Murray Sandy: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 15 May 2019:
“Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, poor road conditions nationwide constitute the major development challenges in Sierra Leone. It is estimated that only 10% of the 11,300 roads are paved”.
Only, 10%? Yes, since April 27th, 1961, our country’s date of birth.
The above, mentioned during president Bio’s State opening of parliament, May 2nd, 2019 should be considered a watershed statement by His excellency, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio and should be etched into the annals of history of Sierra Leone when reading an analytical review and the historical testament of his presidency.
In my estimation, road infrastructure is the single most important pathway to any country’s development agenda and goals.
The American based MCC-Millennium Challenge Corporation, which evaluates and supplements a developing country’s strive to achieve road infrastructural development and other goals, have assisted countries around the world, such as Ivory Coast, Liberia, Guatemala and Nepal to name a few.
They follow stringent criteria for qualification, but Sierra Leone has never qualified. On two different occasions has Sierra Leone failed to merit such help.
A road network in a country’s economy will boost economic growth. In Ivory Coast, for instance, the Abidjan Transport Project within the compact is designed to increase the competitiveness of Abidjan, the country’s economic hub, by improving the mobility of goods and people.
The project is expected to include infrastructure investments to improve traffic flow and reduce traffic congestion in central corridors, CBD-Central Business District, of the city that connects the Port of Abidjan to the north, west, and east.
But even without the MCC, president Bio had started to implement such a model in Freetown municipality, even though he was been criticize for it.
At one time in our 58 years history, we even boasted of a rail line that traversed West and South East which greatly facilitated the easy and timely transportation of goods (foodstuff, and commercial products, like coffee, cocoa, etc) from the provinces to the singular port of Freetown and it’s environs to feed the people of Freetown. This provided tremendous economic advantage for the country as a whole.
The railway was removed by ill advised nincompoops who despised development and characterized it as only a service for the Southeast. Hence its demise.
The economic benefits of transportation infrastructure cannot be underestimated in any fashion whatsoever, if a country is to elevate itself from heart wrenching poverty-laden people to a developed middle class country.
It is a well-known fact that many governments commit significant portions of their national budgets, merger as it may be to building and maintaining transportation infrastructure.
For example, nearly 20 percent of the money borrowed from the World Bank to developing countries is earmarked for transportation infrastructure projects, which is more than education, health and social services combined.
India and America which has a significant experience with rail transportation can bear testimony to the need for such projects.
These highlights standout why transportation should be the backbone for any country which desire the capacity to become a developed and middle-income country:
- Investment in railroad infrastructure significantly reduce the costs of trading goods and indeed services.
- Improved railroad infrastructure increase the volume of goods shipped.
- The economic benefits of increased railroad access greatly outweighed the construction and maintenance costs.
One thing that has to be inculcated into the thick heads of our ‘powers that be’ is this: The result of this historical analysis suggests that the economic gains from transportation infrastructure can be substantial. And the true economic impact may not be known until years after a project is completed.
Therefore, this type of capital improvement requires commitment, dedication and zero corrupt government officials to make this happen.
Vietnam and Singapore used to be two of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. Not anymore. They are two of the most vibrant and developed countries in that part of the world. And their people are living the good life.
When will the people of Sierra Leone ever live the good life. Food for thought.