Amid Failure to Connect Counties with Paved Roads, GOL Already Passing the Torch

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Public Works Minister Gyude Moore recently told the Senate Committee on Public Works that it needed US$2.6 billion to connect all county capitals with paved roads.

But he admitted, “We are not going to be able to do all, but even the ones that we cannot do, we want to secure the financing for them, so that whoever comes after us will execute them.”

“Everybody builds roads through debt financing,” the Minister told the Senate Committee.

Yes, debt has become absolutely necessary in Liberia for mainly three reasons: first, GOL’s financial ineptitude and mismanagement; second, the steep fall in commodity prices, especially rubber and iron ore, Liberia’s two main foreign exchange earners; and third, corruption.

Oh, Liberia! A rich country that continues to wallow in poverty because we continue to wallow in corruption and mismanagement!

In the early years of this administration, things were rather good. Yes, we had a lot of infrastructure to rebuild following 14 years of civil war and the corruption and mismanagement of the Taylor years. But financially, things were good in 2006 and few years beyond because both rubber and iron ore were in high demand on the world market. Rubber was over US$2000 per metric ton and iron ore was not far behind.

In addition, some of the world’s leading oil companies were spending lots of money on Liberia’s oil blocks and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) was flush with cash—until President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf decided to appoint her son Robert Sirleaf as NOCAL Chair. In one and a half years, the company was bankrupt!

The other overwhelming advantage we had was that we elected Africa’s first woman as President. And just as the Daily Observer, the only Liberian media institution that endorsed her candidacy in 2005, predicted, all the world’s leaders, mostly men, fell over themselves trying to assist this first African woman elected President to succeed. So money as well as technical and logistical support flowed in.

Our failure to take advantage of this financial boom—from our natural resources, from donor largesse and from our own self-generated resources, got us to where we are now.

Another cause of our economic crisis is the abject failure of Liberian agriculture. In this sector, too, money flowed in.

Almost every week since its resurgence in 2005, the Daily Observer has been URGING our Agriculture Ministers, in particular Dr. Chris Toe and his immediate successor, Dr. Florence Chenoweth, to reach out seriously to our farmers with seeds, fertilizers, farm implements and agricultural extension agents, in order to boost agricultural production and end our importation of vegetables, especially bitter ball, pepper, tomatoes, etc., from Guinea and the Ivory
Coast. But the lack of focus on the part of these Ministers caused us to spend almost a decade in farming failure.

We learned only last weekend that Dr. Chenoweth had told President Sirleaf they needed more money for agriculture, but Chenoweth asked for only US$3 million, which was “only enough to pay salaries.” But Florence has herself to blame. Why did she not tell the media the problem? Why didn’t she also, in order to protect her integrity, resign? It is so easy to make excuses after the fact.

Drs. Toe and Chenoweth also failed to exercise vision in encouraging farmers to plant more cocoa, whose world market price is always up. This failure, too, has contributed to our economic collapse.
Solomon tells us, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

All ye who say you want to be President: for what, may we ask? Is it only, as Trinity Cathedral’s Canon Burgess Carr said in a 1964 sermon, “to smell” what is left of Mother Liberia’s breast, after it has been ravenously (greedily, gluttonously) sucked by successive administrations?

Now here we are, with the Public Works Minister telling us that having failed to connect the counties with paved roads, GOL wants to borrow US$2.3 billion and have it in place for the next administration to do the job!

Is he dreaming? Even if some donor were foolish enough to lend us that money, will it still be there when the new administration comes in?

Lord, please send us a leader with compassion, determination, selflessness and vision to use what Liberia has left to lift our people out of backwardness, dependency, poverty and powerlessness.

But let each and every Liberian realize that God has already given us the POWER, in our own hands—political power—to vote. So go register to vote, then carefully study each candidate and choose your legislative and presidential candidate. Go and VOTE to “throw out the rascals” and elect people who you know will make a positive and lasting difference in your lives, and in the life of Mother Liberia.

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