The Chamber of the Liberian Senate yesterday witnessed heated debates over the incremental (slow but steady) increase in the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the U.S. Dollar that also serves as ‘legal tender’ (money, cash) in Liberia.
At their second-sitting, the Senators vented their anger and disappointment following the reading of a communication authored by Senators George T. Tengbeh and Matthew Jaye of Lofa and River Gee Counties respectively. The two asked their colleagues to look into, act to change for the better and stave-off (ward off, prevent) a worsening of the situation.
The communication by the two Senators, dated January 15, said: “We have realized over the past weeks the high rate of one United States Dollar against the Liberian Dollar. This seems to be on the increase on a daily basis. The situation is causing the living conditions of our citizens to become difficult.
In view of the above, we recommend that this honorable plenary invites the Minister of Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia to appear before the Senate plenary on Tuesday, January 21, to explain the high rate of the US Dollar against the Liberian Dollar…”
Reacting immediately following the reading of the letter, a member of the Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, Lofa County Senator Sumo Kupee, reminded his colleagues that prior to the Constituency Break, presentations on the micro finance of the country and other financial issues were organized by his committee, and experts then predicted what was then in the making.
“We then predicted that if what was happening were not halted by December, the rate would have gone to 85 or 90. My suggestion today, is that the plenary empowers the committee to go back and conclude its work: or things will get worse. If not halted in the next couple of weeks or months, the rate might approach 90.
For his part, Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morias condemned the astronomical rise in the exchange rate and warned that if no decision is taken now by the Senate, the situation will cause the people to take to the streets one day.
“This is no joking matter; we should mandate our committee to do a thorough investigation of the matter and report to the honorable Senate.
Making an input, Senator John Ballout urged immediate action from his colleagues to help alleviate the already worsening conditions of citizens in the leeward counties.
“I would like to urge my colleagues here to take a step forward. I will like this committee and the plenary in its judgment to invite the two people responsible in our economy now: Finance Minister and CBL Governor to come and present a wholistic picture of the economy, and let’s see from our own judgment where all of this may be coming from,” the Maryland County Senior Senator suggested.
Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley speaking from his Grand Bassa seat recalled that the current situation was forecast months ago by experts who said the exchange rate would have climbed to 90, and that some people personally accused him.
“Today, everybody is looking to us for guidance and leadership in this matter, and so it is time for us as a Senate to look at this matter and look at each other in the face and say we have a problem; a very, very serious problem. Is it only monetary policy? I don’t believe so. I think we need to go into in-depth investigations, with experts, who can give us expert opinions and guidance on what is really happening in our country.”
Despite their feelings, the Senators voted 19 for; with two against, agreeing that the Banking and Currency Committee make reports to the plenary next Tuesday.
The original plan, to bring Finance Minister and CBL Governor before the plenary, did not get any farther.