Hardship Overwhelms Gbarnga Residents

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Traders on Gbarnga main street said there are fewer buyers as compared to the number of sellers.

Residents in the City  of Gbarnga, Bong County in Central Liberia are now living in hardship due to soaring exchange rate of the Liberian dollars to the United States dollars that has led to increment of prices of goods and services on the market.

Up to press time last night, US$1 was exchanged for L$160.

A Daily Observer newspaper survey established that because of the high exchange rate, farmers and business owners have significantly increased commodity prices. Even private schools and other faith-based institutions of learning have also stepped up their school fees.

The study also uncovered that some groceries, both Liberian and Lebanese-owned businesses are requesting customers to pay for goods in US dollars; a great difficulty for people experiencing economic insecurity.

At present, according to our investigation, a gallon of gasoline previously sold for L$580 in Gbarnga is now sold for L$650, while a liter of a local palm wine, formerly traded for L$40, is now sold for L$60, while a gallon of red palm oil previously marketed for L$450 is now being sold for L$1,000.

A bucket of red hot pepper sold for L$400 is now being sold for L$900, and a bag of 25kg of rice is at this moment sold for L$2,350.

The Daily Observer gathered that motorists have all hike transportation fares to the extent that from Gbarnga to Monrovia by taxicab, previously L$600 is now L$800, while motorcyclists have increased their fares by 100% for every distance covered. This means that for every previous L$20 distance, the fare is now charged L$40.

When this newspaper sampled the views of citizens in Gbarnga recently, some of them blamed the high exchange rate on dual currency.

“The exchange rate is high, because government officials are being paid in United States dollars, while civil servants remuneration is in Liberian dollars. This is a disproportion,” remarked William Davies, a student reading economics at Cuttington University.

Some of the residents also blamed the government and authorities of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) for not doing enough to establish a secured exchange rate on the market.

“If the exchange rate stands as it is until the next  academic year, many parents will not send their children to school, something that has the propensity to undermine government’s free and compulsory primary education introduced by the past government,” Augustine Yardo, a teacher at Dorothy Cooper Elementary and Junior High School in Gbarnga said.

Some of the citizens expressed fear that the exchange rate may climb to unprecedented amount by the end of this year, if the government and the CBL do not intervene.

Petty traders have also complained of the slow pace of business transactions over the months, adding that there are more sellers, but few buyers.

Side view of Gbarnga Broad Street virtually overtaken by sellers, but no buyer.

“The Gbarnga Broad Street that we know can be jammed pack during Christmas month; see how it is virtually empty like ghost town,” Benjamin Myers, a petty trader said.

This newspaper also reliably gathered that organizers of ‘Susu Clubs’ a local money saving clubs, are finding it difficult to distribute their annual savings to their members due to the shortage of Liberian dollars on the market.

“You want tell me our children will not eat, least to talk about clothes to wear this Christmas season, because the bank is telling us no money? Where are the Liberian dollars that we deposited with the bank? This is not fair to us as citizens, because we are being treated like slaves in our own country,” remarked David Kollie, a member of the Welekermah Saving Club in the LPMC Community.

“Look, we have L$2.3 million in the bank, and we were to distribute our money recently, but because of the shortage of the Liberian dollars in the bank, we are confused as to when we will disburse the clubs’ money to our members, who have barley a week to Christmas,” said James Kerkulah, organizer of the Kukatornor Saving Club in the Millionaire Quarter Community.

In a related development, the Daily Observer has gathered that even private schools, and some government assigned teachers whose money are transacted through the local bank are yet to receive their November, 2018 salaries, “because no Liberian dollars in the bank.”

“We may not get salary for December, because of the scarcity of money in the bank,” remarked Josiah Flomo, a teacher assigned at N.V. Massaquoi Senior High School in Gbarnga.

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