Many ordinary Liberians are enduring serious economic pinch that has engulfed the entire country as a result of the triple digit exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the United States Dollar, which has led to rising prices of basic commodities, including food.
The Liberian Dollar has depreciated very rapidly in the past three months so much so that 120LRD is valued US$1.00 on the forex market, the first ever in so many decades.
Many ordinary families are finding it difficult, if not impossible to put food on the table as the bread basket continues to shrink due to decline in the purchasing power of the Liberian Dollar.
The dwindling economy is being further exacerbated by uncertainties over the October 10 Presidential and Representative elections and corresponding political transition. Many businesses here started scaling down about a year ago because of global economic challenges besides the drawdown of the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL, coupled with fall in the global market prices of rubber, iron ore and timber, Liberia’s traditional exports.
The drop of the strength of the local currency and its attending unpleasant consequences is being discussed in street corners, public transport and gathering with some laying blame squarely at the feet of the government for the printing of new bank notes, which total amount remains debatable. Some account put the amount at LRD500 billion, while others say it is less than that.
Yet still, others blame former executive governor of the Central Bank of Liberia Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, now a Presidential aspirant for initiating a controversial loan scheme during his tenure at the Bank, which saw the disbursement of contestable amount of Liberian Dollars to ordinary citizens across the country under an economic stimulus package that critics say, was politically motivated.
Dr. Jones’ successor at the Central Bank, Executive Governor Milton Weeks told lawmakers on Capitol Hill about two months ago that the CBL cannot account for 10.9 billion Liberian Dollars in the economy because they were put in circulation outside of the banking system so, the suffering Liberians live in a quagmire, not knowing where to get relief.
The CBL says it is keenly aware of the current exchange rate volatility being experienced between the Liberian Dollar and the US Dollar, and is exerting all efforts at its disposal to ensure a stable exchange rate in the market. In a statement released last week, the Bank with immediate effect announced several steps to address the current volatility in the exchange rate here, including mopping up excess liquidity by issuing Treasury Instruments with attractive high yielding interest rates.
While these efforts are being exerted to restore stability in the economy, we can but only hope that would eventually ease the suffering of ordinary citizens, including civil servants whose salaries are static.
Even as the country braces for democratic elections in October, we draw the attention of politicians seeking power to these bread and butter issues, for they matter seriously in the governing process now and tomorrow.