After Runway Rehab, a Modern RIA Airport in Sight

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The Liberian Senate could soon ratify a US$27.3 million loan agreement between the government and the European Development Bank for the rehabilitation of the Roberts International Airport runway.

This rehabilitation will vastly improve RIA’s runway and allow airplanes much safer landing.  RIA Managing Director A.T. Simmons yesterday told the Daily   Observer the rehabilitation   will include a new fixed coating, totally free of potholes and “hydro plaining,”      water settling on the runway that may cause the planes to skid (slide), leading to aircraft damage.

Mr. Simmons said the last time the RIA runway underwent a major rehabilitation was in 1974, four decades ago.  The impending exercise will make RIA far more attractive and international airlines would happily bring in their Jumbo Jets, Boeing 767s, Airbuses and other ultra modern aircrafts.

This is all great news, but what next?  This, we are positive, is a question on every Liberian’s mind, especially those of our citizenry who travel frequently, admire and enjoy the modern airport complexes that they see in North and South America, Europe, Asia and even here in Africa.

Yes, right here on the African continent, on which lies its   oldest independent Republic, we have two of the world’s most modern airports, Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.  Well, it may be argued that South Africa can afford them, since it is richly endowed with gold, diamond, coal and other mineral resources, and a modern, rich agro-industry, which exports to the world thousands of tons of foods of all kinds, including meat, canned goods and wines. 

But guess what!  Liberia, too, is a rich country!  We, too, have our gold and diamond, and more besides, our iron ore and rubber!  Harvey Firestone, Jr., when he came here in 1926 to start his rubber plantation,   said there was no better place   on earth more ideally suited for rubber.

If we can grow rubber we can   grow ANYTHING else.  And yet, we can hardly find a decent rose or carnation to present   our wives, sisters and   daughters on their birthdays.  Why? For the same reason Lusu Sloan, president of the Liberia Marketing Association told the Dual Currency Roundtable on Monday: that the Zwedru market women told her that the price of their pepper was high because they bought it “for US dollars in the Ivory Coast.” 

Pepper that Liberians cannot cook without is not abundantly grown here to meet the demand in spite of our rich soil and abundant rainfall? The noted agriculturist and soil chemist, James T. Phillips, grew pepper successfully in Careysburg in the 1960s and 70s.  Has anyone been to Israel and seen what they have done with their desert land?  They grow anything on it and Israel is largely food self-sufficient: but remember, it is, like the rest of the Middle East, mostly desert and sand.

But what has all this to do with airports, the subject of this editorial.  Everything!  Does anyone know how many Jumbo Jets fly Kenyan flowers daily to Europe and North America?  Why can’t we do the same?

This newspaper has long urged our people to turn Grand Cess, Grand Kru County and Foya, Lofa County, into meat-producing oases because cattle grow naturally in those areas and in many other parts of Liberia.  Yet we continue to import malnourished cattle from rain-starved Mali and Burkina Faso.  For how long are we going to remain STUPID and not harness (exploit) our immense agricultural potential?

But this Editorial is talking about airports.  Singapore has one of the world’s most modern airports—yet no natural resources except a waterway through which super tankers pass taking goods to world markets.  That is Singapore’s only natural resource!  Yet Singapore is 100% literate and computer literate, and has over US$20,000 per capita income.

All we are saying is that we in this country, Liberia, need to get serious and take advantage of the innumerable blessings God has given us, especially in fertile land and rainfall, but much, much more.

RIA Managing Director Simmons yesterday divulged (revealed) the good news   about RIA: many international companies have bid for contracts to invest in a world class “airport city” at RIA.    Within the next 30 to 60 days, he told the Observer yesterday, the Airport  Authority will begin receiving proposals for this project.

We pray that these proposals will be made public, so that the Liberian people may participate in these all important discussions that will yield, at long last, to a modern international airport that  Africa’s oldest independent Republic deserves.  

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