The politics of pavement

Here are the numbers:

  • 200+ inches of rainfall each year in Monrovia, making it the wettest city in the world
  • 218,000,000 USD of World Bank investment in infrastructure and basic services
  • 41,000,000 USD of Chinese investment in infrastructure (2006 – 2008)
  • 6162 total miles of road in Liberia
  • 456  miles of paved road

When it rains in Liberia, it really, really rains. When more than 90% of the roads are dirt and filled with potholes, this proves problematic for transport and development. Journeys that last ten hours during the dry season, which lasts from November through May, can take a week or more during the rains.

Criticisms of the government abound here, and as I took refuge inside a dimly lit restaurant during the worst of today’s downpours, I got to hear some of the common complaints about the government’s development work from my good friend Luseni, who multi-tasks working for the Senate press office, a local TV station, and The Daily Talk. The World Bank and the Chinese government – two major investors in infrastructure here – have donated hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as lots of manpower and tools, to improve roads. In the capital, they have paid to pave the main avenue, which is noticeably free of potholes and flooding. They leave the capital’s many miles of side streets to the local government, though. These streets are riddled with pot holes large enough to swallow a tire on even the largest UN SUV, if the road is even paved at all. Oftentimes, they are flooded with six inches of muddy water.

Post-rain puddles on a side street in Monrovia

According to Luseni, its not just that the government has not yet gotten around to improving these streets. When they choose materials, he claims they choose the least expensive, and consequently lowest quality, ones. While I don’t have official evidence to back up that claim, one glance at the crumbling pavement seems to confirm his accusation. Moreover, the current government is allegedly holding back work on these streets, claiming they will complete further improvements if and when they are reelected in the fall – quite the campaign strategy.

In one of today's papers, the Ministry of Public Works ran a full-page ad highlighting its rehabilitation of unpaved roads in Lofa County.

In a country where politics can turn deadly and the upcoming elections are only the second since the war, few seem pleased with the current set of lawmakers. Accusations fly of corruption and personal enrichment, manipulation of information, rigged local elections, sexual misconduct, and playing politics with essential developments.

The following is a letter to the editor of The Daily Observer, one of Liberia’s daily papers, that was published today. The author, a Liberian living in Atlanta, isn’t enduring today’s constant rainfall, but he too had something to say about the efficacy and honesty of Liberia’s politicians:

The Editor, Daily Observer,

After being on the job more than five years, the President Pro-Tempore Cletus “good-for-nothing” Wortorson, says that he and other members of the Senate have been a “miserable failure in carrying out their oversight responsibilities.”

Boy, I wonder what would happen if you, a highly paid employee, told your boss that you have “failed miserably” in carrying out your fiduciary responsibilities to the company. Do you think your boss would continue to keep you as a highly paid employee?

I bet your boss would say “You’re FIRED!!!” a la Donald Trump. So why don’t we, the people, say the same thing to these inept buffoons (lawmakers) that we put in office?

Look, I know how these people thing: They will NEVER leave office until you kick them out!

Article I of our constitution states that “…In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments.”

On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, we the people will have the RIGHT to cause our public servants to leave office through the ballot box.

…Ok, ok, I know most of you people want to be a lifelong lawmaker and you’re counting on your taxpayer-funded job to put food on the table and support your concubines, but there’s no way in hell we the people can keep paying you people all that money for you to keep failing us. Hell, no!

Yes, I want you people to pack your things and go back to wherever you came from…

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