Liberia’s Acting Public Works Minister and chairperson of the Interministerial Steering Committee (IMSC), Ruth Coker-Collins, says the road sector remains seriously challenged and there is a need for stakeholders of the sector to collaborate in addressing it.
Minister Coker-Collins made the remarks during the program marking the mid-Term Review of the 2020/2021 Annual Road Maintenance Expenditure Program and Recast of ARMEP Budget and financing of road works by local financial institutions held Tuesday, January 26, 2021, at the Farmington Hotel in Margibi County.
The program brought together Boniface D. Satu, head of the National Road Fund Office, Varney Sirleaf of the Internal Affairs Ministry, Transport Minister Samuel Wlue, Monie Captan of Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), John Davies of the Liberian Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI), and Cornelius Nagbe Poney of International Bank (IB) amongst others.
Mrs. Coker-Collins said the meeting was aimed at reassuring stakeholders of the sector and the need to work together with commitment in transforming the sector.
She believes that the road sector is challenged but is at the same time strongly optimistic that working together can help to address the problems appropriately.
One major problem confronting Liberia’s economic activities is roads. Most of the roads in the country are unpaved, and during the rainy season, they all become deplorable and inaccessible to vehicles thus resulting in skyrocketing prices of commodities for people in the interior and other coastal areas that have bad roads. So far only three roads are well paved in Liberia now; the roads from Cotton Tree to Buchanan, Coca Cola Factory to the Guinea border in Nimba County, and the long-lasting Babangida Highway leading from Bomi to Bo Waterside in Grand Cape Mount County. Most existing roads in Monrovia had received surface dressing while some have been paved by past and current administrations.
In the hinterland, road pavements are ongoing between River Gee and Maryland, and from Ganta to Yekepa in Nimba County. In Monrovia, the Somalia Drive Road and the Parker Paint-ELWA corridor are undergoing construction with several community roads built.
According to the Acting Public Works Minister, the challenges faced in the Liberian road sector can only be addressed through networking, stating “We can achieve this by coordinating as contractors are now unable to complete their work on time.” Most of the road works in Liberia are contracted to companies; both foreign and local. Major among foreign companies constructing roads here are the Chinese companies CICO and CHICO.
“We want to say thanks to our contractors for their commitment to the Ministry of Public Works and to the Interministerial Steering Committee. We have also invited your financial institutions and banks for us to network together to see how best we can build our roads,” Mrs. Coker-Collins said.
Transport Minister Samuel Wlue called on stakeholders during the meeting to take advantage of the three-day discussion to ensure that recommendations and suggestions from there are used from positive impact on the sector in the future.
“We all understand the difficulties and challenges the institution experienced last year, and it’s my hope that as we review our budget and look at our policies, we can all come to a win-win situation,” Mr. Wlue said.
Internal Affairs Minister Varney Sirleaf said it is important for everyone to understand some of the challenges contractors face in getting the work done.
“If you have a contract duly signed by the government for execution and the banks are skeptical to finance, the project will stall. We want to assure the banks that the Government’s approach going forward will be different because President George M. Weah is eager to see roads in the 15 counties,” Mr. Sirleaf said.
He said no one will develop Liberia other than Liberians, and it is important to foster partnership especially where the government is prepared for road connectivity.
Boniface D. Satu, head of the National Road Fund, lauded stakeholders for expressing the hope that everything will be done to address challenges facing road connectivity across the country.
He said the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Millennium Challenge Corporation have been helping the National Road Fund especially logistical support and information technology system.
“The African Development Bank has ensured that we have all the computers needed, vehicles, marketing and branding and cash to support the road fund,” Mr. Satu said.
Meanwhile, day one of the discussion focused on presentation by financial institutions, including United Bank for Africa (UBA), International Bank (IB), EcoBank, Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI).