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17.02.2005 Feature Article

Preserving Ghana's Precious Currency

By GNA
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A GNA feature by Eric Kwao Sowah

Koforidua, Feb. 17, GNA I could hardly understand the driver's mate as he refused to accept the money handed to him by the passenger. I looked at him with disbelief. I said to myself I would have refused to pay him had it been me.

I then took a five thousand-cedi note from my pocket and looked carefully at what was written on it. 'This note is issued on statutory authority and is legal tender for the payment of any amount'. Is this driver's mate ignorant of what was written on the currency note? I asked myself.

Upon closer examination of the 'rejected' money, however, I then bowed my head in shame as I thought I had jumped into hasty conclusion and behaved too scholarstic. The money which looked dirty and worn out had been held together by a substance believed to be kenkey or banku. I wouldn't have accepted it either.

Most Ghanaians fancy fresh currency notes so much that they prefer stacking them in their pockets to using them. They even queue just to have one currency note or two in their pockets when the government releases new currency notes into circulation.

But how long do these new currency notes get protected? A look at some worn out currency notes bring to mind whether it wasn't these same currencies that were judiciously protected some few months or weeks ago. The notable reckless attitude of Ghanaians in handling government property brings to question the maintenance culture that has eluded the country for some time now.

Some Ghanaian currencies are so worn out or become so dirty that one is ashamed handling them, much more accepting them. The once cherished one thousand-cedi note is now an eyesore. I will not be wrong when I say that half of these one thousand-cedi notes have celotape stuck around their 'waist' to keep them intact. Some also have some funny characteristics.

Next time, take a critical look at most of these notes with celotapes and you would have noticed that some of the currencies are entirely two different currency notes with different serial numbers that are joined together.

But what about the other high currencies notes, are they of any good shape? It is ironic that some of the newly-printed 10,000-cedi and 20,000-cedi notes even looked dirtier and older than those that have existed for a long time.

Our market women are notable offenders when it comes to bad handling of the Ghanaian cedi. The edges of most of our currencies are torn off as a result of myths.

According to one of such myths, the tearing of the edges of these currency help protect it from being taken away by witches. But do we blame such market women for believing in such myths? Over the years people who claimed to be witches have confessed as having been responsible for the disappearance of several million of cedis from these women.

The US dollar and the British pounds sterling are two major foreign currencies that Ghanaians protect and keep safely. But why hasn't the cedi received the same respect and treatment?

Some people have turned the Ghanaian currency into private notebooks in which lotto and telephone numbers are written on. A whole direction is scribed on some monies and it becomes difficult to accept the rational behind such motives.

Whiles others decide to save with the banks, others, due to ignorance, have resorted to certain unorthodox ways of saving money. Some people put it under their pillows whiles others hide them in thatch roofs to the extent of exposing them to termites. Others go to the extent of saving money by adding pepper, charcoal and even salt to them. All in the name of myths which contribute greatly to the deteriorating nature of the country's currencies.

Where are the banks? Is it a matter of convenience that some people choose to save their monies in such a manner or have lost their trust in these banks. Strangely enough, these traditional ways of keeping monies had contributed much to the loss of millions of cedis as most of these monies are left at the mercy of termites and even thieves.

One other bad practice that has been noted and which would continue to make the currency note look bad is soiling our currencies with palm oil, paints and ink. The earlier something is done about this the better.

The giver and the taker are both guilty. Drivers in their attempt to bribe whoever they may have run into, squeeze monies to be given out in a away as to outwit the vigilant eyes of prying passengers, resulting in the softening of most of these currency notes.

There are people who just fancy removing the aluminum foil placed in between the currency notes. Is it through sheer ignorance that such acts are perpetuated or the foils are used for another thing that one may not be aware of. Removing such foils tend to weaken and destroy notes that the government had acquired with millions of the tax payer's money. .. There is the need for vigorous public education. I don't think the banks are happy with the millions of worn out and torn cedis in their vaults. These monies may be sent to Bank of Ghana, but may not solve the habit of bad handling of the currency notes.

The Bank of Ghana as the 'father' of all banks should intensify its public education on how the currency notes should be handled. I don't think continuous printing of currency notes without its attendant protection would do any one any good.

The commercial and the rural banks should come together to devise a public education strategy through which the public could be continuously sensitized on the need to properly handle monies anytime they come to transact business. I think the banks are doing a lot but I don't think that is enough.

We all need to get involved for the 'rescue' of our cherish currency. I don't think the banks alone could 'rescue' the deteriorating currency notes. We all need to develop positive attitude towards the handling of the Ghanaian currency notes that come our way. Feb.17 05

GNA
GNA, © 2005

The author has 219 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: GNA

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