PRO-POOR ROADS AGENDA ON COURSE -PUBLIC WORKS MINISTER SAYS AS COMPANIES BID FOR GANTA-Tippita 100KM ROAD CONSTRUCTION
Liberia’s Infrastructure Minister Mobutu Vlah Nyenpan has reechoed the Government of Liberia’s commitment to road reconstruction and other infrastructure works in the country.
“We have come here today to let you know that the Government of Liberia is committed to building roads in this country, which is essential to the movement of our people, including goods and services,” Minister Nyenpan told a team of journalists in an exclusive interview at the German Embassy in Monrovia, where a daylong seminar comprising of bidders, commenced.
Minister Nyenpan’s comments came amidst huge infrastructural challenges confronting the Liberian government and nation. Liberia, like many other African economies, is highly dependent on international trade. It exports commodities produced locally, mainly natural resources, and imports goods for its own consumption.
Transport costs are a key factor in determining market integration. Consequently, keeping transport costs low is critical to economic development, particularly for small firms situated in isolated local economies. In Liberia in 2015, the price of gasoline, which is an imported commodity, was twice as high in isolated markets than in the capital. An easement of the total cost of linking the country’s interior roads to the Capital Monrovia was put at USD3billion, an amount the government cannot afford at this time and hence, it is now reconstructing and building new roads on a segmental basis(bit-by-bit).
Also, a research paper released in 2015 by Columbia University professor, Golvine de Rochambeau PhD, speaks of the high potential the country holds if road connectivity is guaranteed. The report showed that improving transport connectivity and increasing market integration could improve competition, trade, and potential for growth in small Liberian firms. It however outlined five key challenges facing Liberia’s transport industry: Paving the way to market integration.
Preliminary findings of the study recognized five challenges, including truck and road maintenance and corruption on the road, as key transport industry factors undermining market integration in the country.
The research paper also underlined constrains for small Liberian firms, bribery by heavy truck bribes along major highways, high marginal costs and low compensation for transport companies in Liberia.
At least 60% of the country’s road networks is said to be in a terrible condition, and only 10% are manageable, an high ranking official at the Public Works Ministry informed representatives of companies attending the bidding orientation seminar.
The study however indicates that infrastructure development and access to credit to make small firms more competitive would help to address these challenges.
“Today we came here to basically drill the companies through the process of bidding for the Ganta-Tapitta 100kilometer road,” Public Works Minister Mobutu Nyenpan disclosed to the press.
“This workshop is intended to orientate the companies on the list of criteria they need to meet in the Government-private sector’s partnership before the actual work starts. By mid nest year (2020), we would have gotten the winner of the bidding process, and actual work on the road would begin by next year February. The full cost of the project would be disclosed to the public at that time,” he expanded.
Minister Nyenpan also intoned that the Ganta-Tapitta road construction road project is a government-private sector’s partnership in which the GOL is required to meet its obligations before the commencement of actual work.
“Under the Government-Private sector partnership, the government will have to meet up with its own obligations, and we are already doing that. The rest of the financing would be carried out by the World Bank, the International Development Association (IDA), and other partners,” Minister Nyenpan enunciated further.
“One of the major requirements is to provide resettlement benefits for persons that would be affected in the project area, and this is something we have already done.” He disclosed that at least 9,000 persons in the project area would be given resettlement benefits. Mr. Nyenpan also unveiled that the Ministry of Public Works has fully complied with the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) law.
“We’ve simply gathered here today to drill these companies through the bidding process,” Emmanuel Baker, Director and Program Manager, Infrastructure Implementation Unit, Ministry of Public Works, also inform this news outlet in a separate interview. He added: “Out of 11 well respected international companies that expressed interest in participating in the bidding process, we qualified seven, and these are the ones that we are drilling thru this seminar. The goal is to select the best out of the rest.”
Mr. Barker assured the process would be transparent and credible. “We think the public should harbor no doubt because the ongoing bidding process would be fair and transparent. This is an important process for the government because, if this road is paved and completed in time, we would have Ganta connected to Tapitta, and then, that could to lead to a major leap in terms of connecting Grand Gedeh and other South Eastern counties, which would eventually open up trade and commerce, as well as getting easy access to farm to market roads.
“Right now, we have companies from Asia, Europe (Britain) that have expressed interest in forming part of the bid process. They include, for example, EGIS Project SA-MOTA Engil Engenhania Construcao JV, Yenigun-EN EZ JV, Zhongmel Engineering Group Ltd, Jiangxi Provincial Expressway, Investment Group Co. Ltd (ZMEGL-JPEIG Consortium), China Henan International Corporation Group Co. Ltd, China Railway Seventh Group Co. Ltd, and the Chongging Interational Construction Corporation.”