Liberia: Cautioning the Marshall Committee

18 September 2019
opinion

If care is not taken, the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency chaired by governing Coalition for Democratic Change Senator Marshall Dennis of Grand Gedeh County is bent on plunging the economy of Liberia into total collapse and degradation by its rather hasty approval on Monday, 16 September of request from the Executive to print new Liberian bank notes, totaling LRD35 billon to be circulated in an economy of LRD21 billion, raising question of an excess of LRD14 billion.

Committee Chair Marshall Dennis had lazily and faultily defended that the proposed new bank notes, when printed and placed in circulation, would automatically resuscitate and boost our ailing economy without technically saying how.

Senator Dennis should be told in no unclear and decisive terms that loyalty to the ruling party and the President should in no way take precedent over such an important issue like currency that affects lives of the 4.5 million Liberians and state of the economy to rush with decision. We wonder what was his basis or reliance for approving the printing without inviting economists and technicians on fiscal and monetary policies to gather expert opinions on such a crucial matter.

However, thank God for intervention by Senator Oscar Cooper of Margibi County whose minority report in plenary Tuesday, 17 September convinced and compelled Senator Marshall Dennis to have somersaulted, withdrawing his earlier approval for the Executive to print LRD35 billion new Liberian bank notes at the cost of US$31 million, pending appearance by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah and relevant authorities from the Central Bank of Liberia to provide adequate clarity and state source of the US$31 million being requested as printing cost.

We take cue from the Zimbabwean experience where the government under the late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe printed new currencies time without number with no economic strength and value thus, becoming mere papers in the hands of a desperate population scavenging for food and other basic necessities that could hardly be found on shelves of business houses, and warn the Weah administration to proceed cautiously on this matter.

In barely two years, this is the second attempt towards printing a new currency though under a new administration that is itself beset by serious economic and financial challenges. The "Legacy bank notes" issued by the Sirleaf administration was characterized by lack of transparency and dishonesty, leading to excess printing and flooding the market thus, depreciating the value of the Liberian dollar.

Currently, several top officials of the Central Bank of Liberia, including former executive governor Milton Weeks and deputy governor Charles Sirleaf are being prosecuted on multiple charges, including economic sabotage, money-laundering, and criminal facilitation, among others for printing in excess 146,250,000 Liberian bank notes that was not authorized by the Legislature.

We fear a repeat of such scenario if cautious were not taken now to exercise due diligence before giving green light for the printing of new currency. This will help us in avoiding the errors of the past that has brought the economy on its knees.

Secondly, we don't understand why the rush with this matter, for this issue should have emanated from the House of Representatives before going to the Senate, but it is the other way around in this case.

As Sen. Cooper recalled, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned the current administration to stop taking money from the country's reserves, as they are meant for balance of payment and commodities increase on the world market.

Therefore, we call on all 103 legislators on Capitol Hill, particularly members of the committees on banking and currency in both the Senate and the House of Representatives not to rush in approving request from the Executive to print new currency until due diligence is done to save the state from future embarrassment.

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