​COVID-19: Another lockdown’ll wound economy — CBN

…Worries over rising public debt
The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, yesterday warned the Federal Government (FG) against imposing another total lockdown of the country, saying such a move would be catastrophic to Nigerians and the economy.

Meanwhile, the apex bank has retained the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 11.5 per cent, the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) at 27.5 per cent, the Liquidity Ratio (LR) at 30 per cent and the asymmetric corridor of +100/-700 basis points around the MPR.

These were contained in the statement of the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, at the end of the apex bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) first meeting of the year in Abuja yesterday.

Consequences of total lockdown

Emefiele stated: “While expressing understanding of the public health dilemma of the recent spike in infections (COVID-19), MPC encouraged the government not to consider a wholesome lockdown of the Nigerian economy so as not to reverse the current gains of the stimulus earlier provided in 2020.”

Giving more reasons why a total lockdown is not advisable, he explained: “As long as we see that there is second wave of COVID-19 even in Nigeria, while we are trying to convince government not to adopt the wholesome lockdown because that will be catastrophic for everybody and the economy, we would extend by 12 months again interest rate of five percent for CBN intervention funds.

“It will result in losses for us particularly if we see yields going up but we think these should be also CBN contributions to ensure that interest rate particularly for our intervention funds which are targeted to either households, or SMEs, Agric, Health sector, pharmaceuticals, that will increase manufacturing output, we would continue to support it, we would continue to do so”.

Why policy rates were retained

Speaking on the rationale for retaining the MPR and other policy rates at current levels for the second time since September last year, the CBN Governor stated: “The MPC was of the view, that whereas there may be wisdom in loosening, given that the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in constrained activities, disruption to supply chain and suppress aggregate demand, an accommodative stance may be required to stimulate credit expansion and boost recovery in the short term.

“The Committee was also of the view that an expansionary policy would enable the monetary authorities to convince the financial institutions to reduce loan pricing and defer interest and principal repayments to critically affected obligors in a sustainable manner.

“On the flip side, MPC also opined that an aggressive expansionary stance may worsen both inflation and the negative real interest rate, thereby resulting in negative consequences on exchange rate.

“With regard to tightening, MPC concluded that this may run contrary to its objectives of providing affordable credit to households, MSMEs, Agriculture, and other output growth and employment stimulating sectors of the economy.

“MPC was therefore of the view that it should pursue its current stance of systematic synchronization of monetary and fiscal policy accommodation through its developmental finance initiatives, aimed at mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians.”

Injects N2trn into the economy

Stressing that the monetary policy in 2021 will be focussed on measures to boost economic growth, Emefiele disclosed that the apex bank has already injected N2 trillion into the economy through its various intervention funds.

He said: “In light of the on-going synchronized efforts by the monetary and fiscal authorities to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bank has committed substantial amount of money towards this objective. Indeed, total disbursements as at January 2021 amounted to N2.0 trillion.

“COVID-19 Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) meant for household and small businesses, wherein we have disbursed N192.64 billion to 426,016 beneficiaries. We have also disbursed N106.96 billion to 27,956 beneficiaries under the Agri-Business Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), while in the Health Care Support Intervention Facility, we have disbursed N72.96 billion to 73 project that comprise 26 pharmaceutical projects and 47 Hospitals and Health Care Services Project in the country.

“To support the provision of employment opportunities for the Nigerian youth, the Central Bank of Nigeria also provided financial support through the Creative Industry Financing Initiative and Nigerian Youth Investment Fund amounting to N3.12 billion with 320 beneficiaries and N268 million with 395 beneficiaries, respectively.

“On enhancing power supply, the Bank has so far, provided N18.58 billion for the procurement of 347,853 electricity reading meters to Discos in support of the National Mass Metering Programme.”

Concerns over N32trn debt

The MPC also expressed concern over the nation’s huge public debt which stood at N52.2 trillion as at the end of September last year, the committee advised the FG to take advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) to boost economic growth and government revenue.

Emefiele said: “Committee expressed concern over the rising public debt stock, as recurrent expenditure remained relatively high, compared with capital expenditure, thus, signalling future debt servicing challenges.

“To improve Government revenue sources and investment in capital, the Committee called on the Government to take advantage of the take-off of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which could boost domestic production and generate sizeable revenues for Government, as well as improve domestic productivity and competitiveness.”

Repatriation of export proceeds

Speaking of efforts by the CBN to foreign exchange supply into the country, Emefiele said the apex bank has set a deadline of January 31st this year for all exporters to comply with the requirements of Form NXP by repatriating proceeds of their exports into the country.

He said: Going forward we will give more support to export sector financing at a concessionary interest rate so that these people and companies can generate export proceeds that will come to fund our obligations in the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window.

“And we are going to ensure that if you are an exporter you must complete the NXP form. Because if you want to import into Nigeria today, tangible items, you must fill Form M, IF you want to pay for intangible items, you must fill Form A, by our regulation, if you want to export, you must fill NXP. “We will no longer tolerate any situation where people want to conduct export activities, without filling the NXP. form.

“We have held several engagements with Nigerian Customs, we have held several engagements with the shipping lines, and they have committed that no export will be done without completing NXP, because NXP is the only way we can regulate the export activities taking place in the country.

“Through NXPs we will know those who have repatriated or those who have not repatriated their export proceeds into the country.

“We have been begging, cajoling, through moral suasion, telling those who have exported to repatriate their export proceeds.

“The CBN will not tolerate it if you conduct an export activity and you keep the dollars abroad. You are by law mandated to repatriate those export proceeds into Nigeria.

“If you refuse to, the CBN has the powers by law to prevent you from conducting banking activities in the Nigerian banking industry, and we would do so. We have a target of January 31st for everybody to comply”.

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