Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minster Samuel Tweah says under the Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), the government will not build roads for political reasons, but will set out corresponding economic activities in parts of the country to be affected by paved roads.
The Weah-led government vows to construct at least 800 kilometers of road around the country up to June 2023 – the final year of the implementation of the PAPD.
Minister Tweah, who gave an overview of the national development agenda during its launch at the weekend in Ganta, Nimba County, made it clear that the ambitious road program of the government will be linked to economic growth prospects or special economic zones so that such activities, at the various ends of these roads, can pay for some of the concessional loans that financed them.
The government is working with the private sector and its development partners to operationalize special economic sectors that can provide jobs for mainly the youthful population, says Minster Tweah.
He adds that the PAPD is going to transform “difficult” social situations by which it is challenged.
Some of those challenges Tweah names are “a huge faction of Liberians who were not entering school at the age of three; at primary and secondary education levels, students are not reading at ‘grade level’ (a sixth grader reads at second grade level); a low number of 35,000 who sat the West African placement test would pass both Maths and English; and in health, most children under five would die of preventable diseases amid an increasing number of mothers dying while giving birth.”
Notwithstanding, he says, “The PAPD has the answers to these difficult statistics around.”
A couple of days prior to the launch of the PAPD, the finance minister told the Head of European Union Delegation to Liberia, Ambassador Hélène Cavé, that the government was very keen on investing in projects that will create circular economic flow amongst the population, while it embraces private sector interventions in that respect.
He was speaking when the EU and the government penned a US$6.9 million agreement for the pavement of the 47-kilometer road from Sanniquelle to Loguatuo, a town at the Côte d’Ivoire border in Nimba.
“The government does not want to build ‘political roads’, therefore agricultural belts, construction of mini-hydro plants within road corridors to stimulate agriculture, and value chain are some key strategies. The idea with our road program is to ensure that roads generate economic and social rate of returns,” Tweah told to the EU envoy.
“The challenge we face today is that when the road cannot pay for itself, when the road cannot stimulate the private sector, then we’d have to pay the debt at the same time when the government is taking everybody on the payroll,” he says.
He further notes that the government is looking to partnering with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to roll out concurrent development initiatives with the pavement of several road corridors, adding that “President George Weah’s request to the World Bank Group for money to fund national road projects was generating positive feedback.”
He reports that the World Bank has agreed to bring US$150 million new money to the President’s road agenda and the bank has promised to also work with the European Union, African Development Bank, and with the Arabs who have, coming out of our recent trip, agreed to bring in anything between US$80 to US$100 million of new financing for road.