By Emma Ujah, Abuja Bureau Chief
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Tuesday, disappointed operators in the nation’s money market and other interests pushing for an interest rate cut, as it retained the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) at 14 per cent with +/- 200 and 500 asymmetric corridor.
Briefing the press at the end of 2017’s first Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, said that the Cash Reserve and the Liquidity Ratios were also retained at 22.5 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.
He disclosed that the nation’s foreign reserve has inched to $28.9 billion, but that the nation could still not afford to be reckless with the management of its foreign exchange.
Explaining the rationale for the decision to retain the rate, Mr. Emefiele said, “Conscious of the prevailing market sentiments in favour of a rate cut, the Committee reasoned that most of its decisions in 2016 were informed by the need to address the delicate balance between price stability and growth.
“Noting that the pressures on consumer prices were yet to abate and even as the economy continued to be in recession despite the intervention support by the Central Bank, the Committee stressed that it was not oblivious of the full ramifications of the economic challenges facing the country.
“The MPC was concerned that the current situation was not amenable to simplistic analyses and quick fixes such as have found expression and increased attention at different fora and the media.
“The domestic economic challenges which include a chronically import dependent consumption culture, lack of competitiveness of many sectors of the economy and yawning infrastructural gap, have combined with an unfavorable external environment to complicate the macroeconomic policy environment.
“The Monetary Authority had on many occasions, and to the extent feasible, taken extra-ordinary steps to support other policies as well as compensate for aspects of structural gaps in the economy even at the expense of its core mandate.”
Q & A
Power sector qualifies for manufacturers 60% forex allocation
According to the governor, the policy of setting aside 60 per cent of total foreign exchange available to banks for the manufacturing sector would continue, even as he added that operators in the nation’s electricity sector qualified for the 60 per cent forex priority for manufacturers and should take advantage of it.
His words, “The 60 per cent that has been set aside of all fx that is available to all the banks to manufacturers . we did that for a purpose because we felt that there is need to support manufacturing sector. There is need to ensure that foreign exchange is made available to those that will provide jobs and get the manufacturing and industrial outputs to look positive. And I am happy that the recent data released by the Nigerian Bureau of statistics has started to show that the PMI is looking upward.
“The 60 per cent that is set aside for the manufacturers, I dare say that those in the power sector also qualify for that because they are importing plants and equipment or components for their transformers and generators for their machines. I don’t mean generators that people will put in their houses and generate electricity for themselves. We will appeal to the banks to look in their directions increasingly.”
Reserve hits $28.9 b
On the nation’s foreign reserve he said, “I am happy to say that het reserve today is $28.9 billion. It is exciting to see this happen. But is there a need to float the Naira? It is important to note that we have to manage the reserve. That means from time to time we will intervene in the market to make sure the exchange rate does not go beyond our expectations and those interventions will be to moderate the rates as necessary.
“The fact that we have begun to see some accretions to the reserves does not mean we have to be reckless. We will continue the policy of ensuring that foreign exchange is made available to those who are importing raw materials, plants and equipment, those supporting agricultural sector and not those who want to engage in what I can regard as less important sectors.”
Mr. Emefiele, said that the apex bank would continue to work wotards closing the gap between the interbank and parallel market rates.
“Extra measures to close the gaps between the interbank rate and the parallel markets. We will continue to increase our interventions to make forex more available to the priority sectors and we believe that as we continue to do that the urge for people to continue to go to what I would regard as illegal market would continue to reduce,” he said.
The CBN boss, however decried criticisms of the exchange rate regime which he claimed many people erroneously considered as multiple.
His words, “It is important that I must not gloss over some of the things I have heard and read in the press regarding multiple rates: I have heard about Budget Rate, I have heard about black market rate and parallel market rate, I have heard about pilgrims rate , I have heard about airlines rate and all that.
“It is unfortunate and it is unfair that some of those we have read discussing this issue are those who have direct access to the CBN. What we would have expected is that they would talk to us. But I know that they know the objectives that they are pursuing is best known to them.
“Budget rate is forecast rate. Forecast rate or budgfet rate has always been there from history and it the rate that is used just to determine the budget and like you have heard, a budget is a forecast. It is tentative. That is why I don’t understand why people would use the byudget rate and say it determines the exchange rate in the market.
“The parallel and BDCs (Bureaux de Change) as far as I am concerned is one rate and I don’t understand the duplicity about the rate. “
According to him, “the rising wave of nationalistic ideologues across the West, the re-evaluation of trade agreements and the possibility of rapid monetary policy normalization in the United States”, could have adverse consequences for other countries, including Nigeria.
“The uncertainties underpinning the implementation of Brexit and the apparent retreat from globalisation and free trade were also important points of reflection.
“In recognition of the seemingly inevitable structural shift in the global economy, the Committee reiterated the need to be more inward looking and hasten efforts towards economic diversification to support the domestic economy and improve life for the Nigerian people. Consequently, members acknowledged the imperative of sectoral policies and greater coordination of monetary and fiscal policy,” he said.