The Minister of Public Works, Gyude Moore, has told the Senate Committee on Public Works that it would cost US$2.3 billion to connect all the counties’ capitals by good road networks, and that the country will need to spend at least US$100 million a year on roads over the next 20 years.
“This year Public Works has US$18 million, and every year we fall back. At some point, we have to think about it that no country has been able to build its road infrastructure from the revenue raised; everybody does it through debt financing. So we might have to look back at our whole debt thing and how we do it,” Moore told a joint Senate committee hearing last week.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s agenda, according to Minister Moore, is to be able to connect all of the counties’ capitals with paved roads, “but unfortunately, we are not going to be able to do all, but even the ones we cannot do, we want to be able to secure financing for them so that whoever comes after us will execute them.”
Moore informed the Senators that although his ministry will not have the needed money to fix all of the roads; however, designs have already been done for the next administration to use when seeking funding to carry out the work.
He informed the committee in a formal letter to the Legislature that going forward, “We tell our partners that we are interested in concrete roads, using cement. Because of the price of fuel, we pay lower for concrete road per kilometer than we pay for asphalt (coal tar), after doing a test.”
Moore supported his new recommendation by recalling that concrete streets built in the 1950s in places like Cape Palmas and Buchanan still exist, even without maintenance.
“The road from Hanover to Berlin in Germany, built during the reign of Adolf Hitler, is still intact,” he added as an example.
Moore said although work on concrete highways can be carried out in ten months, as opposed to six for asphalt, they (concrete works) can last for up to 50 years.
He suggested an arrangement with CEMENCO for local purchase of 25 percent of the cement to be used.
“If we are going to integrate the road construction into the country, this is one of the ways to do it; and even if we cannot exercise it, one of the good things we are doing is that we are leaving a copious team of notes for whoever comes after us to see where we stopped, and take it from there,” Moore said.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Committee on Public Works, Henry Yallah, said at the close of the hearing that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning will be invited to appear before the joint Senate Committee to respond to the Road Fund Act and how some of the issues can be mitigated.
“And growing out of the conversations on the tax issue, the Forestry Development Authority, the Liberia Revenue Authority and the Ministry of Finance will also come along with the Public Works Minister on some of the taxes our logging companies owe, and how they are trying to give them tax break, attaching it to work outside of the Legislature. The Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) will also be requested to give a list of logging companies and the different taxes they owe, so that we get along with the quest of oversight.”
Meanwhile, Minister Moore had earlier apologized for “recklessly” appearing in the Chamber of the Senate last week, which prompted the postponement of the hearing.