Central Bank Executive Governor J. Mills Jones and President John Davies of the Liberia Bank for Development and Investment (LBDI) gave the Liberian people a great Christmas and New Year pledge last week. They said CBL and LBDI would work very hard to bring affordable and modern housing to people throughout the country.
The two Banking leaders gave the assurance last Monday when they, along with the National Housing Authority (NHA), officially issued temporary ownership certificates to Brewerville Housing Estate residents.
During the presentation ceremony held at LBDI in the presence of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Governor Jones recalled that the Central Bank had last year issued to LBDI US$10 million for a 10-year housing mortgage financing program. About 80% of that money has already been disbursed by LBDI to finance estate housing, commercial housing and individual housing, Dr. Jones said.
Then he added this good news: “This is just the beginning and we can assure you, Madam President, that there is a lot more to come.”
The CBL would ensure that LBDI make available affordable housing for Liberians, Governor Jones told President Sirleaf and others gathered for the ceremony. Why? He said “Low income housing creates economic opportunities and employment for the people.”
Indeed a lot happens in the economy when people build houses. Contractors, carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers, other technicians and casual workers get jobs, the banks get enhanced commercial activity, and building material providers do brisk business.
But there were other reasons which Governor Jones did not mention in that meeting. He did not tell the gathering that he hails from rural Sinoe County where, like all other Liberian counties, including Montserrado, seat of the nation’s capital, there are very serious housing problems.
The vast majority of houses in Liberia lack bathroom and toilet facilities and most of our rural people, as well as hundreds of thousands who dwell in our overcrowded and undeveloped cities have to go into the bushes or use the beaches to ease themselves. How so, so sad for Africa’s oldest independent Republic.
There was something else that the CBL Executive Governor did not tell his audience: for three years—not the four that ordinary college students take—Mills Jones traveled from Monrovia to Suacoco, Bong County, where Cuttington College and Divinity School (now Cuttington University) is located; and every time he traveled that road he observed that our people still live in ancient and poorly ventilated thatched huts! They also bathe behind bamboo or thatched enclosures and toilet in the bushes.
For three years—three years because by that time this brilliant, hardworking young Sinoe boy had completed his work at Cuttington and was told by the College Administration, “We have no more to teach you; you can go”—yes, over those three years Mills beheld the plight of Liberia’s rural people. Most especially, he saw that over those years and, sadly, even till this day—over 40 years later—nothing much has changed in the villages along the highways throughout the country! The same old thatched huts, the same old dusty highways, the same old absence of pipe-borne water, the same old absence of electricity that causes the people to cut down every tree in sight for charcoal to cook and heat bathing water.
Amidst this perennial state of penury (poverty and deprivation), what hope is there for our rural children? For the elders, some of whom attain a hundred years of age—Alas! Is a hundred years not long enough for our elders to begin to see SOME modicum of development? How many years must a citizen live before he or she can have safe drinking water and decent and safe toilets?
This is the background to Governor Jones and President Davies’ pre-Christmas pledge. The Liberian people will be eagerly looking forward to the beginning of the fulfillment of that pledge so that our elders, at long last—before they die—and our young people will begin to see and experience real change for the better in their lives, especially affordable, modern housing with the most basic amenities of running water and flush toilets. It can be done and in this age that is not asking too much.