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Lungi Bridge: No huge debt for Sierra Leone

21 June 2019 at 07:22 | 2655 views

His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has told the investors’ conference on the tender process for the proposed Lungi Bridge that infrastructural investments should not burden the country with huge debt.

“We believe infrastructural investments…should be financed in a way that the public and future generations are not liable for that debt. So we are not going to build a bridge or an airport for which the people of Sierra Leone are going to pay back a high-interest loan for 10, 20, or 30 years. That simply does not make economic sense,” he said.

The President emphasised that each infrastructural investment must be able to pay for itself in 10 to 20 years depending on the financing model that was used, adding that each project must also worth the cost of constructing and maintaining it over its lifespan. Therefore, he noted that each such investments should be affordable and must be funded without recourse to publicly guaranteed debts.

“We also believe that infrastructural investments must be purposeful. They must unlock tangible economic growth and improve the quality of life of the citizens. In the construction and maintenance phases, there must be real job opportunities and skills training and transfer with implications for real incomes for local Sierra Leoneans. We will insist on that for every infrastructural investment,” he said.

President Bio also told the gathering that his government had prioritised infrastructural investment decisions by asking critical questions about feasibility, sustainability, selectivity and whether it could lead to the development of other sectors of the economy like tourism and travel, mining, construction, and small-scale manufacturing.

He, however, urged that the tender process must be competitive, transparent, corruption-free, and must offer the best value for money, adding that his government would strongly warn against bribery, kickbacks, red tape, and other murky transactions and practices around infrastructural investments.

“I have therefore directed the Office of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives to be particularly attentive to all the foregoing critical elements in launching the tender process for the Lungi bridge. I will closely superintend the entire process and ensure that every tender is compliant and every tender is in the best long-term interest of Sierra Leone and Sierra Leoneans,” he added.

The Chairman of Presidential Infrastructure Initiatives, Engineer Dr. John Edward Tambi (left in photo with President Bio), said for 58 years Sierra Leoneans had endured the challenges of crossing over to Lungi from Freetown through which lives had been lost, businesses destroyed and economic activities stunted. He said during these years, governments had come and gone with promises to construct a bridge crossing to Lungi but nothing happened.

“Today we all witness a great milestone under the leadership of President Julius Maada Bio. The New Direction Government has taken the bold and audacious task to build the bridge across Lungi. This is not a small project and we believe with God we can achieve it. I thank you all for your presence because it is a vote of confidence to the New Direction,” he said.

Lungi, which is home to the only international airport that serves Sierra Leone, is a small coastal town in Port Loko District in the Northwest Province of the country that is separated from the Capital, Freetown by a sea of about 10 nautical miles.

Source: State House Media, Freetown

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