10 January 2013

Liberia: NPA Boss Proves Critics Wrong

An undeniable fact that cannot be occulted in any form is that despite all the blazing criticisms parading around out of the personal prejudice of certain individuals hiding behind the windscreen of the media, there is every indication that the National Port Authority (NPA) under the administration Of Madam Matilda W. Parker is on a development trajectory.

The NPA management team is working hard to fulfill the dreams and aspirations enshrined in 'Liberia Rising Vision 2030' which constitutes the 5-year Agenda for Transformation and Roadmap for National Reconciliation.

Indeed many Liberians are now looking at unfolding developments at the NPA often referred to as 'The gateway to Liberia Economy' with utmost satisfaction. The port has gone above several of the disrepute in which it was placed in the past such as the 'fire-truck scandal' that made newspaper headlines in the decade of the eighties.

When this writer asked an official of the port to comment on the depth of their implications in the Private Users Permit (PUP) logging business and export scandal that is today the topic of debate, he told me that the export of logs and other items from the port is squarely in the hands of customs officials from the Ministry of Finance, who in turn base their actions on the documents and invoices presented including the export licenses. This means that the NPA management is far removed from the ongoing controversies surrounding the issuance of 63 PUPs to illegally engage in the logging export business. "When we were given orders to halt the export of logs, we did and no log was being exported despite the economic strains it may impose on revenue collection." he said.

These are some of the underlining reasons why several newspapers and civil society organizations across the country are lauding the efforts of Madam Parker for her ingenuity to inject discipline and orderliness in port management. The administration has gone a step further by ensuring that reward of workers on the basis of merit id done across the board, something that is essential for motivating work among the rank and file of the port workers.

Amidst the barrage of criticisms tending to undermine her administration on the bases of lies and prejudice because she is a female heading the port, the NPA management under the astute leadership of Madam Parker last October 2012 told journalist s during the regular Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism (MICAT) press briefing that NPA has embarked on an ambitious project to modernize and expand all of Liberia's four ports, which are the Free Port of Monrovia, the Port of Buchanan, the Port of Greenville and the Port of Harper.

The rationale behind the exercise was viewed with skepticism by those who feel that women cannot do much in the line of management and that the lion's share of ministerial positions as well as heads of autonomous agencies and departments of government should always be headed by men. Little did they realize that even the international community, through the United Nations, have come to the conclusion that what men can do, women can equally do.

It was in the scope of these perspectives that the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) emphasized the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women, as one of the MDG goals that nations that have committed themselves to achieve the eight MDGs by the year 2015 should achieved.

In Liberia today despite the tremendous strive made by women organizations in ensuring that they are appointed by President Ellen Johnsons Sirleaf to key positions in the public and private sector, women are still under-represented at the country's decision making processes because to every four women at the leadership leader in Liberia there are ten men. Over 80% of cabinet ministers and members of the Legislature are men with women constituting only a fraction of the law-makers.

This is why from the initial stage, many Liberians hail President Sirleaf's appointment of Madam Parker as head of the nation's 'gateway to the economy', the NPA.

And since taking over she has instituted several meaningful development programs in the management of the port, today extent that today salaries are current and instances of resort to strike action for airing out grievances are now things of the past. The Port management in collaboration with the port workers union has put in places a grievances committee to address such issues before they get out of hand. Abiding by the rule of law and procedures are the hallmark of her administration to the extent that even a critical press likes 'Corruption Watch', named her one of their personalities of the Year 2012.

In her plan for the expansion and modernization of the NPA, Madam Parker advanced a logic that even journalists were satisfied that it were in the best interest of the nation. She argued that expanding the ports is a clear mechanism for providing jobs for residents and communities in areas where the ports are located such as Buchanan in Grand Bassa County, Greenville in Sinoe County and Harper in Maryland County. These are areas whose citizens have often been making rural to urban migrations to Monrovia in search of jobs, sometime with uncertainty and without returning.

Moreover, since the end of the 14-year civil conflict in Liberia nine years ago, increased economic activities have been going on at the NPA which had always maintained over 80% of the traffic volume of ships anchoring at the port.

Today with mining activities in Liberia doubling its pre-war level as mining companies are operating in several counties including Cape Mount, Bomi, Bong, Lofa etc there is a need to expand the Free Port and to ensure that the volume of traffic is shared among the four ports, so that Monrovia will be left with 60% of traffic vessel volume, and about 30% each at the ports of Buchanan, Greenville and Harper.

The fact is that the vast majority of Liberia's economists and intellectual class and officials of Liberia Rising Vision 2030 share Madam Parker's economic analysis, which is a significant step in the implementation of Liberia's Agenda for Transformation and the 'Roadmap for National Reconciliation'. Indeed Liberia becoming a middle income earning nation, as enshrined in the logic of the 'Liberia Rising Vision 2030', can only become a reality when every Liberian cultivate the spirit selflessly of caring and sharing with one another.

The discovery of oil petroleum and gas blocks at the sea coasts of Liberia, plans to develop cash crop production and the drive towards self sufficiency in food production, the establishment of several new agricultural companies in Liberian's eastern and Southern regions such as Sinoe, Grand Gedeh counties, Maryland and Grand Bassa are all indications the need to expand and modernize Liberia's ports to the standards of world class ports is not only a necessity, but long overdue.

Plans are also underway to develop railways and cargo boats run by various companies operating in Liberia for civilian passenger purposes .

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