19 December 2012

Liberia: Why Kofi Woods Deserves Minister of the Year Awards


What is on the lips of many is that Kofi Woods, the hardworking and indefatigable Minister of Public Works deserves the covetous title of Cabinet Minister of the Year due to his resilience and tenacity in uplifting road construction works in the Republic of Liberia in a relatively short-time.

In the opinion of many, it is difficult for anyone to serve as Minister of Public Works without being in one way or the other getting the blame for the country's dilapidated road networks. To a large extent past governments should be partly blamed for the lack of a coherent roads, highways and feeder roads construction program throughout the length and breadth of this country.

When the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took over the mantle of leadership about two years after the end of the 14-year rebel war, with the exception of few roads such as the Monrovia to Robertsfield highway, Monrovia to Bo-waterside road, the Monrovia to Ganta and Monrovia to Buchanan roads and highways, most of the country'[s road-networks were full of pot-holes. Certain sections of some of these paved roads had been washed away or eroded by the rain and hence needed repair.

When Kofi Woods was appointed to the hot-seat of Minister of Public Works, replacing Hon. Loseni Donzo, hopes for a new era of improvements in the country's road construction efforts was rekindled, giving the background of Kofi Woods as a human rights activist especially when he was serving as head of the Justice and Peace Commission, an advocacy group that was operated by the Catholic church in Liberia.

The question that many people are always asking is, why is it that the Ivory Coast for example is far ahead of Liberia in the road construction efforts, considering that paved roads connect Abidjan the commercial capital to all of that country's political sub-divisions while Liberia, Africa's oldest Republic can hardly boast of such?

Of course like other developing countries, the Ivory Coast under its founding father President Felix Houphouet-Boigny borrowed huge loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which were invested to develop cocoa production and road construction. What was Liberia doing at that time?

In a relatively short time since taking over as Public Works Minister, Kofi Woods has developed a comprehensive national roads and highway rehabilitation program that is today gradually being implemented nationwide. In some parts of the country, his ministry has coaxed the collaboration of various stakeholders such as companies engaged in mining and agricultural activities in various areas such as Nimba and Lofa to provide the necessary equipment and machines to rehabilitate roads in their areas.

Indeed what many critics often fail to realize is that road construction is an expensive venture. It costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to coal-tar even few kilometers of roads. Moreover even when donors commit to construct roads and the agreements are signed, it is a time-consuming process to get the work started as the right contractors with the requisite tools and equipment are to be hired.

Despite the challenges, road construction works on the dilapidated streets of Monrovia is now a reality, and it is expected that it would be a continuous process. Work on the Monrovia to Gbarnga highway, and on the Fishtown road in Rivergee County are in full swing.

We commend Public Works Minister Kofi Woods for his audacity and passion to implement government's road construction projects in the country. We agree with those Liberians who view that despite the subjective and negative comments of critics, the reality of road construction works in the country shows that Kofi Woods deserves the title of Cabinet Minister of the Year 2012.

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