By Togba-Nah Tipoteh
When knowledge has been used to inform national decision-makers in Liberia non-violently about the need to carry out Better Money Management rather than engage in More Money Printing and these decision-makers continue to make the same mistakes, more money printing, while the violence-oriented longstanding and widespread poverty gets worse, then it is time to find better non-violent ways of solving the poverty problem. We must not give up trying to find better ways because to do so would lead to the mass frustration that gives pretext to more greedy persons to bring violence and even civil war, as was done in Liberia in the Civil War which began in 1989 and ended in 2003, resulting in the loss of 300,000 lives and infrastructural damage from which Liberia has not recovered.
In the face of longstanding and widespread corruption, the news about the National Legislature agreeing for the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to print more money at the tune of LD48 billion is bad news. To print more money would be like giving cheese to rat to take care of. Certainly, the rat will eat the cheese and grab more cheese to eat. The corrupt persons who set fire to the House called Liberia are not interested in getting water to put out the fire because they continue to receive benefits from Liberia being on fire.
In July 2018, the immediate past Governor of the CBL, Mr. Nathaniel Patray, in addressing the Senate of Liberia, said that, “Though growth is expected to rebound this year with real gross domestic product (RGDP) projected to expand.3.2 per cent from 2.5 per cent in 2017, the rapid depreciation of the Liberian Dollar continues to pose a serious challenge to this outlook. The anticipated recovery in growth remains far lower than our pre-civil war average growth rate of 7.5 per cent”. On inflation, the former CBL Governor stated that, “As of May 2018, inflation stood at 21.3 per cent compared to 13.2 per cent of inflation in 2017,” while “the Liberian Dollar recorded a 24.1 per cent depreciation against the United States Dollar”.
The Liberian Dollar kept on depreciating, going from LD130 to USD1 in the last quarter of 2019 to LD200 to USD1 in the first quarter of 2021. The depreciation in the Liberian Dollar led to higher consumer prices, thereby lowering the purchasing power of consumers and reducing further the standard of living of the poor. In providing information, upon the instructions of the President of Liberia, former Governor Patray indicated that of the LD17,029.90 in circulation, only LD1,787.37 billion could be found in commercial banks, while the rest of the money, LD15,242,53 billion existed outside of the banks. This statement, made upon the instructions of the President, was made by the same former CBL Governor who declared publicly that he would do whatever the President instructed him to do. Such was the nature of the purported “independence” of the CBL.
In comes the current CBL Governor, Mr. Aloysius Tarlue, who said publicly in January 2021 that the amount of LD22 billion was outside of the Banking Sector. Mr. Tarlue called for the printing of LD notes at the tune of LD27.5 billion, saying that it would take USD21.7 million to print the LD notes. Next, the President asked the Legislature to approve of the printing of LD48 billion and the Legislature has agreed. Mr. Tarlue is the same CBL Governor who said publicly that he was not appointed by the President on the basis of competence but because the people of Grand Gedeh County, his County of origin, voted for the President. Once again, such is the nature of the purported “independence” of the CBL.
As for 2021, the Liberian economy has been projected to grow at 3.2 per cent, the same rate that had been projected for 2018; but by 2019, the economic growth rate was less than 1 per cent, as reported in the Annual Message for 2020 of the President of Liberia to the National Legislature. Although the commercial banks began complaining in January 2018 about their facing a shortage of Liberian Dollars, when the government was owing them LD4 billion, the President o Liberia authorized, in July 2018, the CBL to infuse USD25 million into the Liberian economy “to mop up the excess liquidity of Liberian Dollars”. The Minister of Finance and Development Planning announced publicly that he was distributing the USD25 million to foreign exchange bureaux. The President of the Foreign Exchange Bureaux Association said publicly that the Bureaux had not received any part of the USD25 million from the government. Confusion in the public space developed because it is only the CBL that has the legal authority to distribute money from the government and does so only through the commercial banks.
This confusion in the public space continues because it remains very difficult to get Liberian dollars from the banks, while national decision-makers continue to have access to at least USD1000 a day and their foreign friends in the commercial sector continue to have access to at least USD2 million a day, when over 80 per cent of the people of Liberia remain poor, having access to at most less than USD 2 a day. It is precisely the violence-oriented frustration from poverty generation that has become the pretext for more greedy persons to emerge, leading protests and benefitting from elections. In this bad situation, what is the Way Forward for The Better? Let us use correctly the lessons that we learned from defeating Ebola by sharing knowledge with the poor non-violently through communities in ways that motivate the people to engage in non-violent actions to take ownership of the poverty alleviation process to bring Change for The Better to All of the People of Liberia.