The Daily Observer in its Friday November 2, 2018 edition carried a front page story headlined “Senate to Cite Economic Management Team Over L$16B, US$25M Sagas”. Legislative Reporter Burgess Carter who wrote the story said the Senate, in its first sitting on Tuesday, October 30, 2018, voted to cite he Economic Management Team (EMT) to appear before plenary on Tuesday, November 6, to explain the state of the economy, especially the alleged printing and disappearance of L$16 billion as well as the impact of the US$25 million stimulus package, the story continued.
The Senate vote was said to have been prompted by Maryland County Senator Gbleh-bo Brown’s letter to that body requesting plenary to invite the EMT to explain to Senate plenary the current state of the economy, the rapid depreciation of the Liberian dollars and the alleged printing and disappearance of L$16 billion. Senator Brown in his letter recalled that prior to the closure of the Legislature for its annual break, the EMT had informed the Senate plenary that a number of economic measures had been or were being introduced to stabilize the economy and curb the rapid decline of the Liberian dollar.
The EMT also informed the Liberian Senate that the amount of US$25 million was being infused into the economy to mop up the excess of Liberian dollars in circulation and remove same from the market. But Senator Brown’s letter also requested that prior to the appearance of the EMT before the Senate, it should present a written report on the utilization and impact of the mopping up exercise including a matrix showing how and to whom the funds were disbursed.
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who presented a list of activities the Senate will be handling during the month-long extraordinary session stressed, among other things, the current economic situation especially, the rapid depreciation of the Liberian dollar, the missing Liberian dollar banknotes as well as the various road financing agreements.
As it appears the concerns about the missing billions of Liberian dollar banknotes have still not dissipated or gone away despite strenuous attempts by some highly ranked government officials, including the Minister of Finance, who has often accused the media of creating false narratives suggesting that money went missing which, according to him, is grossly untrue.
There are also those who have unfailingly maintained the case of the missing billions was contrived by the media in order to discredit the George Weah led government and they have continued to spin conspiracy theories which they believe can sway public opinion onto believing that absolutely no money went missing.
Further is the issue of the US$25 million, which the Minister of Finance announced, was being infused into the economy to stabilize the situation at the time. But judging from their pronouncements, Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, Senator Gbleh-bo Brown and others appear to hold the belief that money did go missing and that the alleged infusion of US$25 million might be, at best, questionable.
For this reason, apparently Senator Brown, as well as plenary, is demanding evidence showing that the money was indeed infused into the economy as claimed by the Finance Minister. This newspaper is reliably informed that none of the commercial banks were involved in the stabilization exercise alleged to have been carried out by the Finance Minister. Some banking higher-ups (names withheld) have told this newspaper that the practice, over the years, (stabilization) has involved the commercial banks through which the money is infused into the economy.
Speculations are rife about some government officials who, allegedly, were literally going from one forex bureau to the next, with loads of cash in tow to negotiate their cuts on the transactions. As things currently stand, the legacy notes which were to be removed are still in circulation. Rather than using the commercial banks to remove mutilated notes from the market, itinerant moneychangers (money tear-tear) casing the streets for potential customers.
Senator Brown’s concerns are genuine and cannot be treated with the sort of curt dismissal such concerns have received from relevant public officials. Weeks have now gone by with no signs of any report on the whereabouts of the missing money, neither has any explanation about the US$25 million cash infusion been forthcoming from the responsible government officials concerned.
This newspaper has maintained time and time again that President Weah needs to gather his wits and take a firm stand and demand accountability from his officials. Foot-dragging on such important issues is absolutely unacceptable. And this newspaper can declare without fear of contradiction that President Weah appears surrounded by a host of individuals who mean nothing good for the nation but everything for themselves.
But those government officials should not take the Liberian people for granted. Popularity says an elderly Liberian is like new clothes which an individual may sport daily. But the reality is even new clothes can fade and when they do the individual hardly ever wants to have anything to do with it. After nearly a year in office, it is becoming noticeable that President Weah’s allure once so strong and dazzling is now beginning to dim and, if he fails to check the corrupt excesses of his officials now, he may have to pay a very high price to do so later.
This newspaper must indeed commend Senator Gbleh-bo Brown for his forthrightness and courage to speak truth to power on crucial matters that many are shying away from. Bon Courage Senator Brown!