Liberia: Request to Print New Banknotes Suffers Hitches at House of Reps.

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Capitol Hill, Monrovia – The House of Representatives has delayed in giving green light to the Executive to print L$34 billion new banknotes as lawmakers against and for wants more clarity from the CBL before taking their final stands on the issue.

Prior to the commencement of session on Wednesday, October 2, it was highly anticipated that the plenary of the House of Representatives would have authorized the Executive to print through a majority vote.

But that was not the case. Following the adoption of the agenda followed by a motion for Executive, plenary locked themselves behind closed doors.

Sources said no concrete decision was reached as several lawmakers including those in favor and against demanded answers to several questions raised.

This continued for several days and no solution has been reached.

A lawmaker, speaking on condition of anonymity, explained that they could not give the executive the ‘green light’ because they [plenary] want some changes and more clarity from the CBL.

Some of the changes, the lawmaker said, include the cancellation of the 500 banknote and the proposed 1000 banknote. According to the lawmaker, with such huge value, it will be easy to duplicate.

In September, President George Weah, acting on the advice of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) requested the Legislature to authorize the printing of new banknotes in the tune of L$34 billion.

In his communication to the Legislature, President Weah informed the lawmakers that he has received a communication from the CBL, advising that the Liberian economy may be seriously affected due to the unaccounted local currency infused into the economy which is causing high inflation.

Since the President’s communication, both houses have mandated their respective Finance Committees to review the President’s communication and advice on the way forward.

For the House of Representatives, the Joint Committee on Banking and Currency; and Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning has advised plenary to give the President the ‘green light’ to print the new currency.

But plenary has failed to endorse the Joint Committee’s report. Discussions of the report has been mainly held in secret sessions, making it difficult for the public and the media to know exactly what is being said.

However, FrontPage Africa has gathered that the Legislature is still not convinced with the CBL and its own committees’ recommendations to print new money.

Representative Samuel Enders (Montserrado Co. District #6) has openly expressed his opposition to the proposed porject on grounds that the uncertainties and discrepancies surrounding the printing of the previous banknotes by the past administration and US$25 million injected into the economy by the Weah Government have not been investigated and laid to rest.

Rep. Enders said owing to the lavish lifestyle of some top officials in the Executive branch amid complaints that that the Government is broke, President Weah should emphatically state how much was in the Government’s coffers when he took over.

Rep. Enders said: “I will support printing [new banknotes] if the President can tell us in clear numerical terms how much was received from the old government. How much did you see in the bank? You can’t continue to say there is no money when Nathaniel McGill can run around in my district and give the community LS$2.5 million and give the other business L$500,000, yet healthcare workers are not being paid, I myself have not been paid for some months.”

He continues: “I haven’t had gas. And you cannot tell us there is no money but one group of people runs around with lots of money. So, for you to be able to print money, you must clear the doubt. How much was here when you took over?” 

“Secondly, how was the US$25 million expended? Where did it go, who has that money? Is it clear that John Brown get part of the US$25 million?  Let us establish those facts. If we establish those facts based on the investigations that were sent to us, then we can go out there and print money. If we go ahead and print money under all of these suspicions, that will not be right. We can’t print new money until we can clear all of these suspicions.”

But lawmakers including Reps. Francis S. Dohpoh of River Gee County, Larry Younquoi (Nimba District #8), Dorwohn T. Gleekia, (Nimba District #6) and Matthew Joe (Grand Bassa District #3) said it is a risk worth taking.

Rep. Younquoi told FPA that the CBL, with all the controversies surrounding the printing of L$16 billion and the expenditure of US$25 million used for the mob up exercise was not trustworthy to handle the printing of new banknotes. But with the involvement of Kroll, the Legislature can give it a try.

“The Central Bank has assure us of Kroll’s involvement with the printing and swapping of the money. I think that brings a lot of integrity and we should approve it,” Rep. Younquoi said.

For his part, Rep. Dopoh noted that to avoid inflation, the L$34billion was far too much and suggested L$30 billion. According to him, the CBL estimate of L$12 billion printed in 1999 and L$16 billion printed in 2016 put the current money in circulation at L$27 billion.  

Reps. Gleekia and Joe, in separate remarks, noted that all indications point out that printing of new currency will be in the best interest of the economy because the total volume of money in circulation will now be known and fiscal measures will be taken to stabilize the economy.

Meanwhile, in a release, the CBL stated it will ensure Kroll works with the management and members of the Board of Governors on the process for printing, movement and replacement of the Liberian dollar currency.

But as things stand, the likelihood of the Legislature approving the President’s request is slim as the House is expected to close today. 

The President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Albert Chie has already given his message marking the final closure of the Second Sitting of the Liberian Senate of the 54th Legislature.

At the Lower House, Speaker Chambers is expected to deliver his closing remarks today, Monday, October 7. 

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