On Wednesday, 5/29/2018 Mr. George Manneh Weah, President of the Republic of Liberia delivered his second major national address to the country. This address has become more compelling owing to the growing anxiety of the fast falling rate of the USD to LRD on the Liberian market. This downward spiral has spelled gloom for the majority of the Liberian population who make purchases daily in LRD and struggle with not just the instability of rate but also the attending hardship it bears on these poor. Ironically, these are the ones who largely elected the President and the ones whose welfare not just this government, but any government must meet to ensure success.
How can food get on the table of these people? The average Liberian does not understand the complications of international trade nor the functions of the national economy. The only basics of the economy they understand is the price on the streets each day for goods and services directly impacting their lives: transportation, food products, rentals, other basic needs. This is the aspect of the economy that is zigzagging by on a daily basis. These people cannot postpone hunger and accept a message to wait why the economy is fixed. Like they say in Liberia: “dried dog sweet, but what will you be eating before the dog dries?”
The current situation in the country has no quick fix. Listening to the President’s message yesterday and some of his proffered solutions of working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other partners speaks of eventual austerity measures. This means things are going to get worse before they get better. If we think its bumpy now, the ride is set to be even bumpier in the months ahead. However, common people will not just accept to ride rough when expectations were by electing this government would have made life so very easy.
As the country engages the rough stretch ahead, and as austerity measures are being contemplated, we can only plead with policy makers that there must be cushion for basic commodity prices. We think hardship and rising prices amidst abject poverty undermine national security more than any other known threats. We have no suggestions to provide but hope there is a consideration about ‘food on the table of the poor’. Any failure to address the plight of the poor masses is to leave them vulnerable to be weaponized against the status quo by vicious forces.
We cannot overemphasize that the dual currency regime needs to be obliterated. We noticed that was not included in the President’s message. However, to maintain this poor fiscal policy inherited from past regimes is to support fleecing of the common people by money cartels in this country.
To date, it remains unexplained how Liberian dollars have continued to walk out of commercial banks vault and stay on the street curbs. So, what we have is a scarcity of Liberian dollars in the banking system but surplus on the black market, driving artificial rates higher and higher. A few wicked people continue to benefit while a whole population is being strangulated. This, too, must end. We cannot make a whole country sit on edge because a few people want to be rich.
The woes and throes of our economy will not go away quickly unless we deal with some of these aging problems with currency and hoarding of notes outside of the traditional banking sector.