Petty traders and foreign exchange bureaus in Liberia are expressing frustration over a skyrocketing money exchange rate of US$1.00 to LD$130.00 that has impacted prices of goods and potentially weakened purchase power mainly for a significant portion of the country's population that survives on very little or no income.
Legal challenges to the just ended presidential and representatives elections were perceived in some quarters to be responsible for some of the problems in a tough economy here, but the exchange rate between the US and Liberian Dollars has sharply risen even after final election results were announced for the 26 December presidential runoff won by Mr. George Manneh Weah.
Prices of goods in the country remain on the increase here with owners of foreign exchange bureaus and petty traders crying for government to see reason to put some measures into place in order to reduce prices of commodities.
According to some of the foreign exchangers interviewed by this paper Thursday, 11 January, they blame some of their colleagues for alleged hike in the exchange rate, alleging that there are huge numbers of illegal foreign exchangers along the streets here.
A local foreign exchanger Gabriel Nimely who runs the Future Brothers Business Center in Monrovia explains that since the rise in the exchange rate here, he finds it very difficult to feed his family and to pay his children's school fees.
“As for me, as a money exchanger I don’t have interest inflating the exchange rate. Since the rate started skyrocketing I don’t save the kind of money I used to save when the rate was low. So if anybody tells you that we the money changers have interest in high rate, they are not telling you the truth brother,” Nimely says.
Another money exchanger Cyrus Siato notes that at first, he used to receive over US$3.00 at the end of every selling day, but since the rise in the exchange rate, he earns a revenue of just US$1.00 at the end of the day.
Mr. Siato alleges that Liberians are equally contributing to the situation in the country, noting that the same people that are crying for high cost of living and high prices are that the same people that will not want to reduce the exchange rate.
“If someone now comes to your business center to change money and you tell [them] this is the rate, they will leave your place in order to go and search for a higher rate, forgetting to know that the higher the rate, the higher the prices become on the market,” Siato adds.
A petty trader only calling herself "City Train" tells this paper that selling is no longer profitable as compared to the way it was in the past. But she says the option is to continue with business with the hope that things will improve.
“Journalist let me ask you too, you guys can see all these big people, what happening in this country because things are not used to be like this, you see this market I’m selling? I started selling in this Monrovia town for the past eight years but instead of making more money to save for our children, we losing everyday,” she explains.
The petty trader continues that it is her prayer to see improvement in the new leadership headed by President - elect George Manneh Weah so they and their children can have better living condition.
By Ben P. Wesee--Edited by Winston W. Parley