Are We Making the Best Use of China’s Friendship?

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf this week received one of Liberia’s dear friends—former Chinese Ambassador to Liberia Zhou Yuxiao, who served here from 2007-2011.

He was characteristically most forthcoming. Since his departure he has been promoted, now serving as Special Envoy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Mr. Zhou assured the President that China was prepared to undertake and conclude “all outstanding projects in Liberia.” These include the ministerial complex which they had offered to build to house the remaining Liberian Ministries and Agencies still renting. Also included are expansion work on the Capitol Building, the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC), renovation of the S.K.D. Sports Complex and commitment to new post-Ebola programs and projects.

He said the teams for the various projects “are being mobilized and processed and are expected to arrive in the next two weeks.”

This means that China means business. But are we ready? It was only a few years back that they renovated the S.K.D. How come they are returning so soon for the same? Can we in this country ever develop the capacity to MAINTAIN our assets? Or do we just use them until they run down, then we start looking for help to recondition, rehabilitate, renovate? We hope the time will soon come when not just the government but all Liberians and our institutions will develop the habit of maintenance for everything we own, have and manage. Remember it was only a few years ago that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) rehabilitated the Capitol Building. Not long thereafter we learned there was no water in the building and the toilets were not working. USAID also rehabilitated the Ministry of Public Works Building. What is its condition today?

With the Chinese teams due shortly, how ready are we for them? Has GOL definitely decided where to put the ministerial complex? Have they really abandoned the idea of putting the complex in Buzzy Quarter and in the process rid the capital city of one more sore-eyed slum, at no expense to government?

The GOL’s only headache would have been relocating residents, who have pledged that they “will not stand in the way of development,” rather would willingly accept transfer to another habitation.

How many of us remember Ambassador Zhou’s 2011 Farewell Address? We at the Daily Observer do. He admonished the government and people to go into manufacturing, so that we may start giving to added value to our raw materials—iron ore, oil palm and all its nuts, rubber, timber, coconut. There is, too, our rich endowment of reed, found everywhere and good for furniture and many other products. There are also other agricultural produce waiting for added value investment. These include fruit—for juices, etc., pork, which we could plentifully produce and make our own ham, bacon, spare ribs and salted parts.

Almond and cashew nuts grow naturally in Liberia, but we have ignored them for generations. Why? This newspaper has always reminded our compatriots from Grand Bassa that they hold some of the finest soil for cashew production, in Edina and elsewhere. We even once suggested to Bassa officials to send a team to Guinea Bissau, where cashew nuts constitute 95% of their exports. Yes, they could bring back a couple of exports to advise us on how to develop cashew into a viable export commodity. Alas, no one has taken us seriously.

Yet it was only two weeks ago that we heard that this same China—the People’s Republic —had sent a big delegation to Brazil and announced that China would there invest US$50 billion in manufacturing and industrial development!
We wonder whether any of our Ministers— Finance and Development Planning, Foreign Affairs, Commerce and Industry, or any of our industry-related Agencies, such as Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), Liberia Telecommunication Corporation (LTC), Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), National Investment Commission (NIC), National Housing Authority (NHA), etc.—did any of them take note of China’s latest Brazilian initiative?

This precisely is what led to this editorial. We pray that our government and people read, mark, learn, inwardly digest—and MOVE–FAST!

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