Minister of Works and Public Assets, Peter Bayuku Conteh, on Monday, 29th July, 2019, engaged the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in his office in New England Ville, Freetown, where he appealed to him to construct a one-and-half kilometre road leading to Tacugama Sanctuary.
Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary, which is situated in Regent village in the Western Area Rural District, is one of the touristic attraction sites in Sierra Leone.
Peter Bayuku Conteh told the Chinese Ambassador that the Chinese constructed the Youyi (friendship) Road between Regent and Grafton but have not yet completed a one-and-half kilometre road leading to the Tacugama Sanctuary, which was part of the offer.
“We are appealing to the Chinese government to construct it. Beside that one, we also need support in our engineering sector. We need training and scholarship opportunities for our staff especially the engineers at the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA),” he said.
He noted that his ministry is also in need of support to have a national asset database.
“We will have a national road investment conference because we have a clear idea of the roads we want to improve on but we lack the funds to do so. This conference, which would take place in November 2019, would bring investors together and we could deliberate on how we could improve our roads on a design, build, operate and transfer (DBOT) basis. We want the Chinese to be part of it,” he noted.
He said as a country, it is good to always promote and protect Sierra Leoneans’ interest as well as creating an enabling environment for investment to thrive.
“We inherited the country from a very corrupt government with shabby transactions. As a responsible government that believes in transparency and accountability, we should always embark on everything that has a Sierra Leonean interest,” he said.
Chinese Ambassador, Hu Zhangliang, said China and Sierra Leone have had a very good cooperation in the area of infrastructure, adding that when President Bio met President Xi Jinping in China last year, they laid a blueprint for the future development of both countries.
“Both presidents signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). I want to categorically state here that China takes Sierra Leone as a genuine friend. We will do whatever we can to help this country,” he said.
He noted that Chinese construction works are the best in the world, adding that they do quality construction projects with low cost as opposed to other foreign construction companies.
“We always consider quality, safety and timeliness in our construction works. If there are no funds to embark on infrastructural projects, the government must develop good policies that would attract investors. There should be consistency in those policies as well,” he said.
He noted that they have always encouraged Chinese companies to understand the situation in any host country that they operate, noting that they are also always encouraged to respect local traditions and customs.
Chairman, Board of Directors of SLRA, Joseph S. Kelfala, told the Chinese Ambassador that the agreement of the toll road, which is under construction between Wellington-Masiaka, should be reviewed.
“The universally accepted rule for a toll gate is that the people should start to pay when it is completed. But the Chinese company only did 10 kilometres and started to request for toll payment from motorists. For the sake of transparency, we want to know how much is being collected per day or month, and for what reason is the toll payment collected,” he said.
He noted that they are equally interested to know if the current toll payment is going towards offsetting the debt on the toll road agreement.
“We are also interested to know how much you are spending from what you are collecting from us. We are not discouraging investors, and we will never do so, but we want proper things to be done for the benefits of both Sierra Leoneans and investors,” he noted.
Philip Tetema Tondeneh, Deputy Minister of Works and Public Assets, called on the Chinese Ambassador to encourage Chinese companies, especially those investing on roads, to do their banking with any of the government banks.