Liberia: House Speaker Bhofal Chambers Demands Tough Measures to Address Nation's Economic Woes

Capitol Hill, Monrovia — The debates on the deteriorating state of the Liberian economy continues to dominate major political fora as officials and financial experts shift blame and proffer diverse alternative suggestions and idea on what should be done to address the situation.

This was accentuated on Monday at events marking the official opening of the fourth session of the 54th Legislature on Capitol Hill in Monrovia when House Speaker Bhofal Chambers called on his colleagues to resume work in 2021 with "deep sense of patriotic consciousness to address the prevailing hardship grappling the country.

"There is a glaring signal for all of us to start our work in this 2021 with intelligence, character, and a deep sense of patriotic consciousness," Speaker Chambers urged.

"There should never again be any space for narcissistic investment as was in the past. This kind of investment creates an atmosphere for the sake of self-gratification at the disadvantage of the people and the State. We must change the narrative. The time is now!"

The Speaker's comments come on the backdrop of the ongoing acute shortage of Liberian banknotes on the market which began during the last quarter of 2020 and worsened during the festive season, where customers forming long queue at various commercial banks were either turned away because of no cash or given less amount of what they had requested.

This prompted the U.S. Embassy near Monrovia to issue an alert, warning Americans and other foreign nationals intending to visit Liberia that the country was facing an acute shortage of local and foreign currencies; as such, they "they should travel with cash that will sustain them for their time in the country."

"Liberia's banking sector has experienced a growing shortage of cash - both U.S. and Liberian dollars - over the last several months. As a consequence, it is difficult to obtain adequate cash supplies from ATMs and banks. There are no ATM facilities for public use at the U.S. Embassy," it said.

Speaker Chambers described 2020 as a year "not complementary to a wonderful year to the legislature and the Liberian people."

"The Year 2020 experienced severe shocks, ranging from politics, the economy to health. In terms of politics, we saw a polarized field; the economy, the paucity of the Liberian Dollar or Currency was pronounced, especially at the advent of and during the festive season; for health, the COVID-19 Pandemic created serious panic amongst the population, thereby rendering our people vulnerable and stagnating the economy. We vouch to surmount or overcome those hurdles or obstacles with renewed vigor," he declared.

He furthered that the scarcity or shortage of Liberian currency in circulation was alarming. However, workable solutions were within reach; adding that it is obvious that, reasonably, money in sizeable quantity should still be available for fluid transactional purposes.

While the Central Bank of Liberia blame the shortage of the local currency to the failure of the Legislature to approve the total L$7.5 billion it had requested to address the looming money shortage, Speaker Chambers laid the blame squarely on hoarding, where people are holding their money away from banks.

Referencing several countries including the United States and Japan- which he claimed took stringent measure against their citizens who were engaged in the act before, Speaker Chambers called for a compelling need to institute serious action-oriented frameworks or laws to address the evil network of hoarding.

He warned "If the threat of hoarding persists, be it currency hoarding or commodity hoarding, the cruel face of a 'state within a state' will creep in, inclusive of forces which could function or operate with manipulative impunity, thereby undermining our body politic."

He added the punishment of people involved with hoarding will create sound conditions of action-oriented frameworks, knowing that hoarding, whether hoarding of commodities or hoarding of currency, can cause tragedies and spark up painful economic instability. It can create a cycle of speculation, inflation and self-fulfilling prophecies.

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