Residents in the crossroad City of Gbarnga, Bong County in Central Liberia are said to be living in hardship as the result of the soaring exchange rate of the Liberian dollars vis-à-vis that of the United States Dollars. This has led to the very high increase in the prices of local commodities as well as imported goods in the county.
The exchange rate of one United States dollar to Liberian dollars in Gbarnga currently stands at ninety-one to one.
A survey conducted by the Daily Observer established that as a result of the skyrocketing exchange rate, farmers, foreign merchants and local businesses have significantly increased commodity prices. Even private schools and other institutions of learning have joined to step up their school fees by 40%.
The study also established that some provisional shops, including those of Lebanese merchants, are requesting customers to pay for goods in US dollars, a great difficulty for people experiencing economic insecurity, most especially the poor.
The investigation further revealed that at present a gallon of gasoline previously sold for L$350.00 in Gbarnga is now being sold for L$450.00, while a liter of a local palm wine, formerly traded for L$ 20.00, is now being sold for L$ 50.00, while a gallon of red palm oil marketed for L$ 300.00 is now being sold for L$ 400.00. A bucket of red hot pepper sold for L$ 400.00 is now being sold for L$ 500.00 and a bag of 25kg of rice is at this moment sold for L$ 1,500.00.
The Daily Observer gathered that motorists and motor cycle riders have all joined to hike the transportation fares. The fare from Gbarnga to Monrovia by taxicab, previously L$400.00, is now L$ 600.00, while motor cyclists have increased their fares by 100% for every distance covered. This means that for every L$ 20.00 distance the fare is now charged L$ 40.00.
When this newspaper sampled the views of ordinary citizens in Gbarnga last week Thursday, they blamed the high exchange rate on the dual currency in the country.
“The exchange rate is high because government officials are being paid in United States dollars, while civil servants are being remunerated in Liberian dollars. This is a disproportion,” remarked Mr. William Davies, a student of economics at the Cuttington University.
The citizens also blamed the Government of Liberia (GOL) and the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for not doing enough to establish a secured exchange rate of the United States dollar to that of the Liberian dollars.
“If the exchange rate stands as it is until this academic school, many parents will not send their children to school; something that has the propensity to undermine government’s free and compulsory primary education” Mr. Augustine Yardo a teacher of Dorothy Cooper Elementary and Junior High School in Gbarnga declared.
The citizens expressed fear that the exchange rate may climb to one hundred Liberian dollars to one United States dollar by this Independence Day season, if the Government of Liberia and the CBL do not swiftly intervene.
It may be recalled, the Government of Liberia and the Central Bank of Liberia have repeatedly informed the Liberians that they do not have control over the exchange rate in the country.
It has been established that one of the main reasons for the steep hike in the US dollar rate has been the Liberia’s poor agricultural production over the past several years, and a fall in the prices of two of Liberia’s key foreign exchange earners, iron ore and rubber.