“STOP CORRUPTION. DON’T PRINT NEW BANKNOTES” -Says Chris Onanuga, Wants Printing Cost Diverted to Agribiz
Since news of the printing of new Liberian banknotes hit town, there has been a wave of controversy over the issue. Admittedly, the issue of the new banknotes really got intensified after the recent National Economic Dialogue (NED) which saw local and international experts debating the way forward to drag our country out of its current lethargic economic doldrums. But the other side of the NED confab is that a good number of those “experts” have since started to distance themselves from suggestions that they endorsed President Weah’s call to the Legislature to print LD34 billion in new banknotes, on the basis that the Conference Plenary had unanimously endorsed the printing of new banknotes as part of its resolutions.
In any case, as Liberia and its international development partners scurry to find solution to the current financial crisis, a Liberian businessman, Christopher Hayes Onanuga who is also the Chief Executive Officer of a chain of businesses including CT Com locally and international, says that President Weah’s request to print new notes must be denied, “not out of hate nor out of envy, but out of logic and great wisdom”.
“In two years from now, the Eco will come into play in West Africa. It will bring along with it huge benefits to countries in distress and share her pains and downturns with bigger and more prosperous nations in West Africa, who employ more people, manufacture more, export more, with greater respect for the rule of law,” Onanuga said, noting especially that Liberia should concentrate more on greater things now than printing such notes.
Businessman Onanuga who himself has been a subject of state investigations into alleged financial misdeeds sternly believes that government’s past mop up exercise which involved US$25 million still under investigation, sets a bad precedent for correcting any shady financial transaction that affects the general populace.
Referencing the Kroll Report and Government’s own investigation into the LD16 billion and $25 million sagas, Mr. Onanuga said a comprehensive final report might embarrass the very foundation of financial accountability in Liberia.
Futility of Printing New Banknotes
Mr. Onanuga, in a dispatch from the United States, said, having carefully observed government’s intent to print new banknotes, there is absolutely no logical reason to do so, since the old cash in circulation is believed to be 75% in the hands of people at homes, with less incentives to keep such in the banks.
“The influx of fake notes in circulation and the printing of new notes will only encourage greater inflation,” he noted, adding that no amount of cleansing through new currency printing will keep the 23.5% inflation rate from going higher.
In an economy that manufactures almost nothing, Onanuga cautions that government should shelve the idea of a single currency, and rather concentrate on minimizing corruption.
“The bottom-line of it all is that corruption in itself is manifested a great deal in damaging any great idea that could help to restructure our economy,” he stated, noting, “if 30million should be infused into Liberia and directed at three counties for agricultural advancement to feed this county, it will make more economic sense than printing notes”.
The Way Forward
According to Chris, the best way this government can succeed in leveraging the small gains and encouraging investments is to restructure the banking sector and pay more attention to empowering the Central Bank, while rebranding its damaged image, especially through tourism.
“As an Ambassador of tourism in this time and age, in a country whose land is extremely beautiful, from the Hill’s of Ducor to the waterways of West Point, St. Paul river, Du River, Lake Paso, the Lofa Mountains, to the water falls of Bong, Sinoe and other esoteric regions, I urge government to develop tourism as a means to empowering the private sector and generating more revenues,” Onanuga noted.