On Thursday, July 19, 2018, the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta appeared Parliament and revealed to lawmakers that the country needed GHc30 billion to bridge its infrastructure gap in areas such as roads, water, bridges, electricity, hospitals and sanitation.
It was against this backdrop that he announced that the government had reached a barter agreement with the Sinohydro Group Limited of China to provide US$2billion to finance road projects, bridges, interchanges, hospitals and rural electrification in exchange for bauxite.
In the 2020 budget statement, the minister reinforced that commitment when he revealed that the government had declared 2020 as the ‘Year of Roads’.
Irrespective of one’s political leaning, building more roads and fixing the already bad ones is a welcome news because of its impact directly or indirectly not only on the economy as a whole but for the environment as well.
Damage to city infrastructure
For many years, the utility companies, particularly the telcos and the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG), have caused a lot of damage to the country’s road infrastructure.
This they do by digging into already constructed roads and pavements and pedestrian walkways as they lay their cables. Good as such projects are to help improve service quality, very little is done to restore the damaged portions to their original state.
The beauty of the frontage of homes and offices do not become the same once the project is done
They usually leave the roads in rather worse state than before without the slightest sense of responsibility to doing the needful of patching them nicely.
On pavements, the blocks removed are often not fixed back to their normal position. In many instances, those working on the project do not fill the dugouts and compress them before they lay the pavements. This is often seen when there are rains because those spots cave in.
Presently in the city of Accra, one utility company is busily digging everywhere and laying cables. Pavements blocks have been removed, streets have been cut through and in some instances, billboards, big and small have been uprooted to make way for the digging.
As mentioned earlier, these projects are necessary and well-intended. However, it beats one’s imagination why the company involved cannot use a simple technology that drastically helps to minimise the damage caused to already existing road projects.
Leaving the digging in the hands of workers without proper supervision is not only unacceptable but irresponsible because of the damage they leave behind after the digging. In the end when things go bad, the government is forced to spend taxpayers money once again to redo the same project.
So are we digging to achieve a selfish end or to get the state to incur more cost because of the destruction to public and private property? We must note that cost of infrastructure such as roads and drains is not cheap.
At the mention of the $2billion barter agreement the government went into with Synohydro, there was some public outrage, largely because of the bauxite used in that deal. According to environmentalists, the area holding the bauxite is a forest reserve which required no disturbance in our own interest as a country.
Right as that group may be, it is imperative to note that, in many instances, it is the doing of the people that forces the hand of governments to take some decisions in a bid to satisfy the people.
The heaps of sand left on the streets for days affect the integrity of the road over time. It also increases the dust in that area
Many are those who have cried for roads and other infrastructure but the same do not complain and insist on the right things when monies invested in projects within their vicinities and city centres are being damaged with careless abandon.
The road authorities such as the Department of Urban Roads and the Ghana Highway Authority must up their game to ensure that they supervise those cable laying projects. They have the mandate to ensure that what the utility companies promise by way of restoring the damaged portions to their original state after the cables are laid, is fully complied with without any favour.
Supervision of projects are not done from the comfort of the offices. Engineers must be on the ground to ensure that things are done the right way.
For the utility companies, profit should not be the only consideration for undertaking such projects. As responsible corporate citizens, they also have the obligation to ensure that they do as they promise.
The President is determined to keep the city of Accra and others across the country clean and one of the best ways to help him achieve that is for utility companies and the road authorities to play their part.