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Economist seeks intervention to stem volatility in forex market

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Forex

An Economist, Dr Muda Yusuf, has charged the monetary authorities to provide a sustainable intervention framework, to ensure the moderation of current volatility in the foreign exchange market.

Yusuf, also founder, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPE), said this via a statement in Lagos.

He noted that while the volatility in the foreign exchange market was naturally unsettling, it was not unexpected given the long period of distortions in the foreign exchange market.

According to him, correcting the entrenched distortions will take some time.

Yusuf, noting the foreign exchange supply limitations, stated that the system needed to be managed in way that would not undermine investors’ confidence.

He said erosion of confidence triggered speculation and influences expectations which in turn triggered diverse responses among economic players.

He, however, stated that the President Bola Tinubu’s administration was on the right path and that the current volatility in the foreign exchange market were challenges typically inherent in a major policy transition.

“The foreign exchange market is evidently under pressure as a result of a number of factors such as surge in monetary expansion in the last one month as money supply grew by an unprecedented 15 per cent in one month between May and June 2023.

“Obviously, this must have had an effect on the exchange rate and the monetary authorities should investigate this drastic growth in money supply and take steps to curb subsequent expansion.

“Over the last few years, there had been a cumulative backlog of unmet foreign exchange demand, running into billions of dollars as a result of acute illiquidity in the foreign exchange market.

“With a more liberalised foreign exchange market, the pressure of the backlog of unmet demands and other maturing forex related obligations have been unleashed on the investors and exporters window,” he said.

Yusuf also emphasised the need for vigilance to prevent questionable capital outflows or speculative assault on the currency.

He stressed that a free market was not synonymous with complete absence of regulation, saying free enterprise has to be complemented with an appropriate regulatory framework to curb illicit financial flows.

He noted that the frequency and scope of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention in the foreign exchange market had decelerated compared to first five months of the year.

“Recent reports from the CBN indicate a total of $17 billion intervention by the CBN in the forex market in 2022; an average of N1.4 billion per month.

“Since the inception of the present administration, it is doubtful whether we had seen an intervention of up to $1 billion in total, so it is expected that as the scale of intervention improves, the volatile will be subdued.

“Recently, government paid $500 million to settle matured debt service obligation on Eurobond and this could also be a constraining supply side factor.

“The marginal decline in foreign reserves was also amplified by the media and this also created some anxiety which could also have driven speculative activities in the foreign exchange market.

“In a couple of months, we expect the instability to subside,” he said.

Yusuf, projected that on the supply side, the trajectory is that there would be an improvement in oil output which would boost foreign exchange earnings.

He added that the prospects of improved domestic refining of petroleum products in the coming months will reduce foreign exchange demand pressure from importation of petroleum products.

“Improved investors confidence will boost Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), foreign portfolio investments, and other remittances.

“CBN should exercise better oversight on foreign exchange demands to ensure protection of the market from speculative assault and illicit capital outflows,” he said.

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Inflation To Fall In 2024 — CBN

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The Central Bank of Nigeria’s governor Yemi Cardoso expects headline inflation to fall to 21.4 per cent in 2024.

The apex bank’s governor disclosed this during his keynote speech at the launching of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group macroeconomic outlook report for 2024.

He said, “Inflationary pressures are expected to decline in 2024 due to the CBN’s inflation-targeting policy, which aims to rein in inflation to 21.4 per cent.”

According to him, the inflation targeting will help the government in its battle against inflation which hit 28.9 per cent in December. Lower rates will ultimately affect businesses, he alluded.

“The outlook for decreasing inflation in 2024 will have a profound impact on businesses, providing a more predictable cost environment and potentially leading to lower policy rates, stimulating investment, fueling growth, and creating job opportunities,” Cardoso said.

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Petrol Prices To Fall Over Refineries’ Take Off, Says Cardoso

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The pump prices of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) petrol will moderate this year as government and private-owned refineries begin operation, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Olayemi Cardoso has said.

He spoke on Wednesday, January 24, at the launch of the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) 2024 Macroeconomic Outlook Report in Lagos.

Cardoso said the expected stabilisation or reduction in fuel costs is poised to have far-reaching implications across various sectors, contributing significantly to overall economic efficiency and resilience.

While Dangote Refinery has already commenced production, the Port Harcourt Refinery is expected to begin production anytime from now.

Cardoso said the apex bank, the Ministry of Finance and the NNPCL have collaborated to ensure that all FX inflows are returned to the Central Bank to boost reserves accretion.

He described the naira, which exchanges around N1,370 to the dollar at the parallel market as undervalued.

“We believe that the naira is currently undervalued and, coupled with coordinated measures on the fiscal side, we will expedite genuine price discovery in the near term,” he said.

In summary of the NESG 2024 Macroeconomic Outlook Report in Lagos, the Chief Economist at NESG, Dr. Olusegun Omisakin, listed some economic outcomes of achieving a stable and appropriate pricing of the exchange rate in Nigeria.

The NESG report advised that stabilising the exchange rate through a functional and transparent foreign exchange market entails enhancing market liquidity through regular auctions, reducing administrative restrictions, and ensuring efficient allocation of FX reserves.

“Adopting a managed float system, regulating speculative activities, and encouraging foreign investments would bolster market confidence. Besides, access to FX needs to be realigned to facilitate international trade and transactions – as such, local access needs to be to the limit of the Naira equivalent. Reinforcing monetary policies for inflation control and export diversification would promote currency stability,” the report advised.

Cardoso acknowledged the challenges facing the economy and the resistance to proposed solutions by various stakeholders, assuring that the economy is now at a turning point, and the bold reforms being undertaken across different segments of the economy, while initially challenging, are ultimately directed towards addressing these challenges in a sustainable manner.

“I am confident that we are already witnessing positive outcomes, and these will undoubtedly become more apparent in the near future. The dedicated and relentless efforts being made are certain to bring about significant and positive changes for our economy.”

“Indeed, recent reports from international rating agencies such as Fitch, Moody’s, and commendations from multilateral banks like 3 Classified as Confidential the World Bank reflect this, with upgrades to Nigeria’s ratings from stable to positive. These reports acknowledge the possible reversal of the deterioration in the country’s fiscal and external position due to the authorities’ reform efforts,” Cardoso said.

“While noting the painful adjustments, they all identify a direction of travel that will unlock the much needed growth and development for our economy in the medium to long term.”

He said the rising costs of food prices and volatility in the forex market will soon be addressed.

On economic growth, he said the global economy is currently grappling with persistent challenges, including inflation and subdued growth prospects.

Despite Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth outperforming expectations in 2023, it is projected to further moderate in 2024 due to tightened financial conditions, sluggish trade expansion, and reduced business and consumer confidence. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) anticipates a mild slowdown in global economic growth to 2.9 percent in 2024, down from the 3.0 percent growth observed in 2023, with Asia driving the majority of the projected global growth in 2024, similar to the previous year.

He said the projections for the nation’s economy paint an optimistic trajectory as the Federal Government of Nigeria anticipates real GDP growth of 3.76 percent in 2024, slightly surpassing the estimated 3.75 percent for 2023.

The optimism, he said, was underpinned by the implementation of key government reforms set to shape the economic landscape. Foremost among the factors contributing to this positive outlook is the expectation of improved crude oil prices and production, highlighting the crucial role the oil industry is expected to play in driving economic growth.

Cardoso said the positive outlook for Industry, Services, Agriculture, and Mining, Electricity, Gas & Water Supply sub-sectors reflects the potential effect of market-based reforms through private investment and SMEs-led growth that would contribute to business improvement and confidence.

“Government reforms in the mining and energy sub-sectors are expected to serve as a catalyst for growth and development. 3. While the potential for growth exists in 2024, each sector may encounter unique challenges and opportunities,” he said.

He said that inflationary pressures are expected to decline in 2024 due to the CBN’s inflation-targeting policy, which aims to rein in inflation to 21.4 percent.

This will be aided by improved agricultural productivity and the easing of global supply chain pressures, benefiting businesses by boosting consumer confidence and purchasing power.

He explained that the CBN’s adoption of the inflation-targeting framework involves clear communication, use of monetary policy instruments, and collaboration with fiscal authorities to achieve price stability, fostering market confidence and positively influencing consumer behaviour.

“The outlook for decreasing inflation in 2024 will have a profound impact on businesses, providing a more predictable cost environment and potentially leading to lowered policy rates, stimulating investment, fueling growth, and creating job opportunities,” he said.

Cardoso said the expected stability in the foreign exchange market for 2024 can be attributed to the reduction in petroleum product imports and the recent implementation of a market-determined exchange rate policy by the CBN.

“This reform is designed to streamline and unify multiple exchange rates, fostering transparency and reducing opportunities for arbitrage. The resulting consistent and stable exchange rate will not only boost investor confidence but also attract foreign investment, elevating Nigeria’s appeal to global investors,” he said.

Cardoso said the NESG’s Macroeconomic Outlook Report for 2024 emphasises the necessity of economic transformation under the central theme, “Economic Transformation Roadmap: Medium-Term Policy Priorities.”

“This theme underscores the requirement for a clearly outlined roadmap comprising distinct yet interconnected phases and essential policy recommendations. This resonates with me as we have just last week, launched a new 5-year Strategy for the Central Bank of Nigeria for the period 2024-2028 that provides a clear roadmap for achieving our mandates,” he said.

The NESG report explained that when exchange rates are stable, everyone is better off. Price stability supports economic growth and employment. It allows people to make more reliable plans for borrowing, saving, and expanding businesses.

“Decreased volatility of the exchange rate helps to support stability in inflation, which mainly affects low-income households because they have fewer resources to protect themselves. In the situation of price stability, it helps to maintain social cohesion and stability. History has shown that episodes of high inflation tend to be associated with social unrest,” the report.

According to the report, increased capital inflows will fortify the nation’s external reserves, establishing a robust defence against external shocks.

“This can only happen with the stability of the exchange rate. Capital inflows, comprising foreign investment, loans and remittances, elevate the reserve levels, bolstering Nigeria’s financial stability and economic resilience,” it said.

The NESG report advised that in addition to nominal enhancements in revenue, the country’s revenue-to-GDP ratio must reach a minimum threshold of 15 percent to substantiate the processes of economic growth and stabilisation.

“The country must significantly decrease its current public debt service-to revenue ratio, aiming for a reduction to less than 22 percent from the current high of 80.2 percent as of 2022. This reduction is crucial to create fiscal space, enabling the government to reallocate funds toward economic development and stability initiatives.

“A moderate fiscal deficit can be a useful tool for financing essential investments and stimulating economic activity. Hence, the optimal level of fiscal deficit that supports economic growth and stability in Nigeria requires a careful balance. A fiscal deficit of less than three per cent as stipulated in the FRA 2007 is considered appropriate for the economy,” it said.

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