June 6, 2016 By Jariatu S. Bangura
Bank Governor of the central Bank of Sierra Leone has called on members of parliament to strengthen laws that would discourage and if possible ,criminalize the use of United States Dollars in all facets of the country’s economy.
Speaking during a joint committee meeting with members of the Public Account Committee, Transparency and Accountability Committee and Finance Committee, Dr. Kaifala Marah said the purpose of the meeting was to explain challenges they faced in the financial market, especially in the case where the usage of dollar was dominant in all business transactions as against the Leone currency, which is the country’s legal tender.
“Honorable members, we are here today for you to give us your support in eradicating the use of dollar in the country. We need your support to ‘de- dollarize the Leone,’ which is our legal tender. It has now been the habit of people in this country to ask for rent in dollars. If you want to buy flight ticket it should be in dollar. Even if you want to pay for goods, you have to pay in dollars and that is a huge problem that is affecting us greatly. I want you to help us, even though there are financial laws that are not being implemented, to eradicate the use of dollar, and if necessary, call on the judiciary for the effective implementation of those laws,” he pleaded.
He said as a commodity exporting country, Sierra Leone suffered huge economic setbacks – drop in iron ore price from above $100 to way below $40 per metric ton, and the Ebola outbreak disease which negatively affected economic activities across the country.
“As a commodity exporting country, we know that there have been challenges. Before now, we used to tell our sunshine story on how we used to be one of the fastest growing economies globally. And here in this Parliament, when I was Minister of Finance, I did say that we were doing well. The current President and his government did make significant changes as well as make progress across the board in all areas as enshrined in the agenda for prosperity. We are all aware that the two major mining companies –London Mining and African Mineral halted operations and we were not able to receive resources from the export of iron ore.Economic activities slow down and particularly, the agriculture sector suffered 50% drop, and to a very large extent, the country’s economy was exposed to challenges,” he said.
Hon. Dickson Rogers suggested that NRA officials should engage all Ministries, Department and Agencies in order for them to assist in ensuring that no dollar be tolerated as most of them were in the business of collecting revenues, adding that the Central Bank should also send staff to all the commercial banks and assist in distributing the Leone currency to all airlines.
On her part, Hon Helen Kuyembeh promised to be fully involved in sensitizing communities and discouraging them about the use of dollar in all major transactions, stating that dollarization of the country’s economy was becoming a problem and must be gotten rid of.
She said the judiciary should be involved, stating that culprits should be given certain punishment and that the President should not only give his support, but should make sure that certain criteria are put to criminalize the use of dollar.