- Published on Saturday, 06 October 2012 14:29
- Written by Jesse Z.G. Fahngon
Since the Chinese Government announced the funds for the construction of a Ministerial complex in Liberia, we have not had a unify policy in terms of where the multi-million dollars project would land – construction site. What has been consistent so far with this undertaking is the inconsistency of the policy makers - there has been consistent misinformation from policy makers as to the exact location of this development; oops, a government searching for a land in its own territory.
At one point, Liberians were made to believe that parts of the land on the Roberts field Highway allocated to ELWA years back would be used for the construction of this viable project. According to government, the so-called ELWA land is out of the options. Interestingly as of date, the public do not know the reason for the changed. But one could postulate that a “Chinese funded project” cannot uproot an American establishment in Liberia.
The next in line is the land where the unfinished Defense Ministry in Congo Town is located. Even with this location, the government is still uncertain whether this site would be use.
Just last week while many Liberians (excluding the squatters ) were hoping that the Congo Town location would be the site, two of the government's key entities were at odds with each other in terms of accurate information dissemination – the Ministry Information and Public Works. The former referenced the latter and said that all is set to clear the area to begin the project. The Ministry of Public Works reportedly rebutted and claimed: “Our recommendations are in Black and White.”
My friends, we are missing an important piece in this puzzle – that is the decision of the site selection process. And this is the focus of this column.
Sadly, site selection process for government construction is not too often mention in Liberia like many Third World countries, but it has a long lasting impact on every real estate decision that government makes. The process, issues, and criteria that support government infrastructure development decisions are of great importance; not only to government, but also to the local and general public.
The decision has to do with the environment, traffic control, and taking into account the welfare of the future generations. Is this proposed project taking into consideration the above mention?
Evidently in Liberia, past and present government decisions have shamefully focused on what many have term as “policies for now,” instead of now and the future. In other words, many of our policies miserably fail to address the needs and aspirations of the local communities, the general public and future generations. For example, the site selection decision that led to the construction of the Main Campus of the University of Liberia over 100 years ago was poorly done – decision with no statistic and research. This government's facility was built with no plan in sight for future population growth and traffic control. Today, the University cannot expand its main campus or withstand the demands of the 21st Century – improper site selection. The just built New Bridge linking Water Street to Bushord Island is beautiful, but again was constructed for now and not the future – no plan for population growth.
So what are some of the preconstruction considerations the government should undertake before implementing this significant project?
The purpose of this column “Looking from a Distance” is not to critique too much into government lapses when it comes to the implementation of this costs saving project, but to enlighten government on some of the preconstruction considerations for the proposed ministerial complex.
In ever capital project my dear policy makers, careful planning including citizens' participation, prior to construction is an essential first step in the development of a successful project. This is very important because the locations of government facilities involve both the general area and the specific site. For instance, the location of the proposed Ministerial complex would speak volumes a message heard years after construction is complete. It dictates almost everything that follows; from transportation access (including traffic control and safety) and environmental impact to government's involvement with local communities and economics. If this project is completed, the proposed complex would be here for hundreds of years. This is why the column demands that it should be in the right location to avoid the pitfalls of the past mention herein.
It is therefore the government overriding responsibility to include all the preconstruction considerations and find a suitable location for the project; some important steps seem to be missing in the planning and implementation stages – nothing much has been heard so far.
Another important tool missing in the site selection process for this construction is “citizen's participation.” The societal values of citizen participations (emphasis) are that it creates a sense of belongings and allows each citizen the right to influence governmental decision making. In addition, when the citizens are involved from the get go, it can help maintain policy support and stability. In the case of this gigantic project which this author embraces and supports, it allows the citizens to get involve in identifying a site for consideration. Please note that the column reference of “citizens” in the Congo Town site do not include the squatters.
Also planning in everything we do, from individual to government is important because the results affect the quality of our lives. For example, if this Congo town site is final, how would it alter the livelihood of this longstanding residential community? How about public safety? In addition to Red-light Market, Old-Road Junction, ELWA Junction and others, can the public afford another traffic jam at the Congo town vicinity via Tubman Boulevard?
The selected site has a major impact on the agencies in terms of convenience, access, and the quality of the work environment. We are told that when this project is completed, it would host at least ten of the government's entities. What makes this site suitable for this huge influx? Is there any plan to add a “frontage road” that would directly serve the Ministerial Complex without creating traffic jam? What is the Ministry of Transport prediction in terms of traffic in the next 10 years? By frontage road, this column refers to “A local road running parallel to a higher speed limited access road [Tubman Boulevard]” that provides access to property.
My friends, before the government makes the final decision (if not already made), this column demands answers to these inquires because government's projects involve and impact many people – this project would greatly impact and generate significant interests and is being discuss in numerous communities.
Lastly, let this column leaves its readers and policy makers with the communication piece; one of the keys to successful government project is the early clarification of expectations and the government's ability to meet these expectations. My friends, managing the flow of information is critical to successful internal and external communications; it is equally important to know when and how to share information. This author admonishes the government to develop a project communications plan outside the Ministry of “Confusion,” oops, I meant Information. It recommends the use of a communication specialist and not just an “Endless Talkative” to guide the flow of information. The specialist would create a communication plan for all the stakeholders (government, neighboring property owners, residents, and the business community) and the media. The plan should also identify issues of common interest, opportunities, and schedules for communications with different groups of stakeholders.
When the government addresses all of these steps and take actions in its preconstruction considerations, it would answer the right questions and remove barriers that have the propensity to derail this project that Liberia has been longing for many years and thanks to the People of China.