“Heavy Lifting”

– Minister Tweah Speaks Of US$41.58M AfDB, GOL Agreement

Liberia’s Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah has said the government of President George Weah is ready to make positive and lasting impacts in the lives of poor Liberian citizens, especially jobless youths of the country, by embarking on programmes that would empower more than 200,000 young people, describing the process as a “heavy lifting.”

“In the past, we have heard about targeting 30,000 youths for empowerment. But, that number is not going to make the kind of impact that we want to see happening in this government. As a matter of fact, President Weah is committed to lifting our people out of poverty in line with his pro-poor agenda. In the coming period, working with our partners, we are going to target 200,000 young people in this country. This is a heavy lifting, and we are prepared for this. Our country has to move forward,” Minister Tweah asserted.

Minister Tweah made the comments at the MRU Road construction signing ceremony in Monrovia Tuesday, where he represented the Government of Liberia in signing US$41.58M loan and grant agreements.

“It’s a great thing for our traditional partners, the African Development Bank, to bring this level of support to the Government of Liberia,” Finance Minister Tweah also acknowledged. Adding: “We are proud of our association and affiliation with the AfDB. So, on behalf of the President and government of Liberia, let extend his deepest and profound appreciation to the AfDB for the agreement, and for what the bank is doing in Liberia, and what it plans to do in Liberia.”

Minister Tweah: “Let me also thank the AfDB’s board for approving this agreement. Today, let me again state that President Weah always said that road is a centrepiece of his   development’s agenda in this country. We are hoping to see, in the next two to three years, that the whole stretch from Ganta to Harper, be completed. We want to see people drive from Monrovia to Harper without major constraints that we have seen in the past 12 years.”

The Finance Minister also called on Liberia’s development partners to work along with the government in order to reduce project implementation space so as to speed up on going road infrastructure projects across the country.

“We are aware that projects like these always have their own challenges and constraints, but there are ways in which we can work around and see how best we can shorten the timeframe for implementation. Rather than taking four years to implement projects that can be implemented in two years, we need to find a way to shorten the implementation period,” Minister Tweah advised.

Tuesday’s signing between the African Development Bank (AfDB) represents the Second Phase of the Mano River Union Road Development and Transport Facilitation Programme, which is meant to improve roads in Liberia and facilitate transport between Liberia and its MRU neighbors.

This second phase consolidates road rehabilitation efforts so far and will boost economic recovery in the two countries. According to a press release issued in Monrovia today on the details of the contracts, the deal is anticipated to provide for the asphalting of 67.1 km of road between Fish Town and Kelipo (20 km) and between Sanniquellie and Loquatuo (47.1 km), and the construction of two markets, water facilities and latrines along the same roads.

The construction of a joint control post and a bridge linking Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia is also planned, which would reduce transport costs, ease the free movement of people and goods, promote regional trade and overall improve the living standards of about 790,000 people, the Ministry of Finance’s press statement indicated.

Also, another expected positive outcome of the project would be 800 new jobs over the next 2-3 years for 100 traders – 60 of them women – who will also receive training in bookkeeping. The programme will also increase job prospects for ten young graduate technicians and engineers employed in training sites related to the programme.

With a total estimated cost of US $87.87 million, over 48% of the total cost of this second phase is covered by the African Development Bank. The balance is covered by an EU grant of Euro 20.2 million and a potential loan from the EIB. The programme will be implemented from January 2019 to December 2022, and the project roads are expected to be in use in 2021.

“The first phase of the road programme, estimated at US$108.4 million for Liberia obtained financing in December 2014. Under this phase, 96 km of roads are being upgraded from gravel to asphaltic concrete between River Gee and Maryland Counties. In addition, two joint control posts and a cross-border bridge on the Cavalla River are being constructed,” the Ministry announced further.

It added: “This programme will help open up the Southeast and western part of Liberia, which will assist in the delivery of Government services such as Health and Education. It will also open up market access to tourist areas in the Cote d’Ivoire, thereby improving incomes for people in that part of the sub-region.”

“Combining infrastructure development with sustainable development is key aspects of the bank’s support to the government’s pro-poor agenda,” AfDB Country Manager to Liberia Morison M. Amu said at the signing ceremony.

“To facilitate timely implementation of the project, we will encourage the government of Liberia to ensure the payments of compensations to project affected areas are finalized by the middle of November 2018. I therefore look forward to working with the government of Liberia working to improve the economic and social wellbeing of the people of Liberia. Let me conclude by assuring you of the Bank’s continued support to Liberia’s development efforts in the true spirit of partnership. We like to appreciate the government’s team that helped in the preparation of the project, especially the staff of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the Ministry of Public Works, and the bank’s team for the hard work,” AfDB country Manager added.

Also speaking at the occasion, Liberia’s infrastructure Minister Mobutu V. Nyenpan thanked the AfDB and Liberia’s international partners for their support to the government’s developmental agenda, terming the signing of the contracts as great initiative that would bring huge benefits to the Liberian government and people.

“We are very pleased this morning to be a part of this very, very important ceremony. As the primary beneficiary institution, of your assistance which are discussing today, we like to our profound thanks and appreciation to the African Development Bank and, by extension, to all our development partners for their sustained support to the infrastructure development of Liberia, especially road connectivity,” the Public Works Minister asserted.

Adding: “We know that by the signing of this agreement today, your assistance to the road sector would amount to US$150M (One Hundred Fifty Million United States Dollars) and, when all of these projects are completed as designed, we would have been able to pave an estimated 150 kilometers of roads in this country.”

Minister Nyenpan also emphasized the critical need of road infrastructure in the country, noting, “We have always said that the road situation in this country is critical.” He described as unfortunate, Liberia, a country of over 170 years, cannot boast of more than 1000 kilometers of paved roads.

In the country’s current 12,000 kilometers of road network, Minister Nyenpan stressed, “Unfortunately, Liberia, the oldest independent country, we only have 815 kilometers of our road networks paved.”

As the country’s road network stands, Minister Nyenpan pointed out, “It means we have to have 12,000 of road networks paved in this country, but however stressed that the government cannot embark on such ambitious project on its own.

He, however, thanked the AfDB and other partners of the government for their support, saying, “And so we appreciate your assistance, and I also want to thank President Weah, who has named us to stir the affairs of road construction in this country. We also like to assure you that at the Ministry of Public Works, we are prepared, and ready to work with you (AfDB) to ensure that these projects are delivered on time and they are of the quality as designed.”

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