‘Shortage of Cash in Banks’

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Central Bank of Liberia

— US Embassy warns traveling Americans to have enough cash on them when visiting Liberia

The United States government has alerted its citizens traveling to Liberia to come with hard cash due to the country’s worsening economic situation that has forced banks to ration daily cash-withdrawals.

In a statement, Uncle Sam, through its Monrovia Embassy warned Americans and others foreign nations intending to visit Liberia that the county is facing an acute shortage of local and foreign currencies; as such, they “they should travel with cash that will sustain them for their time in the country.”

“Liberia’s banking sector has experienced a growing shortage of cash – both U.S. and Liberian dollars – over the last several months. As a consequence, it is difficult to obtain adequate cash supplies from ATMs and banks. There are no ATM facilities for public use at the U.S. Embassy,” it said.

The US government warning comes as banks continue to experience a growing horde of people forming in queues just to get cash, which has been in short supply. Both Liberian and US Dollars have been in short supply for months, but the squeeze has intensified in the last few weeks forcing banks to turn away customers as they simply don’t have enough cash in their vaults.

Despite the positive African Development Bank outlook, the current liquidity crunch, which reminisces the same problem in 2018, means Liberians are in for very rough incoming new year as the situation might persist for much longer than expected.

According to the AFDB, the Liberian economy was going to recovery by 1.6% in 2020, underpinned by mining, forestry, and agriculture with improvement in Macroeconomic stability due to the implementation of an IMF-supported program improving fiscal and monetary policies, which “tackles structural rigidities to create a favorable environment for private investment.”

However, such improvement might likely not be realized as the county is not just struggling to ensure cash flow but also finding it difficult to raise enough revenue to pay its wage bills and local debts. Currently, public sector workers have not taken pay for about three months and even if they were taking pay, they might not easily get hold of their salaries to pay bills and take care of needs.

Even though there has been a significant drop in the exchange rate from L$199 to as low as L$150 for US$1, there seems to be no effect on the prices of basic commodities as citizens struggle to foot their bills.  It has frustrated and turned Liberians away in their droves with no hope of making the festive Christmas season merrier. Breadwinners are competing demands of Christmas shopping for their kids as well as paying school fees for the next academic year.

Continuing, the US Embassy informs all travelers that envision to visit the country to come with the amounts of US$10,000 and should be prepared to pay expenses such as hotels and flights by credit or debit card when possible.

“Check with vendors to ensure credit or debit cards are accepted,” the US Embassy said. It added that upon entry to Liberia, travelers should report the US$10,000 they have and “may exit with no more than US$7,500.00.”

According to the embassy, it has received reports of financial information being compromised even at hotels where credit cards are routinely accepted. As a result, travelers must “bring cash sufficient for the duration of your trip and avoid displaying or carrying unnecessary valuables and large sums of money.”

In response to US government notice, youth activist Kimmie Weeks, described the situation as ridiculous while urging the Central Bank of Liberia, the monetary policy architect of the country, to make urgent interventions to resolve this matter.

Before the US government notice, local banks and businesses have been trying to manage the shortage of local Liberian dollars since last month as the commerce ministry warned the latter that they must accept both Liberian and US dollars or face large fines. The ministry’s warning last month came when several businesses became rejecting the United States dollar previously in demand due to the sudden dropped in the exchange rate.

“I have been here for the last four days, the bank keeps saying their system is down because there are no Liberian dollars in the bank,” said Martha Kollie, head of a local saving club. Like Martha, several customers in Downtown Monrovia continue to walk past ATM machines and demanded to enter the main banking hall because the machines do not have cash.

The situation, which the CBL and the government are yet to find a solution to, has resulted in a blame game as senior government officials, including House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, blame business people for hoarding the Liberian banknotes and keeping them at home to cause the shortage that is adversely affecting the economy.

As for bank officials, the situation is the result of a lack of public trust in the banking sector due to the 2018 liquidity crunch crisis which led to a surge in the withdrawal of Liberian dollars from commercial banks early this year.

“Deposits are no longer coming in but only withdrawals,” a top staff at a multinational bank operating in Liberia told this reporter.  But the CBL Governor, Aloysius Tarlue, at a meeting with Legislators in November, attributed the liquidity crisis to COVID-19 impacts on the country and the economy.

Governor Tarlue informed the lawmakers that the CBL was supplying commercial banks with more liquidity, but that would be on a gradual basis, so that low inflation volatility aimed at protecting the purchasing power of ordinary citizens could be maintained.

“We had requested the printing of 7.5 billion Liberian dollars in 2019, but the Legislature only approved four billion at the time. This means with increasing demand, the need now for the printing of more liquidity cannot be overemphasized,” Tarlue said.

Since 2016, the government has printed over 20 billion Liberian dollars, but questions continue to hover over the whereabouts of the printed banknotes.

However, there are reports that Legislative approval has been given the CBL to go ahead with the printing of new sets of banknotes to replace the current currency in circulation. This information is yet to be verified independently.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Local currency, L$ have appreciated against The U.S$. However, there’s no cash? What’s the benefit to businesses and Liberians?? That really takes the [MERRIES] out of “CHRISTMAS”. If everyone is hoarding their money; for whatever reason(s), it’s very apparent. The ECONOMY is “STAGNANT”. This absolutely is a serious matter. Cash flow is the “FUEL/LUBRICANT” that keeps a Country/Liberia’s Economy moving forward.

    • Weah and his so-called economic advisors don’t know a darn thing about running an economy. The Liberian people are in for a rough three years until they get rid of dumb Weah and his idiots.

      • MR LIARMEN,and fellow ignoramus, shortage of cash in banks even in the richest countries …US, EU, Japan, etc. is common.!

        Just how you people allow most of these rascals Benoni Urey, Alex Cummings, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Joseph Boakai, etc and their stooges and transmission belts to deceive you people and mislead you just swallow everything these journalists for the highest bidder put out there.

        This same naivety was displayed sometimes ago when government decided to carry out QE quantitative easing. Today those who criticized the government are known to have been making utterances out of deception and ignorance, and of course out of idiocy.

        Now peruse the information and education below on a major EU country, and realize such a situation is very common in the richest country even with all of the Harvard or Oxford graduates as cabinet ministers.

        Greeks Line Up for Money and Stock Up on Goods as Cash Rationing Starts

        By Anemona Hartocollis

        June 29, 2015

        ATHENS — Uncertain what might happen next, with banks and financial markets closed, across Athens people wasted little time Monday, rushing to the nearest A.T.M. to withdraw their new daily maximum of 60 euros, determined to raise every last cent while they could.

        Yet, even as Greeks faced a new level of chaos and hardship this week, they were being confronted with another unsolvable riddle: a vote on their future that was even more uncertain than the current chaos.

        “Simply put, we’re confused,” Eleni Gardikioti, 31, an insurance worker, said. “We don’t understand what games they are playing, whether to stay or go and whether there is a permanent goal in all that.”

        There were good arguments on each side, she said, as she fished out a coin to give to a beggar.

        In a referendum on Sunday, Greeks will be asked to decide whether to accept a take-it-or-leave-it bailout offer by the country’s creditors, and remain mired in austerity in the eurozone, or reject the deal but suffer the consequences of leaving the euro.

        Athenians everywhere wore looks of anxiety, despite a pleasantly cool summer day. Over the last few weeks, Greeks have withdrawn billions of euros from the banking system, leading to capital controls. On Monday, customers found many cash machines shut down until noon to be reprogrammed with the new limit. For hours after the machines began operating again, people stood in line, waiting to receive their rations of cash.

        Standing outside the cash machines seemed to have a counterintuitive effect on some people, hardening them against the European creditors rather than making them angry at their own government.

        “We’re all happy with Tsipras!” said Eleni Hartofilaka, waiting to take her €60 (about $67) out of an Alpha Bank branch. “We’re happy for the Europeans to learn not to be on top of us.”

        For some, the word “no,” or “Oxi” in Greek, has a historical symbolism that makes it even more appealing in the present context. As every Greek schoolchild knows, the annual Oxi Day commemorates the answer, in spirit if not verbatim, delivered by Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas to a demand from Mussolini to allow Italian forces to occupy strategic parts of Greece at the beginning of World War II.

        • False Nationalist,

          Tell your president to print money. He is there right? Let him print money. We are waiting to see it!
          Compare our situation to other countries, print money. Advise him to do so quickly too to pay salaries.

  2. “You don’t need to be Socrates to rule Liberia”, said CDC.
    We are looking at you, since you voted your non-Socrates.
    Just try printing money, the people will need a wheelbarrow full of money to go to the market, nonsense people!

    Some of them idiotically write here that it a struggle between the elite and the masses, with Weah? What elite? What masses? With the current midterm election results?
    You had the chance to vote old man Boakai, a cool and experience man, but you looked the other way to choose a football star.
    You had Cummings who resign his job to help his country, but you decided to go for Grade 9 dropout.
    Do you guys know the effect of the Weah’s presidency on the country? It may go for the next 10 years to recover from development impediments and hurdles.

    I pray for Liberians to begin to think like other normal human beings!

  3. One solution: only obligate the commercial banks in Liberia to exchange, deposit, and withdraw United States Dollars and Liberian dollars with those customers who have Liberian dollars deposits with Liberian banks. Only bank customers who make deposits can receive Liberian deposits. Those who do not produce Liberian dollar worth products will have no more way to exploit the Liberian economy with foreign currencies for personal luxury or greed for wealth. Liberians thus will spend their money wisely to build their own standards while the Central Bank of Liberia spends time on gradually liquidity that will meet the rate X time allot to the fixed USD allotted to the Liberian economy as the interest in the Nation’s resources become productive to its people rather than a few. More solutions mean more demands for more supplies.

    What is your suggestion? What do you get from the government for this suggestion? Ask the Liberian people. Not me.

  4. The problem is that Liberians NO and YES voters who seek personal power and wealth to corrupt the economy have been depending on Local farmers, and businesses to supply them with American Dollars. Nonsense. Liberia does not produce foreign currencies. Liberia has its own currency. Liberian Central Bank has a long way to resurface again and maintain its own currency on par with the United States Dollars. The Liberian dollar should be printed on the basis of the amount of goods and services produced on the Liberian local market. Not on how much the legislative or executive thinks it is. The Liberian people bank is responsible for this understatement of the need for adequate currency because the power of the function to exclusively print currency on equivalent with local production was exploited by past legislative assemblies subjected to tyranny, some during the war. In other words, the Central Bank is not monitoring the GDP to present this balance to the people of Liberia. Instead, the Executive looks at the decision of the lawmakers to proceed with the regulations to avoid external inflation focused on GNP to make projections internationally. We cannot continue to wait on lawmakers to execute the laws and abuse executive rights. The Legislature makes the law and can in no way execute it as long as there is a line restored where a corrupt leader does not connive with lawmakers to print Liberian currency, instead projects and balances by itself. This power to print currency will be left exclusively to the President to avoid the tussle over the Liberian people money. This is how our forefathers fixed it. To accomplish the maintenance of currency at the CBL, under Executive control, the Legislative branch must sifter this function under Executive order, kick this decree out of the Capital building and never again bring it back. The Liberian legislators make laws and not decrees. This will enable the Legislative branch to once again concentrate on its duty to do the people’s business, serving their various constituents and counties by making laws to raise the standard of the constitution provisions of this Land set forth by our founders. If we do what our founder laid down for us to follow in our institutions to fit our tradition, culture, spelled out in the 3 branches of Government there should be no need for out of the Nation Jurisprudence or expenditures that drain our commercial banks. Study our tradition and you will see that it is only Liberians that can solve the Liberian past, present, future. We have a unique form of Government that most in this universe have yet to understand. If we follow it appropriately and learn it well, by the time the illiterate become literate, the future of Liberia will be mostly inhaled with healthy air now and by the generation of tomorrow.

    Merry X-mas and a Happy New year.

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