Red Alert for Ultra-Care in Printing and Handling New Family of Banknotes

GIVEN THE IMBROGLIO Liberia experienced over the printing and handling of L$16 billion less than two years ago, it is expected or assumed that the hard lesson is learned, and that individuals and institutions having fiduciary responsible for country’s money market have taken due note and would do the right thing. It is expected that there would be high level care, probity, transparency and accountability at every step of the way. This is an imperative in order to erase every fog of doubt and alibi that could lead to agitation and paralysis that greeted the printing of L$16 billion in this country.

A NATION OR PEOPLE that do not learn from history are doomed. And it is needless to say how much economic and political catastrophe awaits Liberia if the current political establishment fails to learn from our recent past, when a money-printing saga nearly set the entire country ablaze. We all would recall the damage that the money-printing hullaballoo created for the image of the country and the health of the Liberian economy. It triggered costly demonstrations, put Liberians at loggerheads with each and nearly shot down the Liberia banking system. The cruelty of that saga still lives with us today.

DESPITE THE PROPAGANDA underpinnings of the L$16 billion saga, the reality that set in after all was, and still is, that Liberia’s local currency and liquidity regime has never recovered for whatever the shock it suffered. So, whether the $16 billion or some of it actually evaporated in thin air or not, one thing is clear: there is a fluctuation or scarcity in the volume of Liberian dollars on the market. The entire banking system has crumbled, not only with depositors having difficulty in accessing cash from their accounts but also with the populace facing acute scarcity of the local money on the market—all ripples from the L$16b saga. As if to make matters worse, questions about the whereabouts and/or impact of some US$17 million, some say US$25 million, for “mopping up excess liquidity” and the printing of additional L$4 billion by this current administration remain virtually shrugged or inadequate.

IT WAS NOT a surprise that when the Central Bank of Liberia tendered a request to the National Legislature for the printing of a new family of banknotes, particularly in the tune of L$48 billion, eyebrows were raised and dissent set in from many quarters—at least initially. A number of citizens pushed for explanation not only for unanswered questions bordering money printing and money handling by this regime, but also about guarantees that additional printing would resolve outstanding liquidity concerns, including low faith in the banking system, and that the new effort of printing and distributing new family of banknotes will not end up setting the country into flames again.

WE HAVE NO doubt that sensible solution out of the tattered money regime lies heavily in printing a new family of banknotes. That’s why our previous editorial lent support to the CBL’s request for printing and called on the Legislature to pass on the Resolution for the printing of the money. And we are grateful that the Legislature, rather unanimously, ratified the resolution.

BUT THE RATIFICATION of the Resolution is the easiest thing to do. The difficult thing, as recent experience shows, is the processes that follow—for instance, the biding process that will get us a quality product, the integrity in ensuring the quantum of printed banknotes lands safely in the Central Bank and subsequently into commercial banks, that uncompromising control system would be put in place to prevent theft and hoarding and that adequate authority would be leveraged over quasi central banks, such as powerful foreign moguls that covertly run parallel banking systems in the country.

CERTAINLY, THERE ARE bright minds within the Central Bank and there is no need for anyone to cast doubt or premature aspersions on their ability to deliver. However, it would be unwise to be oblivious of the fact that scoundrels, economic pirates and bad buys are commonplace and that they have the tendency of infiltrating systems; people who use public service to amass quick wealth, capitalizing on complacencies and gaps in complicated processes such as the one on hand. It is because of these bad elements within our system that we, and all other well-meaning citizens, are concerned. Unscrupulous elements had their way of beating our system. When they succeed, they entire system takes the blame, and the nation feels the weight, as was the case with previous money sagas that rocked our country and still rocking it.

THIS IS WHY we are calling for red alert in the printing of the Legislature-sanctioned L$48 billion. It is good reason to push the alert button on red. And putting it on red means double checking, security-on-security, transparency at its best and accountability to the larger public takes preeminence. It also requests no-nonsense policing of foreign tycoons who form economically exploitative cabals to wield supremacy in our own economy. Keeping them and their local collaborators in check and at bay, denying them their stratagem of hoarding and manipulation of our local currency, is totally urgent.

OTHERWISE, WE WISH the Central Bank and all its partners well.

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