13 May 2014

Liberia: Who Stalled Jones' Hearing? Lawmakers On Public Explanation

Monrovia — "The hearing for the CBL governor was postponed because the two committees decided that there were technical issues that needed to be sorted out by them. Under our rules the committee has the right to postpone a hearing based on technical difficulties", Senator Isaac W. Nyenabo.

Amid growing inflation characterized by depreciation of the Liberian dollars against the United Dollars resulting to an increase in the prices of basic commodities on the Liberian market, economists and other Liberians have been giving their own meaning to the current quagmire but the Central Bank of Liberia is yet to make a public comment explaining the causes of the current situation.

In economics, finance and other disciplines, there are several factors for the depreciation of currencies and high prices, but specific variables are responsible at given time intervals and as such institutions responsible for managing the fiscal affairs of a particular country are best suited to provide explanations.

For the Central Bank of Liberia and the Ministry of Finance, they have both remained mute on the issue prompting the National Legislature to cite CBL Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones to provide information on the current economic predicament affecting the country. Last week, the lawmakers announced that Governor Dr. Jones will appear before the body to provide detailed explanation for the unfolding developments, but to the disbelief of many, a public hearing for Dr. Jones that should have taken place Monday did not materialize as a result of the failure of the committees on Banking and Currency at both the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives to boycott the hearing.

According to one Senator, the planned hearing was intended to seek inquiry from the CBL governor on several issues including; the Continuous and/or alarming increase in the exchange rate (Liberian Dollars versus United States Dollars), the impact as it relates to the Economy, Dollarization versus Dual Currency in the Liberian Economy and the Central Bank of Liberia response to the debate and the demand side (the Monetary Policy) as it relates to continuous budget deficits or shortfalls. Despite the importance of these issues as they relate to Liberia's current economic status the lawmakers for unknown reasons stayed away from the process.

Seen in the corridors of the Capitol, Dr. Jones appeared to tell the Liberian people what was resulting into the downward trend of the country's economy and what is causing the value of the Liberian dollars to depreciate to that of the Unite states dollars, but according to legislative sources, one group of lawmakers had some reservations though such has not been made public.

The joint chambers was occupied by members of the public who were anxious to know some of the causes of the current hardship they are facing because of the hike in prices of basic commodities and the continuing story of a budget shortfall that has resulted into stalling of many development projects in the country.

Like those Liberians who turned out in their numbers in the chambers of the Legislature others glued to their radios to hear what their bank governor was about to say and what can be done to address the economic situation as the hearing was expected to be broadcast on two local radio stations paid for by the CBL.

Dr. Jones appearance at the Capitol Building was requested by the both committees in a communication dated May 7, 2014 but he had to wait in the office of Senator Isaac Nyenabo (NDPL-Grand Gedeh County) Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency because the two committees (Senate and House of Representatives) failed to agree on their differences.

In an interview with reporters, Senator Nyenabo defended his colleagues by saying; "the hearing for the CBL governor was postponed because the two committees decided that there were technical issues that needed to be sorted out by them."

Nyenabo said: "Under our rules the committee has the right to postpone a hearing based on technical difficulties. The joint committee needed close awareness of the situation the CBL has lots to explain including shortfalls or the deficit as well as the continuous and persistent devaluation of the Liberian dollars to the $ USD we needed reaction from the CBL."

On the question of why was the hearing postponed at the eleventh hour and when did the two committees realize that they had those technical issues that needed to be sorted out, Senator Nyenabo said: "I am not the only person working it is a joint committee assuming that the house committee claimed not to be comfortable to carry out the hearing, I cannot force it if it was only the senate I could force it as a chair of the committee."

He expressed his disappointment in his colleagues from the lower house for failing to attend the process accusing the House Chair on Banking and Currency Julius Berrian (CDC--District 10 Montserrado County) of deliberately switching of his phones. All attempts to contact Representative Berrian through text and call did not materialize as his phone was switched off.

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