The World Bank Country Director for Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Henry Kerali, was quoted as saying recently in Freetown that the timing for Sierra Leone to have a second international airport at Mamamah was not appropriate, noting that the priorities of Government must first be addressed before the building of a new international airport can be considered. The World Bank Country Director however asserted that as a Bank, they are not opposed to the construction of a new airport but the timing of the project.
Following the warning from the World Bank Country Director and IMF that the Mamamah Project should not go ahead, many Government officials have reacted cautiously to that admonition. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Samura Kamara, for instance, was quoted as saying that, “If I were in charge, Mamamah Airport will be built.” The Minister believes in the project for Sierra Leone in that it is a project that will yield economic benefit for the country. Though he is not the right Minister to give the latest update on the Mamamah Project, yet Dr. Samura Kamara has been in charge of negotiation for the project and has vast knowledge of it. He was at the United Nations when President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma met with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, when they were promised that the project would go ahead.
Dr. Samura Kamara also believes that our country wants to build the airport because of the constraints passengers face to reach Lungi and that the current airport is small and if there is any problem, then Sierra Leoneans will have to go to neighbouring Liberia or Guinea to board flight because there is no other airport in the country,
Also in his reaction, the Deputy Minister of Information and Communications, Theo Nicol, commented in an interview with a local tabloid that Government will go ahead with the US$320 million Mamamah Airport Project as planned. He maintained that the decision to go ahead with the project or not is within the purview of President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma and not the World Bank and IMF, noting that the project is to be sponsored by the Government of the People’s Republic of China. He also spoke about the economic benefit of the project to the country and how Government has already got its priority areas in the post-Ebola recovery programme for its citizenry.
The Project Manager of Mamamah Airport, Morlai Buya-Kamara, was also quoted as saying that the airport project will engender a huge multiplier effect to the country. According to him, “It will give the country the opportunity to expand as Freetown is already congested, and we cannot embark on any extension of the capital. With the new International Airport in that part of Sierra Leone, a lot of things will change, as it will have a new hotel facility, new settlement, new public sector investment and this will improve our economy.”
Morlai Buya-Kamara believes that “we’ve delayed for 40 years and any other delay of sort will get us being locked up in the box, and this will reduce the opportunity for international competitiveness.”
I doff my hat to the President’s men who have stoutly defended the reasons for the construction of President Dr, Ernest Bai Koroma flagship project which the Chinese Government has offered to fund. Like the three Government officials rightly said, the construction of the Mamamah International Airport will yield economic benefit for our country and cushion the constraints passengers face to reach Lungi Airport which Dr. Samura Kamara described as small.
Another vital point Dr. Samura Kamara hammered home is the assumption that in case there is any problem with the Lungi Airport, Sierra Leoneans will have to go to neighbouring Liberia or Guinea to board flight because there is no other airport in the country. I believe both the World Bank and IMF failed to acknowledge the fact that we have only one airport and this country deserves more than one or two if we have the means to construct them.
As much as the two international financial institutions are the world’s principal economic advisers, I expect our Government to heed to their admonitions but I believe their warning should be defied this time around because they have nothing to do with the funding of the Mamamah Airport Project. If the Government of China has decided to fund the much needed project for this country, why should our Government throw away such golden opportunity? No way!
The Mamamah Airport Project should go ahead given its numerous advantages that have already been catalogued by Dr. Samura Kamara, Theo Nicol and Morlai Buya-Kamara strongly believe in the remarkable development strides our humble President is making to make life better for Sierra Leoneans. Perhaps it would have made sense to hearken to the warning of World Bank and IMF if the project was going to be funded by our Government, but it is the Chinese Government that will be funding the project. So let them go to sleep and allow the project to go ahead to engender a huge multiplier effect to the country.
The project is President Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma’s flagship and being a development oriented national leader, I am quite certain that the President will complete the Mamamah Airport Project before he leaves office by 2018. This is one of the most coveted legacies he would leave behind for this generation and generations yet unborn. I will therefore suggest that when the Mamamah Airport Project is completed, let it be named the EBK International Airport. Can you buy my idea?