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Nigeria: CBN Doubles Down in Fight Against Spiraling Inflation

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reiterated its commitment to continue to take steps to control the country’s spiraling inflation which rose to 22.04 per cent in April.

This was just as the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) yesterday, urged the federal government to reverse the newly introduced Fiscal Policy Measures (FPM) and Tariff Amendment for 2023, scheduled to take effect from 1st June, 2023, which it described as a landmine for manufacturers and other businesses in the affected sectors of the economy.

At 22.04 per cent, inflation in the country is at 17-year high, the highest since 2005.

Speaking at the opening session of a two-day retreat organised by the Monetary Policy Department of the CBN, with the theme: “Monetary Targeting Policy Framework in Nigeria – An Appraisal of its Continued Relevance to the Price Stability Mandate,” in Lagos, at the weekend, CBN’s Deputy Governor, Economic Policy Directorate, Dr. Kingsley Obiora, pointed out that inflation in Nigeria was far from where the central bank wants it to be.

He, however noted that the global economy was in dire straits in terms of the fight against inflation, which globally has remained high.

“So, when you come back to Nigeria, our financial system is still stable, but we cannot deny that there are spillovers from these global issues occurring all around the world. Inflation in Nigeria is not anywhere where we want it to be. A child that was born the last time we had single-digit inflation is already in primary two. So, you can imagine have double-digit inflation for the last seven or eight years, that is a lot. So, the retreat that will last over the last two days is really timely,” Obiora explained.

According to him, “If you look at the key objectives of monetary policy, whether in the university, the central bank or a global financial institution, they are price stability, but as you can attest from what is going on in the world today, global inflation is anything but stable.

“We know that right now it is projected to be at 6.6 per cent for 2023. But if you look at country by country, you will find out that we are really in dire strait when it comes to global inflation. For example, 32 per cent of countries in the world today have registered inflation at greater than 10 per cent.

“If you look at Europe for example, over 45 per cent of European countries have inflation that is greater than 10 per cent and within the countries that account for 85 per cent of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 65 per cent of that slice have inflation greater than five per cent.

“So, that is a big headache that monetary policy is trying to grapple with at this point in time. Of course, inflation is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end. Obviously, we know that a lot of central banks have been going through aggressive tightening to fight inflation. But that aggressive tightening including from the CBN seems to be having an effect on financial stability around the world.”

Furthermore, Obiora pointed out that the present global headwinds, has resulted in the collapse of some financial institutions, namely Credit Swiss of Switzerland and Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and First Republic Bank in the United States.

“Now, in the last 40 years, we have had about 90 banks in the US, with assets of over $1 billion collapse. Just to put it in perspective how difficult or how bad things are right now, of those 90 banks with assets of over $1 billion actually collapsed in the last one month. Look at the amount of assets that these three that collapsed own, they are actually in the top four of the largest banks that collapsed in the US.

“The only bank that is larger than them that collapsed was Washington Mutual that collapsed in 2008, during the global financial crisis of 2007/2008. So, my point is that the three banks that collapsed in the last one month are seriously significant banks, holding assets of over $200 billion each. So, when you come back to Nigeria and look at the fact that in all of these, our financial system is still stable, but we cannot deny that there are spillovers from these global issues occurring all around the world. So, this retreat is timely.”

In his opening remarks, the Director, Monetary Policy Department, CBN, Dr. Hassan Mahmud, expressed confidence that the retreat would produce outcomes that would instigate policy reforms in the CBN as the Bank strives to achieve its core price stability mandate.

He said in recent years, monetary policy has had to contend with shocks of increasingly new dimensions, ranging from the global financial crisis between 2007 and 2009; various oil price shocks, the COVID-19 pandemic and most recently, the war between Russia and Ukraine.

According to him, these developments have resulted in various shocks to the global economy, requiring changing responses to subdue both the monetary and fiscal authorities in the advanced and emerging economies.

“At the CBN, we migrated over the years from the Exchange Rate Targeting Framework to a Monetary Targeting Framework and a subsequent veiled attempt at a phased migration to Inflation Targeting, adopting a hybrid approach between the Monetary Targeting Framework with elements of Inflation Targeting.

“Monetary targeting is a policy framework that involves setting a target for monetary aggregate, such as the money supply, and adjusting monetary policy to achieve that target. In the case of Nigeria, monetary targeting was adopted as the main policy framework since the 1990s, focusing on controlling the growth of money supply to achieve price stability.

“However, over time, the effectiveness of monetary targeting in achieving price stability in Nigeria has been called into question. One of the main challenges has been the difficulty of accurately measuring and controlling money supply in the face of financial innovation and the growth of non-bank financial institutions. In addition, the relationship between money supply and inflation has become less predictable in recent years, further complicating the use of monetary targeting as a policy tool,” he explained.

NECA to FG: Reverse New Fiscal Policy Measure, Its Landmine for Manufacturers, Other Businesses

Meanwhile, NECA has urged the federal government to reverse the newly introduced FPM and Tariff Amendment for 2023, scheduled to take effect from 1st June, 2023, which it described as a landmine for manufacturers and other businesses in the affected sectors of the economy.

The Director-General of NECA, Mr. Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, stated this yesterday, in a press statement that was titled, “The Fiscal Policy Measures and Tariff Amendment: NECA Urges a Reversal,” that the fiscal policy measure, as proposed would neither promote economic growth nor achieve the long-term revenue projections of the government.

Oyerinde, said , “the circular by the Honourable Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning introducing the FPM and Tax Amendment, with increases ranging from 20 per cent – 100 per cent on previously approved rates for alcoholic beverages, tobacco, wines and spirits as well as the introduction of Green tax (10 per cent excise duty on single use plastics, including plastic containers, films and bags) and telecommunications tax of five per cent is not only worrisome, but also a landmine for businesses in the sector.”

He opined that, “while the government’s new Fiscal Policy Measures would largely affect manufacturers, it also has the potential to disrupt the whole organised private sector’s value-chain, with consequential effects on Nigerians as a whole.”

Oyerinde, stated clearly that while the OPS understood the revenue challenges faced by government, “the proposed increases will naturally spike the cost of production and reduce the competitiveness of Nigerian manufacturers in both local and international markets.

“With recent reports of unemployment rate hovering over 40 per cent, the Nigerian economy will be further hard-pressed to withstand the likely loss of jobs that follow these increases.”

He averred that, “it is no secret that Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) to Nigeria has continued to slump as the country recorded only $1.06 billion in capital importation in the fourth quarter (Q4) of 2022. This brought total capital importation for the 2022 fiscal year to $5.33 billion, the lowest since 2017.

“A major factor is government’s seeming policy inconsistencies, which makes planning difficult. Beyond these consequences, the proposed increases, if implemented could aggravate smuggling, stifle growth of businesses in the sector, promote the production of fake products, reduce the purchasing power of Nigerians and ultimately reduce government’s projected revenue across board.”

While calling on the federal government to suspend the implementation of the newly introduced Fiscal Policy Measure and maintain status quo of no excise increase as prescribed in the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures approved by the President earlier in 2022, the director general of NECA also argued that, “government should, as a matter urgency and national importance suspend the implementation of the Fiscal Policy Measure and Tariff Amendment as currently proposed and revert to the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measure roadmap, built to expire in 2024, while extensive consultation with organised businesses is stepped up.

“With over 60 different taxes and levies currently being paid by organised businesses and about 20 bills pending at the National Assembly with financial implications for businesses, the best that Government can do is not to over-burden the sector or cause the relocation of many more to other climes.

“The fiscal policy measure, as proposed will neither promote economic growth nor achieve the long-term revenue projection of government.”

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