Monrovia – Liberians, mostly vendors have expressed frustration over the lack of small denominations of the Liberian banknotes, something they say has led to the increment of prices of commodities on the market.
In May 2021, the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) was authorized by the 54th Legislature to print new family banknotes. The Legislature approved the printing and minting of money in the phase of three years, specifically 2021, 2022, and 2024.
CBL in December 2021 introduced the new Liberian dollar currency starting with the 100 Liberian dollar banknote in the tune of four billion Liberian dollars.
The amount, the CBL says was intended to increase Liberian dollar liquidity in the economy.
The second consignment of four billion Liberian dollars of the new family of L$100 banknotes the CBL said was going to be brought into the country during the 1st Quarter of 2022 to commence the gradual replacement of mutilated banknotes.
The new L$100 banknote, according to CBL, is part of the L$48.734 billion of the new family of Liberian dollar currency.
The introduction of the remaining L$100 banknotes and other denominations including the L$20, L$50, L$500, and L$1000 banknotes, and the L$5 and L$10 coins is due to take place in the latter half of 2022.
The destruction of the old banknotes was to enhance internal control and a transparent process, to ensure full accountability to all stakeholders, the CBL said.
CBL in presence of civil society actors, members of the Legislature, and development partners in January 2022 burned over L$600,000,000 in mutilated and old banknotes to make way for the batch of new money to commence circulation by early February 2022.
Since February, there had been no sign of another batch of the new family banknotes on the market, while the old L$100 that was expected to have been recalled from the market still circulates.
The burning of the old banknotes without the replacement of the new family banknotes, especially the small denomination like the five, 10, and 20 dollars is causing a serious problem for many Liberians, including vendors.
For most vendors, the lack of small denominations of the new family banknotes is hampering the smooth operation of their businesses.
Mercy Duo is a vendor that sells in Central Monrovia. She told FrontPageAfrica that the small denomination of the Liberian banknotes is gradually disappearing from the market.
“The L$10 and the L$5 have totally disappeared. We thought it is rather the old L$100 notes that they are supposed to withdraw from circulation, instead, the lower denominations are gone. Because of this, everything besides water that used to be sold L$5 is now L$10, and even the sachet of water, you’re compelled to buy L$10 worth. And the L$10 is also scarce; you hardly see it,”
According to the vendor, the lack small denomination of Liberian banknotes has caused astronomical increase in the prices of commodities on the Liberian market.
Duo said: “Why President George Weah only print one set of money? No five dollars, no 10 dollars, no 20 dollars banknotes on the market. It’s giving us hard time, it makes for our profit to go. Because when there’s no change, when that 10 dollars go, that’s our profit going. It’s also increasing the price of commodities on the market because when you go buy no change people will carry the prices of their goods up because they don’t want to be going around looking for a change.”
She added: “Some people don’t like to leave their change behind. And when people come to buy from you when and no change they will go. Some customers don’t have the patience to wait for you to go be looking for a change. Only 50 and 100-dollar banknotes are on the market.”
Emmanuel Pewee is another vendor on Randall Street. He said the lack of small denomination of banknotes is giving him a tough time doing transactions.
“To be honest, we need pieces – small, small banknotes like five dollars, 10 dollars, and even 20 dollars. To find change when someone buys from you is so much more difficult. Printing the money and getting rid of the old notes was not a bad issue but the lack of small, small banknotes is a Chao for us as business people.”
He added: “One day, I was going to Paynesville and the taxi driver says 170 Liberian dollars. I got down and gave the driver 200 and he said no change, I had to let go my 30 Liberian dollars -it hurts me but what to do?”
Delux Fahnbulleh is another vendor in Central Monrovia. He wants for national government to address the situation adding that they continue to lose their finance daily.
“It’s a serious concern. For me, I have been affected intent of transportation, the buying of goods and other services. If there are no small banknotes on the market, then, it’s become a problem because we as vendors, many at times, customers will feel like you want to cheat them -it is not but because of the lack of smaller banknotes on the market, it’s a problem for all of us,” Fahnbulleh said.
He added: “When somebody buys an item from you, and you as a seller in your right mind, you should be able to give him or her a change but it is not. We get in car, we expect to get change when we reach but it’s not. It’s a serious problem”
Adolphus Konah, a vendor selling on Board Street added: “50 dollars banknotes will soon lose from the market because a Kerker (tricycle) took me from Stephen Tolbert Estate this morning and when he brought in to town and started to look for 50 dollars change for me. He had to park his Kerker and go to a money exchanger for my change. So, I don’t know where are we heading to?”
Commuters Frustrated over the Lack of Small Banknotes
Sadiah Swaray, a resident of Freeport Community and she commutes from to town daily. Swaray said from what she has experienced, the government supposes to take all of the money from the market to avoid what is happening.
“The government is supposed to take all the money from the market and bring in new money just the way former President Charles Taylor did – the big notes, the small notes, all of them supposed to come together,” she said
“You can print big banknotes and of course, we still have small, small things on the market for small prices. It is affecting us the citizens.”
“When we go buy, we can just sacrifice to leave our change there because we can’t blame anyone but the government we voted for and they have put us in this situation. For now, only the 100 dollars banknotes we can see outside. Secondly, we can see small 50 dollars banknotes outside but for the 20, then 10, and even the five dollars banknotes are scarce on the market even if you see it, it’s mutilated.”
CBL Putting Mutilated Money Back on the Market
George Morris is a resident of Duport Road, Paynesville says the lack of small notes is affecting him negatively. He blames CBL for putting mutilated banknotes on the market.
“The government of Liberia is not doing well for its citizens. The government printed money with the idea that mutilated money will be taken from the market and still we are seeing people buying mutilated money. Where is this mutilated money going?” He asked.
“It tells us that they will buy mutilated money and carry it to Central Bank and CBL will send it to commercial banks and it will be circulated back to the citizens.”
Taxi Driver Explains his Ordeal
Samuel Gaysueh is a taxi driver. He normally rides on the Gardnersville Road to Central Town.
He said the lack of small banknotes is affecting him and many other commercial drivers negatively.
“Any time we take passengers there is no change. All of the passengers get 100 or 500-dollar banknotes. You can’t see 50, 20, or even 10 dollars banknotes. Sometimes we leave money on passengers because when we are looking for a change you will not get it,” he said.
Theodore Nana is a member of the People Liberation Party (PLP). He said the money that was printed last December was engulfed by politics.
“The money that was printed is political money. Anything you are doing, if you add politics in it, there can be no value attached there, it was political money for government officials to dash out among themselves. If the government had printed small banknotes in huge quantities, it was going to be hard for them to dash out the money among them because there was going to be a huge volume of money with them but when it is being printed in big banknotes, it’s easy to carry 10,000 in your pocket,” Nana said.
He added: “So, they printed political money so that anywhere they go they can share it among people because the political season is getting closer.”