Boost In National Infrastructure -Pres. Weah Reports On Countless Social Service Projects

Whenever lamentations are made regarding Liberia’s underdevelopment, which has spanned for nearly a century, immediate references are pointed at the country’s backward social service infrastructures – expressed in inadequate roads, electricity, health and educational facilities amongst others. Since the advent of the George Weah administration, the Liberian Government has placed particular emphasis on improving the national social service sector which is widely believed represents the sanest channel for the equitable distribution of the “National Cake”. During his 5th State of the Nation Address, the 24th President of the country not only acknowledged the enormous efforts made in his four years in office, but also unveiled a whole dossier on an avalanche of pending projects intended to the address the social services needs of the people, particularly of rural dwellers. The Analyst reports.

While President George Manneh Weah is widely exalted for his emphasis on roads and other social services interventions around the country, it seems he is taking the passion to the end of his first six-year tenure; courtesy of the president’s state of the nation address delivered yesterday, January 24, 2022 full of reports on many projects completed and initiated in 2021 and several more in the offing for the current year and ahead.

As the “Roads President” is has proven to be, President Weah began his annual report on national infrastructure program, he declared that road construction “remains an important priority of my Administration to ensure the full accessibility of the entire country through the maintenance and rehabilitation of the existing 4,200 kilometers of urban and secondary roads across our country.”

In his view, by improving road connectivity throughout the Country, basic economic activity will increase due to the free movement of goods and services, and this will lessen the economic burden of the people of Liberia who are facing the daily travel challenges of not being able to move freely within and around Liberia due to bad roads.

The President reported: “Regarding our primary roads construction projects, I am proud and excited to report to this august body that works have already begun on the Ganta to Saclepea road corridor; the Saclepea to Tappitta road corridor; the Fish Town to Gbaken Kanweaken road corridor in River Gee County; and our flagship road project, the iconic Roberts International Highway Road Project.  When completed, the total road projects begun since the inception of my Administration will total approximately 470 kilometers. This represents 90 percent of the 517 kilometers that we established as our National Target four years ago.”

The President revealed that in addition to those major road corridors, his administration has already begun negotiations with our international partners and respective institutions for the construction of the Tappitta to Toe’s Town road corridor; the Salayea to Konia road corridor being negotiated with our Arab partners, the Barclayville to Klone road corridor being negotiated with the ECOWAS Bank, and the Medina to Robertsport road corridor.

He noted that arrangements are being made with the African Development Bank for the detailed design and tendering of an additional 110 kilometers of roads that will see the completion of the link from Harper, Maryland County through River Gee, to Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County.

“This will address the massive road challenges being experienced by our people in the South East,” the President said further. “I am also pleased to inform you that the pavement of the road from Harper to Fishtown has now been completed, and the Fish Town to Gbaken Kanweaken section of this corridor has already been contracted out.”

President Weah said conversation continues with Arab partners, which include the Saudi Fund for Development, the Kuwaiti Fund for Arab Economic Development, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (BADEA) to finalize negotiations for the funding of the remaining Konia to Voinjama road in Lofa County.

“It is also important to mention that studies are currently ongoing on the Voinjama to Medicorma road corridor in order to finalize talks for the funding of that corridor by the African Development Bank,” he said. “Paving is currently ongoing of the Gbarnga to Salayea road corridor.  Works on the Ganta to Yekepa road project is also ongoing, and a total of about 20 kilometers have already been completed during the year under review.”

Reports the President: “I am now pleased to inform you that the Government of Japan has approved an additional $20 million US dollars for the construction of one of the most important pieces of our urban infrastructure, the UN Drive Road corridor beginning at the Gabriel Tucker Bridge to the Freeport of Monrovia.  “This will further open the gateway to trade and commerce in Monrovia and impact the lives of the over 2 million Liberians that use this particular road corridor.  Once again, on behalf of a grateful People, I would like to express my profound thanks and appreciation to the Government and People of Japan for this great gift. Meanwhile, even as we appreciate our partners for funding the rehabilitation of this first phase of the UN Drive road, my  Administration has also taken steps to address the challenges on the rest of the UN Drive road corridor. We have provided funding through our own National Budget for the upgrade and paving of the remaining 6.5 kilometers of the UN Drive that runs from the Freeport of Monrovia to the St. Paul Bridge, and construction has already begun.”

County Tour Framework Projects

In pursuance of his vision to spread infrastructure projects across the country, president Weah announced including of the $25 million in the 2022 national budget under the County Tour framework to address the roads, housing, schools, hospitals and all social development needs of our dear country, most especially the rural counties.

This consists of $10 million US dollars to directly support County Tour Projects.  The remaining $15 million US dollars is an aggregate of various line items already earmarked in the Budget for County-related development expenditure.

He said: “I further wish to inform you that Phase 1 of the Presidential County Tour Project is already being implemented within the 15 counties, with the commencement of construction works for the following projects: Ganta City Hall, Nimba County; Renovation of City Hall Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County; Construction of Sinje City Hall, Grand Cape Mount County; Kanweaken City Hall, River Gee County, Fish Town City Hall, River Gee County.”

The President named over 50 community-based projects that will address the social service infrastructure challenges of rural citizens.

In addition to her official duties and responsibilities as First Lady of the Republic of Liberia, my darling wife, Her Excellency Madam Clar Marie Weah, has shown a keen interest in charitable good works which involve infrastructure to accommodate some of the less fortunate in our society.

He added: “We are making steady progress in the electricity sector, but strong challenges remain.  Since 2018 total households connected to the electricity grid has increased by more than 260 percent, from more than 49,000 customers in 2018 to about 130,000 customers by December of 2021.”

According to the President, new investments in transformers, meters and delivery of new sub-stations are all contributing to changing the electricity landscape. The Government was also able to provide more than 10,000 street lights in Monrovia and around the country, and under the current budget more street lights, including solar lights are going to be provided.

“I am proud to report that the cost of electricity, a major challenge for businesses and households, has been reduced from 35 cents per kilowatt hour to around 24 cents per kilowatt hour for    residential customers and to 22 cents per kilowatt hour for businesses. While at 22 cents, this tariff is still higher in the West African sub-region, it is a massive development for the electricity sector in Liberia,” he said further.

Reporting on Water and Sewer, President Weah said an $18 million dollars raw water pipeline was constructed which has led to savings of $780,000 annually on pumping costs. These are only but a few of the projects covered under the Compact.

He extended thanks and appreciation for the donation to the American People

Progress in Agriculture Sector

President Weah further reported that 2021 saw several new beginnings and milestones for the agricultural sector, as private sector interest and investment in agriculture grew heavily, especially after the holding of the National Agriculture Fair in February of the year.

The President acknowledged that the Fair highlighted Liberian agricultural productivity, and while outlining the challenges faced by producers and agribusinesses, it also presented the abundant opportunities in agriculture and agribusiness.

“I can proudly report to you that the number of commercial farms and agribusinesses more than significantly increased from 77 in 2021 to 164 in 2022, while there are now dealerships of agricultural machinery, complete with spare parts and workshops,” the Chief Executive noted. “This is a positive development for the efforts to mechanize Liberian farm production, and is a natural next step to the Government of Liberia’s own efforts through the Ministry of Agriculture, to provide tools, equipment, seeds, seedlings to farmers, farming communities and cooperatives.”

He said the interventions we made as a Government have led to increased acres planted in most crops, but especially so for basic foods like rice, cassava, oil palm and vegetables.

As the country moved into harvest season towards the end of the year, bumper crops are reaching rural and urban markets, due to improvements in the logistics and supportive infrastructure that we have provided for agriculture.

Dedicated warehouses for cocoa producers were constructed and/or rehabilitated in Nimba, Lofa and Bong counties; while processing plants for palm oil were built in Grand Bassa, Bong and Lofa counties. Rice processing plants in Lofa County were finalized in time to process the massive harvests coming in from expanded farms. The President elaborated that the Ministry of Agriculture developed and negotiated and signed, along with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, key new projects valued at over $73 million US dollars.  The World Bank’s Rural Economy Transformation Project, (RETRAP), which is meant to expand the ongoing Smallholder Transformation and Agribusiness Revitalization Project, STAR-P, was developed for a total value of $55 million US dollars.

The RETRAP will oversee the paving of the road from Tappita in Nimba County to Toe Town in Grand Gedeh County, completing a vital portion of the Ganta-Harper Highway that is already ongoing.

He also noted that this major piece of road construction will, by next year, see the paving of the road going into neighboring Côte d’Ivoire, and will facilitate the free movement of goods, passengers and services in the sub-region. In addition, the RETRAP will drive resources into the rubber, cassava, poultry and piggery sectors to complement other projects in rice, oil palm and vegetables.

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