US$50M for New RIA Terminal

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The Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, Mr. Zhang Yue and a representative of the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC), have unveiled to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a new Roberts International Airport Terminal that they are about to construct for the nation.

The unveiling of the US$50 million terminal complex took place Monday, October 3rd, in the President’s Cabinet room, minutes after she had ratified the Act on China-Liberia Framework Agreement.

President Sirleaf’s ratification coincided with the official signing ceremony of the loan agreement between the Chinese Exim Bank and the Liberian government for the Roberts International Airport (RIA) Terminal Project.

In remarks before Ambassador Zhang presented a picture of the new terminal building to the President, he said that he was really amazed at the pace at which it took the Bank and the Liberian government to get the agreement into force.

“We all know the kind of bureaucracies that are involved before reaching a successful conclusion with such very important matters. I could say it is a miracle for China-Liberia cooperation,” he said.

In his bewilderment, he stated that he can hardly believe that such unprecedented event will ever happen again in this regard.

He narrated that apart from the President’s visit sometime last year, the actual work for acquiring the loan began in July 2016 and to have it all set and done by this time is “really unprecedented.”

“At the request of the Liberian government and Madam President, the Chinese Government didn’t hesitate to agree to this project,” he disclosed.

The Chinese Ambassador said the urge to construct a new and large terminal became even more imperative during the Ebola outbreak when more people and services were coming into the country to help with the nation’s Ebola fight. The present terminal couldn’t cope with the flow of people and goods coming in at the time.

According to the Chinese Diplomat, the new terminal complex will cover more than 5000 m2 of area and is designed to annually cope with at least 320,000 passengers flow.

“Which means, this facility will be special enough to handle the flow of people and logistics for Liberians,” Amb. Zhang added, much to the delight of every Liberian in the small room.

Unlike the present airport, which has no walkway to directly connect to a grounded flight, the new U$50 million terminal will be fitted with two walkways that will be attached to a plane’s door for passengers to disembark.

The construction work for the new airport begins this month and the project is expected to be ready for use by this same month, 2017.

In relation to the time duration, the Chinese Ambassador stressed: “You will see notice and see China’s quality and China’s speed during the construction; and all of this will be done by the Chinese construction company — China Harbour.”

The Chinese Diplomat vaguely stated that in the next two months something “good” is going to happen for the nation.

He used the occasion to praise the Liberian government for sticking to the “One China Policy.”

Earlier, Finance and Development Planning Minister Boima Kamara said the partnership with China is helping to translate investment into airport and ports for exporting, “into roads and power and into better hospitals.”

Mr. Kamara said the airport terminal and runway are very important symbols for the nation’s growth as his ministry seeks to ensure the recovery of the nation coming out of Ebola.

“With Ebola and drop in our commodity prices, economic growth of our country have sharply declined…” he said, adding, “And we believe that with the coming into full realization of this Airport Agreement, it is going to help increase our traffic back to over 19 percent, which was the case prior to Ebola.”

He further stated that the new terminal has been designed to provide more services and to accommodate an estimated 400,000 passengers annually.

“We are grateful that this new terminal will improve services at the airport, bringing additional revenues and critically attract private partners and foreign investments,” he said.

Mr. Kamara and Justice Minister Frederick Cherue signed the Agreement on behalf of the Liberian government.

For her part, President Sirleaf stated that in the 10 years of friendship with China, so much development initiatives have been achieved.

“China’s friendship with Liberia is made even stronger not only by this but by all the many other ways we collaborate with each other,” the President added.

She praised China for working with entities within Liberia in order to achieve the country’s development agenda.

Trying to decipher what the Ambassador had vaguely said about the “something good” that would happen for Liberia in the next two months, Pres. Sirleaf said, “When the Ambassador said something good is coming for Liberia in two months, I am quite sure some of the good things he is talking about is that we are going to see the Ministerial Complex, that we all have been working on for years, we are going to finally see it rising up out of the ground. We will also see extension of our Capitol Building to accommodate the number of people there and give our legislators some better accommodations.”

The President added that already Liberians are seeing the rehabilitation works that are taking place at the Samuel Kanyan Doe Sports Complex.

She thanked the Chinese for the gesture; adding: “It is a joy for every Liberian.”

Following the signing of the agreement, Gbehzohngar M. Findley, Board Chair of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA), said the new terminal building will be constructed between the old terminals ‘A’ and ‘B’.

Mr. Findley said that simultaneously there will two construction projects going on at the RIA and they are going to last for at least 18 months. The other will be the rehabilitation of the runway.

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