State Of The Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?

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This is a key role as enshrined in the Act establishing it. We know that every player in a soccer game is expected to work toward scoring goals for his team for its pleasure and that of the team’s fans/country. A disaster sets in where we have an “own goal”, where displeasure sets in.

Similarly, if a doctor gives a wrong prescription or fails to diagnose correctly, cure will fail to be achieved or even fatality, death, may arise.

secretsWe doubt not of the fact that; the proper functioning of money is extremely valuable in terms of promoting economic efficiency. Thus, the CBN tries to always regulate the supply of money so that it is sufficiently scarce that it can serve as a store of value.

Sometimes however, it does so forgetting that money must, yet be, sufficiently abundant that there is enough for it to service all the desired transactions. Therefore, the banking sector, the CBN system tries to regulate, must be sufficiently robust and stable. It must provide, (and be seen to be doing so) proper incentives for lending to go to viable and plausible projects, rather than wildly risky ones.

The level of price rise over the last one year had been enormous. Those that carry out the responsibility for its measure, place it at 16.8%, quite high by any measure. Individuals even see it differently placed it more than double what it was at last year when prices of rice, maize, sugar and more were at N8,500, N4,000 and N6,500 respectively and now at N17,000, N15,000 and N15,000. People even take it to electoral front by saying that it is not the change they voted for. Households ration their consumptions and change their way of life. Effects have reached children education and even stable food on the table. Family, social and even family relationships are threatened.

The CBN might have, or obviously, looked at the situation as resultant of cash supply, whether from the banking system or which ever source a control of the banking sector can also stem.

As a cure, therefore, the CBN raised its rate from 12% to 14%. However, this prescription, we believe, is wrong. If such a prescription has any effect on our financial system, even though Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, the then President, once said that our economy has defied all economic principles, will only worsen our travails.

The source of the inflation killing us today is not money supply. It is not also prosperity. It is recession, as we see with the IMF’s forecast reversal from a positive to a negative (-1.8%) growth. It is not from increased salary pay-out.

Indeed, it is lack of these that face us today. We are in recession, at least that is what our Ministers of Finance and that of Budget and Planning tell us. Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun admitted the country “is technically in economic recession”; though believe we can come out of it shortly by dwelling on where we are going – as reported by Daily Trust on July 22nd, 2016.

The Minister of Budget and Planning, Mr. Udoma accepts same but disagrees with the IMF – thus “we expect to be marginally positive by the end of this year.” Salaries are owed by many states; and companies have, mostly, performed poorly last year which also translates into their dividend pay-out.

Government are only advertising for jobs, and thus, not paying for them, yet. So far, only about N300bn has been released and only nominally, too, from a capital budget of over N6.06 trillion, just about 5%. The Federation Account had been sharing about 50% of last year’s allocation in the last 11 months, except this month (July 2016) when about N550 billion was shared up from the usual sum of about N250billion to N300billion monthly.

Again, lending by banks had been tight. Banks hardly lend out. Further, the level of “hand out” being given by mostly corrupt persons has almost dried out due to the government corruption war, now being waged. People now stay within the basic need, in fact at their bare. Capital and fixed assets markets have crashed; especially housing and tokunmbo cars. So where is the money?

There seems to be consensus on the real causes of the current inflation; at least outside the CBN. The foreign exchange has seen changes within this period more than ever, in both official under the CBN and in the private markets; Banks and Bureau de change. The dollar had moved from N196 and N230 to about N282 and N374 respectively.

With our near total dependence on imported goods, the translation in the rise in their prices is obvious. The pump price of petrol had moved from N86 to a cap of N145.

Transportation of persons and goods has to absorb this through their prices. Prices for services of, even, business centres and barber shops saw rises. What we pay for electricity also moved by about 85%, affecting everything on its way. Added to this, capacity utilization in our remaining factories shrunk affecting quality supplied to the market.

Again, the positive control of our boarders against smuggling meant fewer good across the border translating into higher prices to cover drop in quantity and increased risk. So, a cocktail of these factors have come together to raise our inflation level and not money supply.

The government, right from the campaign, has made it very clear that a priority would be placed in getting cost of borrowing down, to a single digit. This, it is believed, will bring the cost of doing business and owning assets down. On the side of the banks, this will also stem the incidence of default and bad debts, thus strengthening their balance sheets and confidence in the financial institution.

The economy is in recession and cash strapped. The Minister of budget and planning pledged that, with what the government has planned to do, the economy will come out of the recession by the year end. This is saying that what is contained in the budget, will, if adequately implemented; give adequate injection into the economy as to stimulate it to come to life. Therefore, stimulation is another key objective of government now.

To date, what we see are only advertisements for the expansion spending. When the jobs are eventually rolled out, spending toward execution will see money changing hands, enhancing both demand and supply – leading to increased production and growth. We can then expect a resultant inflation as a result of this, as growth comes with some level of affluence.

Even then, the least the CBN should do is to take action that limits availability of loanable fund. Further contraction of the financial system will further worsen the already bad liquidity contraction situation. The focus of government, and indeed, the CBN is, in the overall, and should be, to loosen the belt for people to take in air freely, or at least more comfortably.

When Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at its 251st sitting and the CBN announced the increase of the benchmark interest from 12 to 14 percent, the governor said it was part of the measure to attract foreign capital and check headline inflation.

However, it is doubtful if any of the two objectives can be met. Foreign capital is attracted to, all things being equal, profitable environment, while inflation controls are only effective if they attack the root cause of the inflation. Interest rate measures are aimed at controlling money supply – which we have seen earlier as not the cause of this inflation. Rather, we see possibility of it negatively pushing the economy in a number of ways.

One such is shifting the objective of the Government in bringing the lending rate further away from the desired single digit to a likely region of 27% – 28%. This will surely bring more hardship to people and organizations already liable to banks – the practice of banks being to adjust rate without recourse to borrowers. Business will hardly cope with additional cost thus, worsening their profitability. Poor income and balance sheet affect stock price.

Thus, this action will have a weakening effect on foreigners’ interest in Nigerian businesses. New loans will be less attractive (in line with the objective of the policy), thereby killing, weakening expansion and growth. Inversely, the drop in production with rising demand may push the inflation further up.

Second, as a consequence to the falling activity above, the already bad unemployment situation may further worsen as firms disengage staff while at the same time enjoying high prices for small quantity produced.

Third, jobs or contracts already executed with borrowed funds and not paid for may turn out to be unprofitable leading to possible defaults and bad debts. The spread allowable for jobs is usually around 30% and often not paid for over a period of one year. With interest compounding monthly, the final cost is better only imagined.

Fourth, the Government advertised jobs may not be executed because of funding problems. This will mean the multiplier effect expected from the expansionary spending may not be achieved. This can leave the state of our infrastructure in a perpetual deplorable state, thus slowing or even reversing the country’s match towards greatness.

Fifth, the combined effect of one to four consequences listed above, is to send the economy further into recession. This will cause a lot of damage to the political goodwill of the Government which can create unpalatable consequence.

Daily Trust of July 27th has summarized, in a pictorial form, the effect of raising interest rates to include: increase in the cost of borrowing; increase in mortgage interest payments; increased incentive to save rather than spend; increase the value of Naira; falls in consumption and investment; increase in government debt interest payment and discourages investment.

Expectedly, as a way out of the current situation, both monetary and fiscal overseers should come together and complement each other as a way of finding solutions to the economic woes we face. Suggestions would include for the CBN to key into the Government’s desire in achieving a single digit interest rate, thereby designing a frame work and a time table for achieving same.

Without doubt, the benefits of low interest rates far outweigh those of high rates. The sooner we achieve that the better, else our economy would hardly attain prosperity. It can be observed that, in countries with low interest rates, venture capitalist still have to do a lot to augment bank lending as a way of saying even the low rates can be a burden on start ups.

Second, such collaboration should see division of responsibility, in such a way that government efforts in providing incentives through grants and other forms of support should not conflict with those offered by the CBN – either directly or through the banks.

Third, interventions and support from international donors, creditors and governments can be better understood and put in proper perspective in line with the second above. This will reduce duplication and ensure proper planning and even monetary controls.

Fourth, an overall goal should be determined and agreed upon. For this moment, it is obvious that or this moment that we are in recession, the objective is none other than growth. A reasonable and a more economic reality is therefore, to stimulate the economy with expansionary fiscal disbursement which the CBN should favour.

Fifth, in line with the Chinese Loans for reviving and modernizing the railways, critical areas should be identified – infrastructure, housing, education and health, with potential for boosting local economy with high local contents, then international and local financiers can be given good incentives to come in.

Clearly, the provision made in the budget for capital is inadequate for the level of stimulation required to energize the economy, nor is one year adequate. Very huge and ambitious projects, that can last years with potential for not only cash injections but for propelling the economy, are needed.

I suggested, elsewhere, that in transport, construction of super high motor ways and railways, criss-crossing the entire length and breadth of this Nation should be pursued. Further, time is not on our side. The world cannot wait for us to drag on. Fortunately, we now have a leadership the world respects. The environment clime has greatly improved – insecurity and corruption have been sufficiently tackled.

In conclusion, yes, we are truly faced with an inflationary economy, one occasioned not by money supply but by a variety of other factors. Thus, seeking to cure it by control of money supply will amount to wrong prescription. This will not only fail to solve the problem but create a worst situation.

The real causes had been increase in prices of foreign currency; petrol and electricity. Others are enhancement of boarder controls and fall in output. Boarder controls act as incentive to the Agricultural sector. The high price the farmers now enjoy, though will flatten out after harvest, is an encouragement in the sector. Prices of other items including petroleum will tilt towards equilibrium with greater competition. In any case, working collectively by both monetary and fiscal regulators can help in getting not only the inflation under control but in getting out of the current recession.

Although, some may argue that these recommendations may tamperwith the autonomy and independence of the CBN. I totally disagree. Collaboration strengthens independence, and above all, understanding and collective goal attainment. These are all critical for national match to greatness.

 

HARUNA Y. SA’EED,

Former Accountant General of Kaduna State and the Pioneer ES, NEITI, wrote from Kaduna.

Regards

Fejiro Oliver (Investigative Journalist & Human Rights Activist)

Editorial Board Chairman of the SecretsReporters News Crew (www.secretsreporter.com)

Member: British Project Professional Managers

Professional Member: Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ) USA

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of NewsRescue

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