Prioritizing needs and wants at both individual and organizational levels has been a serious problem for economists. This is more so when resources to meet those needs and wants are limited. To solve this fundamental economic problem, economists apply the concept of Scale of Preference, which calls for the listing of needs in order of their importance and or urgency.
In the face of limited resources and unlimited wants, Governments have often found themselves in a state of confusion as to what to do first, which sometimes results in pouring much needed limited resources in projects and programs that have less or no relevance, while abandoning meaningful ventures that have direct bearing on the lives of people.
Even where development strategies and plans have been carefully developed at a cost to guide Government interventions, such plans and strategies for some reasons, are often not taken into account, once it comes to spending money.
It is in line with this thinking that I consider the construction of a bridge at a drastically reduced cost of over USD 1.2 bn from USD 2.1 bn, as a painful misplacement of national priorities by successive governments engaged in the project. It is like the biblical scripture that questions the profit of a man who loses his soul to gain the whole world.
The real soul of the nation is the myriad of socio-economic problems that continue to haunt the livelihood and health of Sierra Leoneans, most of whom have been forced to embark on highly risky and undignified adventures in search of “greener pastures” in Arab countries, where they are treated in the most sub-human fashion, amounting to modern slavery.
These problems include poor health service delivery, due to lack of proper equipment, drugs and effective electricity supply; lack of pipe born water supply; unemployment; shelter; and education to name just a few.
I don’t see the real economic value of constructing a bridge from Lungi to Freetown at such a colossal amount of money, when the population is groaning under harsh economic realities. Instead of spending such a staggering amount to facilitate movement of people, mostly coming from abroad from Lungi International Airport to Freetown, the Government should have considered improving the already existing means of movement by road and sea.
Improving the road through Port Loko to Gbere Junction offer a relieving opportunity for arrivals to proceed directly up-country and have the relaxing experience of driving through the country-side after laborious air travels.
As for those heading for the city, improve the ferry facility and the road from the airport to Targrain, plus good and confortable busses to ferry passengers.
I strongly believe that a billion dollars will adequately address these minor interventions and construct good public toilets and electricity for people in Lungi and the surrounding communities.
I am therefore calling on the Government to have a re-think for the construction of a bridge using fabulous resources that can be better ploughed into addressing more critical and sensitive issues bordering on the welfare of the citizenry. More puzzling is the fact to-date, the Government has not unveiled the company that will be awarded the contract, at least not to my knowledge. I am even more worried by rumors that part of the conditions of the contract will included giving to the contractor whatever treasures are found beneath the seabed in the cause of the work. Like seriously?
By Abdul Kuyateh
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