— Wants Liberia’s reserve invested domestically to increase access to liquidity
The political leader of the opposition Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), Simeon Freeman, has called into question the operational activities of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), wondering “what the bank is spending the money on, or where is it investing the money.”
At a press conference Wednesday December 23, 2020, Mr. Freeman said if Liberia can invest the money locally in financial instruments, it would increase access to liquidity and it would give rise to a lot of import substitution in terms of industries that would evolve because of liquidity.
“The CBL is at the heart of this no money syndrome.
Is the CBL very large or how much money does CBL spend on salaries? IMF even said the CBL needs to look at its operational cost. Many of the people at the leadership at CBL have the capacity in terms of degrees but lack innovation and creativity, which is most needed now in Liberia,” Mr. Freeman said.
According to him, Liberia’s agriculture sector cannot be really supported because access to liquidity is a problem, as people taking loans from the banks are given two years or, at most, three years to repay the money.
Freeman says Liberia needs a special CBL instrument that will create funding for people who have interest or wanting to invest into the agriculture sector of Liberia, but with at least a five-year grace period for repayment.
According to him, there is a need for the President George M. Weah to know where the CBL’s reserve is.
“We need to look at CBL’s reserve. What are they spending the money on and or, where are they investing it?
“Most of Liberia’s reserve [during the Ellen Sirleaf administration] was in treasury bills abroad. Are we still reserving our money in treasury because of the International Monetary Fund’s advice, or investing it locally?” he wondered.
He said Liberian people are not looking at the 2023 elections but what can be done now for the people.
In response to persistent requests to print more local currency, Mr. Freeman suggested: “Why don’t we have our own money printing machine here? We are spending US$1.1 million to print one billon Liberian dollars. We keep doing the same thing and getting the same result.”
Mr. Freeman said he strongly believes that President Weah can still make the change in terms of transformation for the country’s economy.
He indicated that the L$16 billion issue raised by opposition parties has created a situation whereby investors are scared away from coming to Liberia, stating “It was unfortunate for our men in the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) to do such.”
According to him, other countries have worked on their structures in such a way that much of their reserve is being invested locally or domestically thereby improving their economy.
Mr. Freeman said he is prepared to make a powerpoint presentation to President Weah along with his team, without pay, to enlighten him about the working of the monetary system.
According to him, he has the expertise to help the Weah administration to recover from the current economic crisis which the country is facing by providing ways through which the government can raise funds.
“George Weah, we know that you don’t have corporate capacity or private sector experience and public sector experience, but we believe you can assemble a team of experts to help in the process to bring the economy on par,” said Freeman.
According to him, President Weah believes that members of his inner circle brought him to power and therefore he has become a “too busy President”, despite the fact that more than 60 percent of the Liberian people voted for him.
He said a lot needs to be done to salvage the outcome of what the country has now. He said the misstep of the government is extremely pronounced and extremely aloud and a lot needs to be done.
“Today, our monetary policy is in total misorder. On the other hand, total lack of confidence in the various banks. Today, there are people going to Guinea and Sierra Leone just to collect money sent through Western Union,” Mr. Freeman said.
According to him, he had an extensive talk with those in the banking sector and they have indicated that the problem is simple and can be addressed.
“President needs to look at the bank in a dynamic way. People cannot even withdraw L$200 just to buy tissue for office, which is hurting the people. The people did not vote for you because you have capacity but because of trust,” Mr. Freeman said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Freeman expressed gratitude to authorities of the National Elections Commission (NEC) for the peaceful elections and to the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change for quickly accepting the defeat and congratulating the winners, especially those in the opposition.
“I have not seen elections that [went as] smooth as the just-ended elections. These are little things, but we need to celebrate them. By celebrating them, it shows that our democracy is getting better by the day,” he said.