Why Leones and Cents are becoming so volatile with Sierra Leonean citizens
Texas, USA May 17, 2013 – In my country, Sierra Leone, respecting currency is one of the most patriotic things a citizen can do. Our currency is identified as Leones and cents. In Sierra Leone, the role of government and institutions of development, in my opinion, should be governed in a democratic manner as well as with a more strict approach towards individuals and their lack of patriotism regarding our currency. It came to my attention that many of us Sierra Leoneans respect other foreign currencies (Dollar and Euro) more than our unique, “Leones and cents.” This behavior has contributed to the need for change, creating a new era. (Photo: Sanpha Sesay, author)
The Leones and Cents should be an instrument of national symbolism that every Sierra Leonean has to respect no matter what. We have to be aware of our national currency (Leones and Cents) as it represents our national identity. We should all consider it as great national pride in doing business. We should also be aware that every Sierra Leonean owes a duty and obligation to love and respect our currency.
Over the years, it has become common to all Sierra Leoneans to use foreign currencies as a medium of exchange in doing business with anyone living abroad. The United States Dollar and the European (Euro) currencies have become more common in the capital of our country, “Freetown”. In the eyes of visitors, our currency is less symbolic in terms of spending and doing business simply because merchants want to maximize profits. This is an example of less patriotic individuals who risk the value of our currency placing it in a volatile atmosphere. The choice should be simple, and up to visitors to make transactions with the worthy Leones and Cents.
Education has taught me that patriotism is an individual or collective loyalty and love for your motherland; members of a country or nation who have deep affection of their country. Many of us who love our country, Sierra Leone, should conform to the national pledge and respect the medium of exchange at all times. Transacting business with foreign currency with a fellow Sierra Leonean, whether home or abroad, is an abuse to the value of our currency, I think. Be aware that abusing your currency or taking advantage of any government systems and programs to maximize profit, is a terrible way to show love and respect for your country.
We should bear in mind that our medium of exchange in the Sierra Leone is superior and recognized by the United Nations, NOT Dollar or Euro currencies. Today, from the local market areas like Belgium, an organized black market-place near Connaught Hospital, stretching to the last village in Kailahun District, almost everyone understands and respects the US Dollar currency more that our Leones and cents. Here are some of the facts I have to ascertain my points.
In attending a grand wedding at Waterloo in January 2012, my suspicions were proven. As the bride approached the podium everyone honored her with gifts of different types and money. I did not have Leones in my pocket at the time so I decided to shower the bride with five one dollar bills as my gift to the couple. The round of applause overshadowed all other gifts even those who ushered the bride hundreds and more thousand Leones.
Another incident occurred at a village in Kenema District. My friend was on vacation and he was ready to return to the United States. As a tradition, he has to give money to the closest family members on the day of his departure. He gave his step-mom Le50,000 saying goodbye to her. His step-mom declined the money as she remarked, “After many years abroad you are only going to give me Le50,000?” As you may know, people from America are very smart. My friend’s voice of education taught him to do something else in order to satisfy his step-mom. He replied, “Okay mama, I will give you the dollars”. It was $10.00. It is unbelievable! My friend disclosed to me that his step-mom whispered to him slowly and said, “Do not tell anyone that you gave me dollars”. She was so excited that she had to sing every type of song to praise the gesture. The ten dollars saved the “Just Came (JC)” from the oppression and witches his step-mom may have been ready to impose on him. The big question is, “Where does the notion come from”? Simple! It comes from Freetown and other areas where rent, properties, and transportation are now based in dollars.
It is very common in Freetown to all land and house owners setting their properties to law firms for sale in dollars. Many landlords who think they have luxurious homes also unreasonable renting their homes to tenants who willing to pay in dollars. I learned from sources that there is a ferry crossing people to Lungi also charging people to pay in dollars. This is absolutely ridiculous.
There is a widespread misconception among Sierra Leoneans with unworthy cogitations that people are living abroad and easily making money. Those conceited thoughts warrant people doing business abroad that the cost should be enormous. They believe that when you charge in foreign currency they should automatically accumulate maximum profit. Let me state it that it is not easy to save money, in America in particular. Some people have to work sixteen hours a day to be able to pay their bills. Any decision to make a venture to Sierra Leone from America is a huge sacrifice.
In a world of free market economy and democracy, it seems acceptable to make a profit in business regardless of the currency, but looks healthier more when you show respect to your local currency. When you respect your currency, it is a feeling of reminiscence and love for your country which is part of patriotism. This is the kind of mentality I am speaking of. Patriotism is not only saluting the national flag, singing the national anthem, voting for the candidate of your choice, or serving in political office, it is to also honor and respect the legal tender of your country.
My recommendations are:
First, civic education by the institution of Attitudinal and Behavioral Change (ABC) should step in to educate citizens about the importance of our currency and how they should operate side-by-side with foreign currencies. Secondly, the government has a choice as it pertains to the acceptance of black market foreign currency; either it is good for the country otherwise, ban it. Thirdly, the justice department should not condone or accept the legality of buying and selling property in a foreign currency. Finally, journalists should view this fact carefully and use their weapons of pens and papers to bring notoriety to this issue. I am doing a survey on the advantages and disadvantages of the legality of foreign currency black marketing in our country. In the next article, I will include views form major economic experts in the country and some experts in the university that I am attending. Stay tuned.
Sanpha Sesay, Texas Correspondent
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