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Sierra Leone
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Citizens bemoan low circulation of coins

…but BSL says they are in full circulation

August 2, 2016 By Regina Pratt

The Leone coins, which is legal tender of the Republic of Sierra Leone, is apparently in short supply and circulation at the moment, thus leading local monetary experts to conclude that the situation could have a negative impact on the consumer market.

Before now, Leone coins were in full circulation as vendors could be seen on major streets in the commercial business district of the capital, Freetown, buying and selling coins. But the coin changers, it seems, were put out of business after a government crackdown.

Many people we spoke to are of the opinion that the scarcity of coins could be blame on the government crackdown.

The Bank of Sierra Leone is the authorised institution responsible for printing of the country’s legal tender.

According to the bank’s Public Relations Officer, Beresford Taylor, sufficient coins have been printed and in circulation and that the bank had issued enough to commercial banks to pay their customers.

Although the Bank of Sierra Leone claims that coins are in circulation, Concord Times learnt during the cause of this investigation that coins are almost in disuse, leading to an informal price increase of certain basic commodities and services.

However, Taylor told Concord Times that the central bank was yet to receive information or complaint about the public’s refusal to use or accept coins, noting that they are the country’s legal tender and must be used by the public.

The Leone coins are minted in the following denominations: Fifty Leones, One Hundred Leones, and Five Hundred Leones. But they are seemingly scarcely in circulation in the market recently.

Pa Brima, who owns a small provision shop at Tengbeh Town, west of Freetown, told Concord Times that he was finding it difficult to sell some of his items due to the scarcity of Leone coins.

“The price for an envelope is Three Hundred Leones, Two Hundred Leones for a needle, and Two Hundred Leones for a bag of tea leaf. But I sometimes find it difficult to issue out change in return to customers. Therefore, either they bear the brunt or I bear it because of the scarcity of Leone coins,” he said.

Pensioner, A. B. John, said he does not receive coins as part of his monthly pension payment from the commercial bank, although money due him includes few hundred Leones which ought to be paid in coins.

Thus, he, like Pa Brima, may be losing a handsome amount of money spanning a period of time because of limited trading in coins.

Mr John also blames supermarkets owners and other businesses for not pricing their goods in coin denominations, adding that such was among reasons for the scarcity of the shiny hard currency in the market.

“In the past years when I used to go shopping at the supermarket, most of the prices had coins as part of the payment for goods bought. But as time goes by, coins started  disappearing in the price tags, thus causing unnecessary price increase,” he said.

A sales woman at one of the NP Petrol Stations in Freetown, who only identified herself as Kadi, said they hardly issue coins as change when motorists purchase fuel because they do not have enough coins, adding that they seldom sell a litre of fuel – which cost Le3,750 – to customers as a result. Consequently, purchasers have had to part with Le4, 000 instead of the official price stated by the government.

Asked whether they sell a litre of fuel at Le4,000.00 because of scarcity of coins, she replied in the negative, but was quick to admit that most customers would not ask for their change as they already know there is scarcity of coins.

However, that was not an issue for a cashier at A. Genet and Co. on Lightfoot-Boston Street, who preferred anonymity. The outlet does printing, photocopying and other services to the public. He told Concord Times that they always get their supply of coins from the Sierra Leone Commercial Bank.

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