By Joaquin M. Sendolo
The Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), J. Aloysius Tarlue, Jr., has disclosed that the country will still need additional banknotes to be printed to address the mutilated notes on the market.
The CBL Executive Governor’s suggestion for the printing of a yet unspecified amount of banknotes comes just few months after L$4 billion in L$500 denominations was printed.
In his plea, Executive Governor Tarlue said: “Unless additional Liberian dollar banknotes are printed, the country will continue to experience a rapid increase in the mutilation of existing banknotes.”
The recently-printed banknotes currently in circulation were released in July this year, and there were two main perceptions the public had when they got to know. One perception was that, it would be used to replace those mutilated 500 notes currently in circulation, another was that it would be used during the campaign for the upcoming senatorial election to attract voters whose decision is driven by gratuity provided by politicians. The latter perception appeared to be confirmed when a politician of the ruling party was seen on video distributing crisp, new L$500 banknotes to potential voters, instead of being transacted via commercial banks.
However, the CBL Governor clarified that the L$4 billion L$500 denomination banknotes recently printed and brought into the country “was only intended to ease the liquidity pressure for the Independence festive season, henceforth, that consignment is inadequate to address future liquidity needs of the country.”
According to Governor Tarlue, about 37 percent of the recently printed banknotes have been infused into the economy, mainly through commercial banks, to the tune of about L$1.5 billion.
Earlier, the Administration of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf printed new banknotes of different denominations to infuse into the economy with the intent of getting mopping up the legacy banknotes in circulation. However, the legacy notes have remained in circulation up to present.
Regarding the circulation of the latest L$500 banknotes, the CBL release issued yesterday in Monrovia quoted Governor Tarlue as wondering why the commercial banks are not circulating the L$500 banknotes, assuring that the CBL will continue to gradually make available the remaining banknotes consistent with cash demands largely through the commercial banks.
A seasoned Liberian economist who asked not to be named told the Daily Observer that, though the printing of additional banknotes is not wrong, the quantity of banknotes requested for printing reveals that, perhaps the CBL may not be taking into consideration all the necessary factors affecting local currency supply in order to make a comprehensive decision.
According to the economist, changing mutilated notes takes the approach of considering the serial number and the time duration it has existed.
“For instance, if you begin from serial numbers X to Z, you consider the year it came in circulation up to three years, and you get them out to be replaced by new notes. The bank cannot just move ahead with the printing of new notes without considering all of these, but from my personal view, printing new banknotes is not a bad thing to do; it only becomes bad when there are missteps in the procedures leading to the printing,” said the expert.
The fear many have about the printing of additional notes is the perception that when brought in, all of it will be infused at once, but the experienced economist intoned that banknotes printed and put in the CBL’s reserve are not considered money until it they are put into circulation.
On the issue of printing L$4 billion to ease liquidity pressure during the National Independence festivities in July this year, the expert wondered what the CBL will do during other festive seasons such as Christmas and New Year that may come with similar liquidity pressures.
In consonance with the expert, CBL Governor Tarlue said “Central banks in many countries have their own currency in surplus to timely replace mutilated banknotes, but Liberia doesn’t.”
During his conversation with members of the House of Representatives in an executive session, Governor Tarlue said the CBL under his leadership would work with other relevant authorities of the Government to sustainably handle the problem of surplus reserve that can be used occasionally to replace mutilated notes.
The CBL Governor and his team were invited to the Capitol when the lawmakers became concerned about why the new L$500 denomination banknotes printed were not in circulation.