Liberians suffer from worn notes crisis

By: Jonathan Paye-Layleh
© BBC World Service

100 Liberian dollar note
The "mutilated" banknotes have affected the economy

Liberia is struggling with a rebellion in the north and northwest of the country, but another crisis has broken out that is making life much harder for Liberians.

Business people now refuse to take "mutilated" banknotes.

In Liberia today, you cannot be sure how much money you have in your pocket as some of the notes may be rejected for being in a poor state.

Will the Governor's warning make a difference?
Business people, from roadside peddlers to supermarkets, do not accept banknotes that are slightly torn, let alone those that are "mutilated".

When I paid for a pair of radio batteries in the GreenLand Supermarket on Monrovia's Tubman Boulevard this week, the Lebanese merchant rejected one of the five Liberian dollar notes.

The issue is a topic of discussion everywhere.

Beggars, too

Daily, housewives return angry and frustrated from the market, complaining that they could not buy goods because their notes were refused.

The "mutilated" banknotes issue is so serious that families have had to go hungry for days while keeping bundles of slightly damaged notes.

Liberia went through six years of civil war

Hospitals, cinemas, petrol stations, drugstores, clinics and restaurants - all adhere to the practice.

As a result, even street beggars are now reluctant to accept worn banknotes since they, too, cannot use them anywhere.

There are no coins in circulation at the moment.

The local currency was introduced in 1999, in five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 Liberian dollar denominations.

The money was meant to replace the two distinct currencies that existed each on one side of Liberia when the country was divided on factional lines, with the armed faction of President Charles Taylor controlling one side.

Central Bank Governor Elie Saaleby this week warned people not to refuse "mutilated" notes, but it is not the first time the governor has issued a warning without success.

Thursday, 17 October, 2002, 17:03 GMT 18:03 UK

uploaded by: Robert W. Kranz  2002