Deputy Public Works Minister Claude Langley has disclosed that government is scouting for money for the maintenance of the Gbarnga to Voinjama road in Lofa County.Mr. Langley told a recent news conference that the road, which is currently in good shape despite the rainy season, needs to be maintained.The road was rehabilitated by Westwood Corporation, a Liberian firm.The Gbarnga to Voinjama Highway, according to several officials who recently traveled to Lofa with President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is so far the best in rural Liberia.The road is better for the first time in the last four years, since the celebration of Liberia’s Independence in Lofa County in 2010.Some independent journalists who travelled with President Johnson-Sirleaf to Lofa recently, said motorbikes (pen-pen), taxis and buses are currently engaged in serious transportation business because of the good condition of the road.Some residents of the county told our reporter that since the civil conflict, this is the first time Lofa has experienced low transport fares. This, they noted, is because of the good road network in the county.Mr. Pewu Kollie, a resident of Zorzor, said prior to the rehabilitation of the road, commuters used to pay about L$4,500 per trip, “but now we are paying about L$3,000 from Voinjama to Monrovia.He described the drop in the transport fare as a great financial relief for the people of Lofa County and said “We want to thank the company for doing such a wonderful job.”“My brother, some companies will take the money and do a bad job, to the detriment of locals who have to face great difficulty traveling on bad roads, especially during the rainy season,” he said.Also speaking, Tenneh Baysah, a business woman in Voinjama, said “We used to travel with water, buckets, cook spoons and pots for cooking because we would spend more than a day on this road. But today it takes a few hours, not days or a week from Monrovia to Voinjama.”“Goods, especially vegetables and other perishable commodities, are no longer getting rotten as before due to the number of days we would spend on the road, businesswoman Baysah said.According to our reporter, instead of days or a week, it now takes a maximum of five hours from Voinjama to Gbarnga, depending on the type of vehicle.The volume of traffic along the route has increased significantly, thus boosting economic activities and reducing prices, our reporter said.However, Deputy Minister Langley has given the assurance that government will attract funding to keep the road intact.He attributed the deplorable road network in other parts of the country, especially in the southeast, to the lack of maintenance.According to him, the Ministry of Public Works lacks the necessary equipment to maintain roads across the country and was looking for funding to ensure that roads built or rehabilitated by contractors remain intact.Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Even as thousands of sugar workers are being made redundant, President David Granger is seeking to assure that the Special Purpose Unit’s negotiations with investors will bear fruit and a plan for the Guyana Sugar Corporation’s (GuySuCo’s) massive land holdings will be developed.Granger gave the assurance on Friday during his first press conference in two years. When asked why there were no plans in place for workers before the divestment, Granger noted that Government, the unions, and the corporation itself must be factored in.“There are four major institutions to be considered. One is the corporation itself, which has not been dissolved, and it still has responsibility for the industry. The other is the Government, and the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for reporting to Cabinet and the National Assembly. Third, you have the workers and their representatives, particularly GAWU and NAACIE”; and, of course, you have civil society and other agencies who are concerned with providing services to the sugar workers.“But as far as retrenchment or termination benefits are concerned, the Government is responsible for ensuring that the sugar corporation fulfils its obligations to the workers,” the President explained.He emphasised that the Special Purpose Unit (SPU), which is under the Finance Ministry, has recently engaged an internationally rated accounting firm — PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) — to value the land it will sell.“As far as the plan is concerned, there needs to be a lot more work from the fourth agency — what you can call the Special Purpose Unit, which comes under the Finance Ministry. That is the agency that will ensure the smooth transition of those parts of the industry which will not remain in production,” he explained.“So I would say that the work of the SPU is still being done. They are in negotiation, not only with the sugar corporation, but also with foreign investors. And I expect that, before too long, we will have a plan which will explain in greater detail how the land will be disposed of,” he detailed.Out of the three firms that had made submissions to the SPU, the United Kingdom-based PwC was selected to valuate GuySuCo. This is as Government moves ahead with efforts to privatise and diversify the sugar industry.According to the SPU when it announced the selection, all negotiations with PwC have been completed, and a contract is expected to be signed by December 18, 2017.Following the valuation exercise, PwC is expected to develop an investment prospectus which, through the SPU, would be distributed to all interested investors.The Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic had previously called the move by the SPU to select the firm for the valuation process a vehicle for corruption that completely bypasses the established privatisation procedures and the sale of State assets.In order for the process to be underway, almost 4,000 sugar workers have had to be fired from the Skeldon, Enmore and Rose Hall operations of GuySuCo. This move by the Government have been slammed by the Opposition as a “callous decision”.Still viableDuring a meeting with the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU), SPU Head Colvin Heath-London informed the delegation that, following his assessment of the estates identified for closure and sell out, he is of the opinion that the estates are viable.He outlined that when certain costs are excluded from the estates’ overall expenditure, the overhead of their production is generally in keeping with international norms.In fact, the SPU Head has described the Skeldon sugar estate as a ‘gold mine’, a term which is far different from the phrases used by GuySuCo to describe the facility.