Rehabilitating Liberia’s Infrastructure for Improved Services and Poverty Reduction

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“The Bank is leading efforts to provide jobs in fragile and post crisis situations. It is commonly known that reduced poverty among youth and unemployed will contribute directly to stability and peace and pave the way for a participatory process in state building”, affirms Sunita Pitamber, Fragile States Unit Head.

In the following article, Poverty Reduction and Social Protection Division Manager, Ginette Nzau-Muteta, reviews Bank Group support to rehabilitate infrastructure services in Liberia, one of the principal beneficiaries of the institution’s Fragile States Facility and how the facility has contributed in improving not only employment situation in Liberia but also the overall well being of Liberians.   

The Government of Liberia has accorded top priority to improving road accessibility as part of its reconstruction effort, as articulated in the Liberia Poverty Reduction Strategy (LPRS). The African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, through its Joint Assistance Strategy with the World Bank, has been supporting Liberia’s government and people to achieve the objectives set out in the LPRS. The Labor-Based Public Works Project (LBPWP) financed by the African Development Fund (ADF) for UA15.24 million (USD 24 million), is one of the ways in which the Bank is delivering assistance to Liberia. The Fishtown-Harper Road rehabilitation is a major component of the LBPWP.

The road works under the LBPWP will rehabilitate about 130-km of the main transport link between Harper City (Maryland Country) and Fishtown (River Gee County), as well as 600 kms of feeder road networks. The construction works will generate more than 2,500 direct and indirect permanent jobs of equal pay (gender-wise) and establish 60 community maintenance groups comprising some 1,500 persons (30% of them females) from communities along the road stretch who will be trained to carry out routine manual maintenance activities such as brush clearing and cleaning of culverts.

Much of the country’s minimal road infrastructure had fallen into disrepair after the long conflict: The roads, especially in the southeastern counties, are muddy and difficult to use even during the dry season. Bridges on the dirt roads, made of logs and planks, are particularly hazardous. The very few paved roads (7%) are full of potholes and the rest of the road network is dirt or made out of local lateritic materials. During the rainy season, segments of rural roads become partially or completely impassable causing substantially higher transport costs for passengers and cargo, and total isolation of communities.

When completed, the road will provide people in the southeast, particularly in Maryland and River Gee Counties, with improved communication and transportation links with the rest of the country, encourage and accelerate the process of social and economic rehabilitation of communities along the road, provide employment opportunities, and enhance market access for rural communities.

Liberia’s public works minister,, Samuel Kofi Woods, on January 7, 2011 broke grounds for commencement of rehabilitation works on the 130-km Fishtown-Harper Road in southeast Liberia. The minister emphasized the government’s commitment to ensuring quality road network for its citizens around the country, and promised a stringent monitoring of the road project for quality works and durability. The minister also commended the Bank Group for its support and partnership as demonstrated in the road works project.

The LBPWP also includes rehabilitation and construction of 10 clinics and 10 schools in the two countries in order to increase access of rural communities to basic services. The health centers to be rehabilitated will emphasize maternal and child health. The project employs labor-based works in road rehabilitation as way of addressing the pressing need for job creation and in recognition of a correlation between youth employment and security. Labor-based infrastructure development also entails low capital requirements but high returns in terms of labor employed. Labor substitution for machinery is being applied only where it is technically and economically feasible to do so in order not to compromise quality. In this regard, the project has been designed to include an appropriate mix of labor and equipment.

The Bank is working closely with the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Liberian Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) to implement the project.

The Project is also helping to build capacity of the MPW, local contractors and communities. ILO is helping to train local contractors in labor-based road works, procuring equipment that MPW can lease to small-scale contractors as well as training community maintenance groups to provide selected tasks in maintaining feeder roads along the main road link.

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