MONROVIA, Montserrado â€“ Finance Minister Samuel Tweah has announced that the government has decided to issue a new currency to immediately address the increasing U.S.-Liberian dollar exchange rate.
Tweah made the announcement at the Ministry of Informationâ€™s regular press briefing on Thursday.
The statement comes as the exchange rate has increased by 27 percent over the past 12 months and seems to be increasing over the past two weeks. While the Central Bankâ€™s exchange rate is 169 Liberian dollars to a U.S. dollar, at many foreign exchange bureaus across Monrovia, the rate is 172 and increases by 1 each day.
In his announcement, Tweah said the government had plans in place for dealing with Liberiaâ€™s economic woes in the medium term. However, he said more immediate measures needed to be taken now.
â€œThe challenges we face are not in the medium term,â€ he noted. â€œAnd so that brings me to maybe the biggest weapon we have, and I think the EMT [Economic Management Team], the president made that decision [a] long time [ago] â€“ we have to change the currency.â€
He described the exercise as an opportunity for the country to â€œreset,â€ likening it to an exercise India conducted in 2016. However, what India did would be different than what the Liberian government is now proposing, because India only replaced its two highest value notes, retaining all of its lower value notes in a bid to limit counterfeiting. Liberia plans to replace the entire set of banknotes, many of which were recently delivered in 2017 and 2018.
The exercise in India was contentious as some people who were not able to exchange their banknotes in time saw them lose value. Tweah promised that the Liberian governmentâ€™s effort would be dissimilar in that it would ensure that people did not lose the value of their money. However, he urged the public to prepare for the implementation of that policy by storing their money in financial institutions.
â€œBeginning today, if someone got a billion Liberian dollars, I can tell you, start putting it in the bank right now because thatâ€™s where the policy direction is going,â€ he added.
Tweah has not attached a timeline to when this policy will be implemented or exactly how. However, he noted that it would have an unspecified cost.
Featured photo by S. Kannay Ziamo