27 January 2017

Liberia: Increasing Exchange Rate Stirs Queries

The astronomical increment in the local currency to the United States dollars in the foreign exchange market has rather offered more questions than answers, as many business people attempt to answer to the currency that controls the Liberian economy.

In an exclusive interview with business people in Monrovia, some "money exchangers" and residents expressed disappointment in the lack of policies by the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to institute measures to stabilize the foreign exchange market in the country.

They noted that the American dollar has taken over the country's economy to the extent that the local currency is greatly affected by disparity in the local market. Matthew Konneh, a "money changer" or dealer in foreign exchange on Broad Street in Monrovia alleged that the United States dollar is in total control of the country's economy due to the government's failure to manage the state and its resources.

He cited "uncontrollable US rate and bad economic policy" being introduce by the government, as some reasons for such devaluation in the local currency. "This situation will not be resolved because even public or government institutions are paying employees in United States dollars while taxes are also being paid in similar foreign exchange."

Konneh further that there have been good economy policy suggestions on the President's desk that would bring transformation to the lives of ordinary Liberians, thus, bringing the situation to a total standstill, but he claimed that these suggestions have often been turned down.

Also commenting on the issue, Finda Kolleh, a mother of four who sells bags of oranges at the Red Light Market in the commercial district of Paynesville, observed that Liberia is the only country in the world whose economy and currency are controlled by another currency. She alleged that nothing has been done about the unfolding situation which if not resolved will make the common people suffer.

"Look, we pay school fees in US dollars, we buy scratch cards in the value of US dollars, we normally pay rent also in the same currency and worst of all we pay medical bills in US dollars," she lamented.

She further explained that despite it is the Unity Party-led government last year in office, it is not too late to put good economic policies and system in order to help ordinary Liberians.

Bandu Harris, a mother of two and a marketer at the Rally Town Market in Monrovia, also indicated that due to the uncontrollable rate on the market, as well as the lack of good economic policy, the US dollar will continue to control the Liberian market until the government can put a strong system into place to address the situation.

The petty trader explained that many Liberians prefer using the US dollars rather than the Liberian currency, something she also attributed to the demand for more United States dollars on the Liberian market.

She stated that there is a serious need for the government to give its fullest attention to the matter as it is affecting ordinary citizens. "It is a shame knowing that this government with all the overly qualified individuals occupying key positions failed to work around putting a system into place to bring this situation to and end", madam Harris lamented.

In addition, Melma Massaquoi, who trades in leafy vegetables in the Old Road Market, stated that current increase in the prices of various commodities on the Liberian market is contributing to extreme hardship among Liberians and foreign residents alike.

Melma explained that the issue of transportation is one of the key factors responsible for the high increase in the costs goods and services; something she also observed is a direct result of the demand for US dollars on the Liberian market.

"Most people are buying goods outside the of the country, so you will always experience the high demand of foreign currency as there are more Liberian dollars chasing few US dollars.

For her part, a spice or pepper seller, Anita Flomo, said the presence of the US dollars on the Liberian market has caused serious setback to the country's economy, leaving the ordinary people as victims of the situation.

She stressed the need for government through the Central Bank Bank which has statutory responsibility and oversight to implement policies in order to get the US dollars from the local market.

Melma said when this is done it will help strengthen the economy and will better the lives of the less fortunate in the society. "Presently, if you carry L$500.00 to the market it cannot even buy food for you and your family, we are in total hell over this current state of life", she claimed.

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