18 February 2013

Liberia: U.S. Amb. Tours Port Facilities

One of the major events of last week was the United States Ambassador to Liberia Her Excellency Deborah Malac making a conducted tour of facilities at the Free Port of Monrovia, the gateway to the economy. She was accompanied by the National Port Authority (NPA) Managing Director Madam Matilda Wokie Parker.

The visit to the ports came at a time that Madam Sheila Herring the head of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) delegation and the MCC Vice President for Policy and Evaluation has expressed satisfaction over Liberia's performance in the implementation of development priorities, noting that Liberia is moving fast ahead of other MCC partners in meeting the eligibility requirements for funding.

In the wake of MCC mission's visit to Liberia where they held fruitful talks with high ranking Liberian government officials including Finance minister Amara M. Konneh and NPA Managing Director Matilda W. Parker on how to develop a compact for Liberia's potential MCC project. Mrs. Herring lauded the efforts of the Liberian government for strong performance to meet the US$15m threshold program to improve land rights, trade and girls access to education.

In a news analysis, entitled "Port Investment and Its Corresponding Economic Benefits", Michael Roberts noted that in the current draft budget of the 2012/2013 national Budget, the Liberian government has allotted US$123.3 million for investments in ports, energy, transportation and technology out of which only US$8million is to be invested in port expansion projects from government.

"This amount does not show any form of seriousness on the part of the Liberian government given the economic impact of ports in energizing economic activities. Deep-draft seaports both coastal and fresh water--are dynamic, vibrant centers of trade and commerce. Therefore what is most important to understand is that deep-draft seaports depend on partnerships, both public and private," he said.

What Michael Roberts emphasized in his analysis is that the Government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continues to make significant strides in the area of ports modernization and expansion, but more needs to be done as all of Liberia's four main ports in Monrovia, Buchanan, Greenville and Harper can no longer cope with the increasing economic activities unfolding in post conflict Liberia.

The history of the evolution of ports in the United States into what can be termed as successful ports; today offers the best model for international best practice that Liberia can emulate according to Madam Parker. A successful port is supported by clear and navigable sea federal waterways - dredged deep and wide enough for ships to pass through, and kept clean from the thriving of plants, fish and wildlife.

A seaport, according to Madam Parker, is also one that is supported by the national government that also ensures the funding of roads, highways, waterways and rail systems that lead to it. "In the United States research has shown that many land and water connections are insufficient and outdated, as such affects the ports' inability to move cargo into and outside the country which hurts the American businesses, workforce and economy", she said.

One of the secrets behind the tremendous growth of the U.S economy following the Second World War was the innovative driven private sector. Liberia which lacks an innovative driven private sector has a lot to learn from the experiences of the United States. This is why the NPA boss has indicated that Liberia is experiencing a solid and positive development as a whole and as a result of demands for transport infrastructure; as every sector of the economy is growing far above the existing infrastructures in the country. Developing the ports infrastructure, according to the NPA boss should thus be seen as being in line with government's Vision 2030 Agenda for Transformation as it is a catalyst for increased economic activity and sources of employment.

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