MONROVIA – The newly introduced L$5 and L$10 coins currency in circulation is said to be decreasing on the Liberian market, as some people believe it is being smuggled out of Liberia for other lucrative purposes. One of such individual is Ms. Kpanah Hena, a local businesswoman, who believes the disappearance of the coins from the market is due to them being transported out of Liberia and used for fashionable purposes.
By Mae Azango, [email protected]
“Even though I do not have physical evidence to prove this allegation, I believe the coins are in short supply on the market because I’ve heard that people are taking them to Guinea and using them to create fashion jewelry. If people were not doing this, the coins wouldn’t be disappearing from the market like they are. Or is it that the Government did not provide enough coins to be distributed?” she said.
In an exclusive interview with FPA at her provision shop in Monrovia, Kpanah stated that if security at the various border points leading into Guinea were vigilant, people would not be able to transport Liberian coins to Guinea undetected, as the coins are easily detected due to their weight.
“They do not use our coins in Guinea, so why are they taking them to make jewelry? I believe they are really taking our coins to Guinea, but what is the security doing at the various borders? We, as Liberians, should stop being unfair to one another because many Guineans who are naturalized citizens, I consider them Liberians, so this is why I am saying we should stop being unfair to one another,” she said.
Do the coins have silver properties?
However, when contacted via mobile phone, Liberia Immigration Services Communication (LIS) Officer Abraham Dolley said he would not give credence to such allegations because Liberian coins do not contain silver properties that can be melted.
Local Goldsmith businessman James Peters confirmed what Dolley said, explaining that the recent Liberian coins cannot be melted because they are not made of silver but iron. “The old American coins are silver, mainly the 1962 range, but recent Liberian coins are not silver but iron,” he said.
Did the Government print enough coins?
The question of whether the government printed enough coins for circulation on the Liberian market is answered by the Central Bank of Liberia, which stated that it printed over 48 billion coins and infused them into the economy. According to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) website, on August 12, 2022, and in line with the May 6, 2021, Joint Resolution of the National Legislature authorizing the CBL to print and put into circulation a smaller denomination of L$5 and L$10 coins totaling L$48.734 billion. The new coins are smaller, much lighter, and easier to carry than the previous coins in circulation. The minted coins are round, nickel-plated steel, with the L$5 weighing 3.6 grams and the L$10 weighing 4.8 grams. The L$5 features the image of President Edward James Roye, while the L$10 features the image of President Joseph Jenkins Roberts.
The good and bad side of the coins
Businesswoman Kpanah said the coins have both positive and negative aspects in business. The positive side is that they are used as change, but the negative side is that they are rejected by large businesses. Comparing the availability of the coins on the market when they were first introduced to the present, Kpanah mentioned that she used to make over L$2,000 daily from selling candies, biscuits, chocolate, and cold water. However, it now takes her over three weeks to generate a little over L$2,000 from her sales, which she finds difficult to use in purchasing goods from wholesale stores.
“When we go to buy goods in wholesale stores, the store owners do not accept the coins from us. Only the vendors selling items like bitter balls, pepper, and okra in the market accept the coins from us as change. So I have to exchange the coins for banknotes with the market women selling bitter balls and pepper to raise the money to buy my goods from the store. It shouldn’t be like this,” she said.
A Lebanese businessman at the Waterside Market in Monrovia, who chose to remain anonymous, mentioned that when he accepts coins, he cannot use them to purchase goods to import into the country.
“We usually buy our goods in US dollars, and if I accept coins from customers, I won’t be able to use them to buy goods from outside. It is difficult for my business,” he said.
Money Exchangers don’t believe there is a coins shortage
Two local money exchangers in Monrovia do not believe there is a shortage of coins on the market, but they argue that market women are not requesting coins from the banks. Chris J. Dolo, a local money changer, who has a different view, said coins are available on the market, but many market women, like Kpanah, do not go to the bank for coins, leading to the perception that coins are scarce.
“The banks can provide ten thousand Liberian Dollars’ worth of coins at a time, but the market women do not have the patience to wait in line at the banks. The banks do not give out coins in smaller denominations but from ten thousand and above. Another reason is that people usually reject smaller denominations of banknotes and coins at the various banks to prevent them from being circulated,” he said.
Speaking about store owners not accepting coins when people go to purchase goods, he said Lebanese businesses are not able to give customers coins as change because they are rejected from other customers who try to pay with coins.
“My advice to store owners is that coins are also Liberia’s money, so they should accept them from buyers. When other people come and request coins, they can provide them so that coins can circulate,” he said.
Chris Fallah, another local money changer, said he does not believe there is a shortage of coins on the market, but people are keeping the coins to use as change, which is why coins appear to be in short supply. He also mentioned that coins are heavy to carry, so many people prefer to keep them at home.
“When I was selling water, I also used to keep the coins and use them as change. Store owners do not have the patience to count coins, so instead of taking too much time to count a lot of coins, they can use that time to serve other customers,” he said.