The Inquirer (Monrovia)

17 September 2012

Liberia: Chinese to Build Complex At New Defense Ministry

Chinese Ambassador accredited to Liberia, ZHAO Jianhua has clarified that the $60 million bilateral grant agreement ministerial complex would be constructed at the new Defense Ministry site in Congo Town by a Chinese construction company through a bidding process to be done in China.

He dismissed media reports terming it as an unfair rumor that the Chinese grant ministerial complex will be constructed on the disputed ELWA land when taken over by the Liberian government.

In a brief meeting with local journalists at the weekend, Amb. Zhao said the ELWA community was part of the consideration of the Liberian government but at no time has the government made the decision of using that ELWA community land to have the ministerial complex built instead it reached the final decision through an official communication since last month for the use of the Defense Ministry's premises.

Amb. ZHAO said the Chinese government and the Liberian counterpart are in close contacts as to how to arrive at a comprehensive design taking into consideration the landscape, traffic and the surrounding areas adding, "But that is left to the Liberian government to decide. We are building in accordance with the need from the Liberian side made to the Chinese side and as far as traffic is concerned, that's going to be one major part of the overall design because ten ministries or agencies moved in that building and if it is not handled well there is going to be a huge traffic jam so we cannot think about that building alone but it has to done in a comprehensive manner."

The Chinese diplomat said already a team of Chinese experts are going to have a land-size inspection this month regarding the initial design and there will be further discussions with the Government of Liberia especially the Ministry of Public Works to determine if the land is sufficient to construct a ministerial complex; to see if the area should be expanded or not but that is not decided yet. "We have come to help and not to be dictators," the Chinese Ambassador said.

He said the ministerial complex when constructed would account for the second largest investment made in Africa next to the African Union complex through a Chinese grant and if all goes well the project will be completed in three and half years.

He said the present building under construction for the use of the Ministry of National Defense will have to be demolished because there is already a new design planned for the complex. Speaking on the issue of compensation and or relocating surrounding residents, Amb. ZHAO said that falls within the confines of the Liberian government and is not part of the plans within the bilateral grant noting that there are no attached conditions because that is the government's responsibility to provide the land, relocate residents and provide compensations for that.

In clarifying issues of compensation and relocation, the Chinese Ambassador said, "There is no likelihood to have the project delayed because this is a three and half years project so we are going to work with the Liberian government to move as efficiently as we can but that is the responsibility of the Liberian government and not the Chinese side." Amb. ZHAO said in accordance with the agreement between the two governments there is so much benefits and top among the benefits is that the complex will save government of much money from rent that would be directed to projects and improve the working conditions of civil servants and improve communication and coordination for efficiency.

Speaking on other issues, he said some of the projects in site will be the construction of two annexes as well as offices for the National Legislature and a modern vocational training center next to none in Liberia at the Monrovia Vocational Training Center which will begin next year.

Amb. ZHAO has meanwhile identified government's problems as lack of ability to prevent individuals from stealing project materials and lack of human capacity to maintain huge investments and compared two of the recent projects completed by the Chinese companies and turned over to the Liberian side namely the Fendell campus and the Tappita Hospital which he said were constructed by the same company but said it is disappointing to note that the UL Fendell campus was not properly managed.

He explained that China does not provide substandard materials but unlike the Tappita Hospital which has a good maintenance team so there is no report of substandard materials. Following the turning over of the Fendell Campus to the Liberian government, the administration took two years before using the building and the floors kept popping up because of the humid condition and also nobody was staying in it or using it. "We are responsible partners. We are not saying that the building is perfect because nothing is perfect but the school authority needs to take good care of it to ensure its durability," Ambassador ZHAO stated.

The school authority is responsible to take care of the facilities and in order to maintain the building the Chinese is spending extra money for one year to keep ten of its technical team there to help with maintenance of the facility adding, "We are coming to the end of that economic and technical cooperation; so whether it will be extended or not I am not quite sure but there is one thing I am quite sure of; they have had no proper team of personnel to take care of that facility to date."

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