Increasing US Dollar Buying Rate Threatens Marketplace

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For the past several weeks the United States dollar has been pommelling (beating) the Liberian dollar. The accepted rate of exchange, LD100 to 1$US is exorbitant and has emboldened the some forex dealers to increase the buying rate even further.

This unscrupulous move, frowned upon by the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL), has caused marketers to threaten a three-day suspension of business. This suspension should have started yesterday. But they decided to postpone it until today. Should this take place, it would cause a serious crisis not only for households which buy their foodstuff daily to cook their meals, but also the restaurants and side walk cold bowl shops, which thousands of women depend upon to support their families and keep their children in school.

It will also seriously affect the transport industry—trucks, pickups, taxies and even motorbikes, which bring the produce and sellers to the marketplaces daily. These vehicles also transport buyers to the marketplaces and back home. Without passengers (buyers) and without food distributors and vendors, there will be an even greater problem in the marketplace.

Worse yet, how would people eat? The homes would be starved of food, the workers, who depend daily on their morning “cold bowl” to keep them going through the day, would be seriously affected because they say “Empty bag cannot stand.”

Think of the losses, too, to the transport industry. Without an income, how would they buy “gas,” or maintain their vehicles, which need the sidewalk garages and tire shops to keep their vehicles and motorbikes running? How also, will children get to and from school?

We are here talking about the people—the ordinary people, the common people, who live from hand to mouth on a daily basis—the people who the economists say survive “on a dollar a day.”

We are not talking about the few government officials and middle upper class businesspeople and the well-to-do SUV and sedan car riders, who can afford to drive to the supermarkets to keep their home nutrition in place. Yes, these, too, would be seriously affected, because most Liberian families, rich and poor, high and low, want, indeed must have their potato greens, gbassajamba (cassava leaf), beans, palm butter tugborgee daily. But without these, the well-off folks will not starve, for they can still afford to drive to the supermarket and buy their sardines, corned beef and bread, etc., to keep their families going.

We can be sure that the ordinary people alone will not starve, but in time, the rest of us, too. For the report of one scuffle between a soldier and police officer either down Water Side or at the Paynesville Red Light would send shockwaves throughout Monrovia, and every business would immediately shut down!

Most Liberians today were not yet born when, on December 22, 1979, Monrovia trembled. That was during the final days of the Tolbert Administration; but at that point, alas, no one knew that!

Kenneth Y. Best, in his book on Albert Porte, recalled that it was a tense political season when the Monrovia Probate Court was pussyfooting (acting slowly, without commitment) in the registration of Baccus Matthews’ political party, United People’s Party (UPP). The problem was that the True Whig Party had been in absolute control of Liberian politics since the inauguration of President Hilary Richard Wright Johnson in 1883. He had been nominated by both of the country’s two parties, the Republican and True Whig parties, and elected unopposed. And having chosen his Cabinet from both parties, that spelled the end of the Republican Party. That is when the TWP became Liberia’s only political party.

So, in 1979—almost a century later, 96 years, to be exact—TWP leaders were extremely shortsighted and wanted no change—not even internally. That is why the Probate Court pussyfooted.

But after the scare of December 22, 1979, when people started whispering that Baccus Matthews was “coming back,” the Probate Court the very next week quickly registered the UPP. Remember April 14? But it was already too late. We all remember what happened on April 12, 1980.

We have given this brief historical reflection to encourage CBL Governor Milton Weeks to DO something, and do it fast, to mitigate the foreign exchange crisis and keep the peace in the marketplace.

This is also a reminder to ALL presidential candidates. DON’T MESS UP! Don’t take the Liberian people for granted. Don’t make this election another farce (mockery, sham) by failing to unite behind one, or at most two opposition presidential candidates in order to make the poll truly meaningful and give Liberians a chance to elect a true leader, not one who amid a crisis, would be imposed upon us.

Political parties, UNITE, and reassure the marketplace that you are this time SERIOUS, putting not yourselves, but Liberia FIRST.

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