By Bai M. Gbala, Sr.
Uncompleted Building of National Defense Ministry to be demolished for construction of proposed Ministerial Complex
Rumors and spirited debates regarding demolition of the uncompleted Ministry of National Defense Building on Tubman Boulevard in Congo Town for the construction of a proposed Ministerial Complex on the site have been the subject in executive suites, posh restaurants, cook-shops, barber shops, beauty salons, street-corner intellectual discourses and residential dinner tables for some time in Monrovia.
Simultaneously, there was talk of the Complex being built on the highly-populated Peace Island across the headwaters of the Mesurado River, directly behind the uncompleted Ministry of National Defense Building. But to do so will require relocation of the residents plus payment for their properties. Then, site selection consideration shifted to the land at or near the Radio ELWA on the RIA highway. But that consideration fizzled out.
With the speculations out of consideration, decision is reached, we are told, that the proposed Complex will be built on the site where the uncompleted National Defense Building now stands (on Tubman Boulevard in Congo Town), with construction scheduled to commence upon demolition of the uncompleted, National Defense building (FPA, October 20, 2016).
There are several, important questions with short-, mid- and long-term impact on crucial issues of national development, but yet answered publicly, while we believe and argue that a public policy decision of this crucial, critical nature should and must be made public, not only to be made by faceless technicians and proven unreliable, dishonest and double-talking politicians in cooperation with foreign advisors and foreign diplomats whose socio-cultural and academic backgrounds are unsuited to and totally inapplicable in our African setting. Moreover, foreign advisors and diplomats are here on timely tour of duty, will return to their homes and not be available to experience and take responsibility for positive or negative impact of their advisory decisions.
The diplomats, moreover, represent their governments that represent their citizens with responsibility to seek, secure and protect the vital interests of the citizens, their masters.
The critical Questions
The questions raised in consideration of the undertaking of this project, the Ministerial Complex, are concerned with priorities in National Development, an undertaking which requires keen attention to costs and benefits (has there been costs-benefits analysis done, if not, why not?), transparency and accountability.
Priorities in National Development
Economists and National Development Experts agreed, prescribe and recommend what they describe as:
1. “Multiplier Effect in national Economic Development to be Transport/Communication. The construction, nationwide, of modern, all-weather, safe, efficient/effective roads and highways. For, in order to place or locate any development entity – school, university, clinic, hospital, etc., in any remote, distant town, village or city in the nation, one must, first, get therein safety and comfort by safe, modern, all-weather, efficient/effective roads/highways.
Research studies show successful all-weather, modern highways & roads built between points A & B, attract citizens and businesses to relocate along the new highways and roads. They buy land and build homes, motels, hotels, restaurants, shops, service stations and rest stops for motorists/travelers.
Efficient/effective, all-weather modern communication system of highways & roads facilitates not only convenient, mass movement of people, but also the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services; facilitates national and international trade, commerce, and enormous opportunities for investment and employment of citizens. It is in this respect that implementation of the communication system, particularly of all-weather roads/highways constitute “multiplier effect” in national economic development. Thus, transport/communication fulfils the Biblical adage, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God (transport/communication) and everything else (all development projects) shall be added (be multiplied) unto you”.
2. Modern, national development depends on twenty-first century system of communications – information technology [of Mail, telephone (landline and mobile) and the internet] drives business which, in turn, drives the economy which, also in turn, drives the nation, and will drive Liberia.
Level of National Development
But the prevailing level of our national development, including the Capital City of Monrovia, shows that there are inadequate roads and streets, paved and unpaved; no mail delivery because there are no residential and business addresses, let alone regional post offices; no or inadequate, central sewer and water service; no or inadequate, central electricity; no landline telephone service and directory, but unreliable mobile telephone with deplorable internet, costly service.
Given this prevailing level of our development, it is reasonable to conclude that the design of the Ministerial Complex reported to house ten ministries and agencies of government will not satisfy standard, conventional technical requirements such as design provision for landline telephone lines, pipes for water and sewer service, electricity for centralized service for light and elevators, although we have not seen the design of the Complex.
Regarding the problem congestion, population explosion, rural-to-urban migration and 24/7 traffic jams, the city of Monrovia’s “signature tune”, it is apparent that the land area chosen to locate the Complex is inadequate, too small to accommodate the building plus the required parking, workforce population and government service customers.
What are and who Benefits?
National Development accrues such tangible benefits as health, education, poverty reduction, food security, efficient/effective, convenient transport, communication, safety and national security, etc., to the nation and its citizens. That these benefits are or should be given priority treatment is so self-evident that it needs no elaborate politico-economic analysis.
Mr. Clarence Moniba argues that national “development requires sacrifices”. Agreed that, in fact, “sacrifices” are present in every undertaking as “costs” with benefits, where Costs are manipulated, expressed, controlled and reduced through the Art of Management. What tangible benefit(s) do the Liberian Nation and people derive from building the ten-Ministry Ministerial Complex?
Meanwhile, from the look of things, the Complex will represent visible Monumental stamp of success by Beijing in the political, diplomatic and economic competition designed to attract, control and dominate Africa’s vast interests, with the Monrovia (Ministerial Complex) as “national showcase”, political class glorification and idol worship of its leader with international accolades, but without an inch of substantive benefits to the Liberian Nation and people.
Indeed, no prudent, honest, experienced, capitalist investment promotor will consider or seek investment-for-profit opportunities in a community or nation in which there are no transport/communications and related utilities such as water & sewer, electricity, telephone, etc.
What, indeed, does the design of the proposed Ministerial Complex say in response to our assertions of theoretical or assumed deficiency and related issues, with respect to or about future rehabilitation and improvement? Our frames of reference are the old Executive Mansion, old Ministry of Education (King Building on Broad Street, Monrovia), the present Capitol Building, etc., where one must employ water-carrier person in order to use the restrooms.
In the light of the foregoing, we are not persuaded and, therefore, not prepared to accept demolition of the uncompleted Building of the Ministry of National Defense at the cost of 4 or 5 million dollars to please The People’s Republic of China.
Alternatively, since The People’s Republic seeks and has shown profound interest in Africa for by lateral cooperation with long-term mutual benefits of diplomatic, political and economic relations, the Liberian people are prepared to provide land and the required resources for the People’s Republic to build a first class hospital with training facilities for specialized medical services and treatment of Eye, Ear, Throat and Prostate with initial staff of Chinese Doctors, Medical Technicians and medical equipment now in high demand and use in the US and other western nations, or nationwide transport/communication facilities.