7 January 2013

Liberia: City Streets Pavements - Gbarnga, Kakata to Follow Voinjama

As the pavement of the city streets of Voinjama, Lofa County's capital, gets underway, signals are indicating that streets in other provincial capitals will receive similar treatments, with Gbarnga and Margibi poised to follow.

Public Works Minister Samuel of Woods has stated that for too long Liberia's cities have remained dusty and unplanned and that it was time in the country's history to address these problems in building the new Liberia.

"We now need to begin reorganizing and planning our cities to look better," the Infrastructure Minister told journalists following his sightseeing of major streets of Gbarnga city, the capital of Bong, along with Bong County's Representative George Mulbah.

The Minister's tour of Gbarnga's major streets was at the close of his weeklong combing of Lofa and parts of Bong, where he inspected, dedicated and broke grounds for new road construction, including the paving of Voinjama streets.

Vice President Joseph Nyuman Boakai, along with cabinet officials and lawmakers, as well as local government officials, Saturday (Dec 23) officially broke ground for the pavement of Voinjama City's streets (6.86 kilometers), opening a new page of history in the capital of Liberia's biggest political subdivision, and fourth most populated county.

The city's streets have never been paved since the country's founding in 1847, and the Liberian and Swedish Governments are jointly pumping up to US$5 millions to concrete-pave the streets.

Minister Woods said as major highways of the country--Redlight-Gbarnga-Ganta and Gbarnga-Voinjama-Mendikorma--are being paved or considered for pavement, cities along these routes could also be paved.

He specifically mentioned that Kakata (capital of Margibi), few kilometers from Monrovia, needs to be properly layout and its streets paved. He said similar development was required for Gbarnga, the central Liberian capital, which he described as an economic hub.

Bong County Representative Mulbah who led the tour stated that he wanted the Minister to tour the streets before behind-the-scene discussions on pavement of these streets begin.

"Government is now prioritizing the pavement of streets in rural areas so I thought that this would be an opportunity for the hard working Minister of our time to see the streets of Gbarnga...and we are very happy that the Minister was very magnanimous to be with us under this heavy downpour of rain to tour this city," Mulbah said.

Mulbah said he could not say the city streets would be paved automatically since the venture is very costly, but said there would be discussions towards that end. "I can't say it will be right away, but the reconditioning of Gbarnga and paving of the streets is a major priority."

Mulbah said as the Chinese firm CICO has begun work for the pavement of the Gbarnga-Monrovia highway, "we would be appealing to the conscience of the minister to prevail on the company to include the pavement of Gbarnga's streets in their work, and now that the minister has taken a tour, I know that will be possible."

Mulbah said the county would also have a share of the responsibility but didn't say through what means.

Mulbah recently came under serious attack from a segment of the public when he proposed that government borrows about US$5 billion exclusively for infrastructure development, roads and bridges in particular.

He justified that Liberia's major development hurdle was lack of roads, and borrowing the amount to construct paved roads throughout the country would boost development, increase revenue income generations and dwarf the alarming unemployment and poverty rates.

His critics said the Bong Lawmaker wanted to take the country back from whence it came only three years ago when Liberia carried a staggering debt burden of at least US$5 billion that was waived by lenders.

"I've told the nation that it was time to stop the petty financing of roads in this country and that we should just close our eyes one time and borrow huge sums of money like 5 billion dollars that will respond to the road needs of country once and for all," Mulbah said. "I made that proposal and the debate is on...and when funding is provided, and with this kind of Minister we have, we can build better roads in our country--from Monrovia to Yekepa to Karnplay, to Buutuo; from Maryland to Lofa and the rest.

"We need to grab the bull by the horn and pave all of these roads and live better lives, to graduate from this stage of poverty, because in the absence of road we can do nothing better," Mulbah argued.

Woods said the Ministry of Public Works was recommending to national government to plan or redesign all major cities around the country and pave them "especially so when we are going to pave the road from Redlight to Gbarnga and the road will be running through Kakata and Gbarnga cities."

He said it was very important to begin the planning process now to have these cities' streets paved.

"This is why we are here inspecting some of the key streets; we are going to be holding discussions with the county's leadership--the caucus...to do the right planning and analysis.

Woods noted that the investment in laterite road is huge, but the investment in paved road is better, and it was time to begin investing in paved roads that laterite's.

"Gbarnga has been a commercial hub and it is about time that we redesign it and make it looks like a real city. That's our challenge now. We must relay this city, open it up, and put in proper drainages, open sidewalks for people to move freely..." said Woods.

The Public Work Minister, like Mulbah, said paving of the city streets was a proprity and did not need to be negotiated. "What we need to do is to plan the process; no one needs to negotiate. No one in leadership of this county has different view about this plan; all of us are clean on it and we are in it together."

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