A team of police officers last Friday forced moneychangers in Point 4 on Bushrod Island to halt their activities or be forced to do so, according to several street sellers who spoke to the Daily Observer yesterday.
“The officers came to my booth and asked me to stop changing money in the street,” a street seller said, “they were prepared to use force and even threatened to break my booth if I did not remove the ‘change money’ (sign) that was written on my booth.”
He said he complied with the instruction of the officers and the men who accompanied them with crowbars and other instruments to destroy his or the booth of anyone refusing to comply with their order.
Another street seller said although he operates other services, along with changing money, the officers and their group only asked him to stop changing money in the street.
He told the Daily Observer that the group said the depreciation of the Liberian dollar to the United States dollar was due to the activities of street sellers, though he said he disagreed with that.
Of late, the Liberian dollar has been falling rapidly to the US dollar, and currently stands at L$96 to US$1, forcing commodity prices to increase and creating fear among consumers as the Liberian government is still unable to regulate foreign exchange fluctuations on the market.
A US$5 telecommunications voucher (scratch card) which sold for L$250 in 2006 is now double the price in the local currency, as the price remains unchanged in US currency. A recent 25kg bag of rice that sold for L$1,300 went up to L$1,600, which subsequently affected a cup of rice on the local market.
Consumers are worried that if the Liberian government does not take steps to regulate the foreign exchange component on the market, things would continue to rise beyond the pockets of ordinary Liberians.
The officers’ actions came after the Central Bank of Liberia recently warned that it would take measures to stabilize the US dollar against the Liberian dollar.
“Forcing street sellers out of business should not be the best thing to do,” a money changer said, “we are in the street because not everybody wants to travel to a particular place to change their money.”
At Duala Market, which has a large concentration of moneychangers, they (moneychangers) told the Daily Observer that they were not troubled by police officers or any one from the Central Bank of Liberia.