closer together, connect villages, towns and counties, and to move the goods and services at lesser costs’, according to the minister of information); facilitates investment and employment; and production, distribution and exchange of goods and services, but also facilitates national and international trade and commerce. The prevailing population growth and urbanization (rural-to urban migration) rendered our capital city extremely over-populated, congested and without the required, needed services. All-weather, efficient roads and highways remain the rational resolution to this crucial, critical problem”.

Presentation by the Acting Minister of Public Works

After careful review, I am, indeed, similarly disappointed, much more by the detailed presentation of the Acting Minister of Public Works, who is the assigned, policy-decision implementing official of government, than the report of the Minister of Information, who is the assigned mouthpiece or simply, the spokesperson of the government. According to the Presentation/Report by the Honorable, Acting Minister of Public Works, these are the roads/highways Projects completed, on-going and planned or “ear-marked”:

1. Cotton Tree – the City of Buchanan, Margibi/Grand Bassa counties        US$49.96M
2. Resettlement Action Plan, Magibi/Grand Bassa Counties                        2.50
3. Redlight Market – Gbarnga, Montserrado/Margibi and Bong Counties       166.10
4. City of Ganta – Republic of Guinea, Nimba County                                ? ? ? ?
5. Kakata – Bong Mine, Margibi/Bong counties                                         32.00
6. Ganta – Saniquellie – Yekepa, Nimba County                                       40.00
7. Marshall, Margibi County, Margibi County                                             19.70
8. Urban Roads, City of Monrovia & Suburbs:

  • Caldwell                               19.00M)
  • SKD                                    9.29)
  • Police Academy Road            4.60 )
  • Duport Road/Zayzay Community – Soul Clinic ) Montserrado County –  45.50
  • AB Tolbert Road                       )
  • Clara Town                               )
  • Logan Town                             )

9.Laterite Roads linking various County Capitals, ear-marked or planned  – 38.00

Zorzor – Voinjama, Lofa County
Bella Yalla, Lofa Couty
Brewerville – Bopolu, Montserrado/Gbarpolu counties
Vahun Road, Lofa County
Kaweaken – Barclayville, River Gee/Grand Kru Counties 

According to this report by the Minister of Public Works, the foregoing, Items #1 – #9 constitute the National Road Construction Plan, showing the projects completed, on-going and “ear-marked”, with the following, national distribution and associated costs:

  • Bong County                 US$71.33M
  • Gbarpolu County            7.60
  • Grand Bassa County       26.23
  • Grand Kru ounty            7.60
  • Lofa county                  7.60
  • Margibi County              117.26
  • Montserrado County      108.43
  • Nimba County               US $40.00
  • River Gee County           7.60

Total national US$393.65 M + –

Grand Cape Mount County, home of the historic City of Robertsport and the famous Lake Piso, a potential asset for tourist attraction were not, even, mentioned. So was Bomi County, the home of the first, major foreign investment, LMC and Bomi Mountain; it was not recognized, at very least. Then there is Southeast Liberia – Maryland, Sinoe, River Cess and Grand Gedeh Counties, where Gedeh “Troe” (Gedeh Mountain in the local dialect) or the Putu Mountain is located. To the Ministry of Public Works, perhaps, there is no need for roads and highways out there.

Furthermore, Nimba County was mentioned, apparently, as an afterthought. In my argument submitted to the National Land Commission as well as the National Constitution Review Commission for reform of the nation’s Customary Land Tenure (“rights & ownership”), I raised the issue of the perennial problem of the road/highway links between Ganta and Saniquellie and, between Saniqueliie and Yekepa, where LAMCO mined out the iron ore and left a hole in the ground.

Moreover, the Minister of Public Works said nothing about roads and access to the diamond mining towns and villages surrounding the trade and commercial city of Bahn, and the road link between Bahn and Saclepia. He said nothing about the road-link between Grey and Toweh Town, the local administrative headquarters and Home of one of major Paramount Chieftaincies of Nimba County, thence back to Bahn, through several diamond-mining towns and villages.

Yes, indeed, while we appreciate the projects undertaken in the other counties of our nation, during this era of resource-squeeze, it is reasonable to speculate the conclusion that the choice of these counties – Bong, Gbarpolu, Grand Bassa, Grand Kru, Lofa, Margibi, Montserrado, Nimba and River Gee was motivated by OBVIOUS, political considerations, our Liberian tradition.

However, national economic development depends, primarily, on all-weather, efficient/effective roads/highways network, the multiplier Effect in national, economic development, a necessary, public policy, absolute priority requirement. There is, really, no need for lecture or theoretical analysis on this issue; for, the Acting Minister of Public Works, an Engineer, and all of the public policy, decision-makers of our nation are, in fact, highly-educated and experienced professionals; therefore, it is not necessary to burden them with issues about which they are informed. But, the minister’s presentation shows no evidence of priority, policy commitment to national roads/highways construction.

For 166 years, we, Liberians, beat our chests, with pride, that the Republic is the only African country freed of colonial rule, but we cannot travel, in comfort, by all-weather roads/highways from Monrovia to Voinjama, Lofa County; Harper, Maryland County; Saniquellie, Nimba County; Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, and from county capital to county capital, nationwide. For some years not too long ago, Ghanians flocked to Liberia to buy tomato paste, soap, toiletries, etc., etc. that we imported (and continue to import) from the USA. Today, Ghana grows, processes palm nuts, cans and export not only tomato paste, but also palm oil, palm butter, cocoa, coffee, including several tropical, food products.  Ditto, the other, neighboring country of Cote d’Ivoire.

But we are still laboring under the burden of socio-economic and political under-development, simply, because of the absolute absence of critical, policy prioritization in national, economic development, although we have had and continue to have all it takes – or would and could have taken to cris-cross our small nation of less than 4 million, sparsely populated people, with an area of 43,000 square miles, by all-whether, super-highways/roads; for, we have:

1.The Need

2.Knowledge
a.Education
b.Training/Experience
c.Commitment

3.Resources
a.Human
b.Natural
c.Financial assets

But we have not or did not apply this approach. This realization prompted the question (“What is wrong with Liberians”?, The New Dawn, July 4, 2013). While pondering the answer to this question, I got the shock of an answer – from the scheduled, National Draft budget submitted June 29, 2013 for Hearings – of budgetary allowance allocations that, apparently, abuse this lawful process into Corruption, Inc., and the tug of war between the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the President of the nation (Head of the Executive Branch) on one hand, and the Ministry of Justice with the National Legislature on the other, for prosecutorial power. According to LACC and the President, Prosecutorial Power is critical to combat and control corruption.

Suspension of the Budgetary Hearings

While we planned and were anxiously waiting to be present at the Budget Hearings, press reports indicate that the hearings have been suspended with no information as to resumption. Why were the Hearings suspended and when, if ever, will they be resumed and opened to the public will be our next subject for analysis; stay tuned.

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