The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other organised private sectors on Thursday called on the Federal Government to drastically slash interest rate in order to stimulate economic recovery.
Professional bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Finance and Control and the Institute of Fiscal Studies of Nigeria and renowned economists including the Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, advised the government to urgently review its policies and spend more to atttract both local and foreign investors to invest in the economy.
The National Bureau of Statistics had on Wednesday released the Gross Domestic Product figures for the second quarter of 2016, whose growth rate slid from -0.36 per cent in the first quarter to -2.06 per cent.
But speaking to one of our correspondents in a telephone interview on Thursday, the President of MAN, Dr Frank Jacob, said the interest rate should be reduced from over 22 per cent to five per cent.
This, he added, would enable manufacturers to borrow for productive purposes.
He said, “Some of the requests that we’ve been making from the government should be looked into. To reflate this economy, they need to reduce the interest rate on loans to five per cent.
“They can also create a special window for manufacturers to source foreign exchange and make it readily available for them as and when they are needed. And of course, the issue of infrastructure should be addressed, especially power and road.”
Reacting, the Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr. Olusegun Oshinowo, said most nations that had been in recession embarked on prudent spending as a way out.
He said, “We have to be able to identify critical sectors of the economy that have impact on other sectors, such as infrastructure which is about road, rail, air and sea transportation. This sector makes for easy movement of goods and services from one location to the other and should be given a lot of attention by the government.
“The government should also settle domestic debts. People who have worked for government should be paid. The focus should also be on social infrastructure with initiatives like the National Health Insurance Scheme and others being empowered to promote health care in the nation.”
The Director-General, LCCI, Mr. Muda Yusuf, said what was important was to inspire the confidence of investors and called on more investment in infrastructure, adding that there was a need to fast-track the implementation of the 2016 budget so that funds could be released into the system for infrastructure development.
Another solution, according to the LCCI DG, was on the trade policies and the various tariffs, which he said the government needed to review downwards to drive down costs in the manufacturing sector.
“The rising inflation is cost-driven inflation owing to duties paid by manufacturers who import critical raw and packaging materials. The government should review the shipping charges and charges imposed by terminal operators so that the cost of manufacturing can go down.”
The President, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, Mr. Larry Ettah, warned that the imposition of excessive taxes and levies on businesses is not the best solution to recession.
Rather, he said the role of government regulatory agencies should be to make the business environment conducive for organisations to thrive and create jobs.
While speaking at the 59th Annual General Meeting of NECA in Lagos on Thursday, Ettah said, “We believe that it is okay if regulators regulate but we are averse to a situation where there is overreach of regulation. In which case, you are not trying not to look at the spirit of regulation, which was really to encourage businesses to survive but to see regulation purely from revenue generation perspective.”
The Executive Director, Corporate Finance, BGL Capital Ltd, Mr. Femi Ademola, said the high yield on treaury bills had made banks to be lazy as they now preferred to channel their funds to invest in the T-bills rather than for productive activities.
He said if the CBN could reduce the interest to about eight per cent, more funds would be made available to stimulate economic activities.
He said, “The government needs to start working now by implementing its programmes particularly the capital components of the budget. This is the time for both the monetary and fiscal authorities to come together to stimulate economic activities.
“On the monetary side, the CBN needs to reduce the interest rate from the current rate to eight per cent. Enough of fighting inflation because the inflation that the CBN is fighting is not induced by too much of money in circulation but it’s a structural issue that is outside the control of monetary policy.”
Rewane, in a telephone interview with one of our correspondents, said, “The hole is much deeper than we thought we were initially; so, it is only when you know how deep the hole is, then you know how to climb out of it.
“How do you climb out of recession? You climb out of recession by investing, spending and wooing and courting investors to bring them into the country. That is imperative.”
He said part of what sank the country into recession was the sharp drop in the production of oil.
Rewane said, “If the oil and gas production doesn’t come back up; if we do not bring down interest rate, as long that the central bank thinks that it is going to push up interest rate, this economy will not recover. They have to bring down interest rate immediately.”
“The earlier they do that, the better for everybody. When you do that, the currency will drop some more. But it doesn’t matter. The lower the currency, the more the investors will come in.”
The Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN had at the end of its last meeting raised the monetary policy rate (benchmark interest rate) to 14 per cent from 12 per cent.
The Chairman of the Board, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Mr. Kyari Bukar, said, “One of the fundamental things that I strongly believe in is that to get out of recession, government has to spend. Liquidity has to be in the economy.
“You don’t spend for the sake of spending; you invest. So, the capital side of the equation needs to be enhanced, even if it means in the short term, we are going to borrow, we have to spend on infrastructure that will be catalysts or enablers for many of the things that we need to grow our economy and get us out of this recession.”
A professor of financial economics at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Leo Ukpong, said, “Definitely, we need a clear economic policy. It is bad economic policy that led to a recession, and to get out of it, we need a good economic policy.”
“I think the first thing that the government has to do is to design policies that will keep people in employment. We must have a very strong short-term and long-term economic growth policy. Short term is to start implementing the budget, especially the part that has to do with construction and privatisation.”
Leo said the CBN should reduce the benchmark interest rate “so that businesses can borrow and stay alive”, adding, “I think the central bank has to rethink its interest rate policy.”
OPEC+ Delegates Seek Steady Oil Production Levels as Committee of Ministers Meet Next Week
With the recent hike in the prices of oil at the international markets, the delegates of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have canvassed for a steady oil production output.
This is coming a few days before the Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee of the organisation would meet to deliberate on the demand and supply chain of crude oil in the global space.
The meeting of the Advisory Committee of Ministers is said to hold online as top OPEC officials continue to push for unchanged oil production levels.
Investors King reports that there has been an uncertain recovery in global demand for oil as international oil prices had climbed in the past two weeks.
It was gathered that Saudi Arabia and its partners are planning to hold a review of output levels on February 1, 2023 after agreeing significant cutbacks late last year to keep world crude markets in balance.
While awaiting clarity on the recovery in consumption in China and the impact of sanctions on Russian supply, the delegates said they expected the Ministers not it tamper with the output.
The Opec+ is embracing conservative stance even China, the biggest oil importer in the world battles devastating effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
Also, Opec+ is expecting the full impact of European Union sanctions on member-country Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
Analysts at Eurasia Group have said, in a report, that there are possibilities of Opec+ maintaining the status quo beyond next week’s meeting.
According to the report, prices of oil have stabilised while there are significant levels of uncertainty surrounding both supply and demand.
It was gathered that feedback from the top OPEC hierarchy would go a long way in forming the decision to hold steady or not.
The Secretary-General of petroleum exporting countries, Haitham Al-Ghais has expressed hope on the global economy as the nascent rebound in China is tempered by weakness in advanced economies.
For Saudi Energy Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, Opec+ would be proactive and preemptive to keep markets in equilibrium.
The head of commodity strategy at RBC Capital Markets LLC, Helima Croft, said there were pointers that Saudi Arabia wants to adopt the policy of preemption and keep production constraints in place until there are clear indications that there is sufficient demand for additional supply.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Energy Aspects Ltd. revealed that Opec+ will only start to reverse its supply curbs, which were formally about 2 million barrels a day, and increase production in the second half of the year.
At this period, accelerating demand would have tightened the market.
Meanwhile, the 23-nation alliance is scheduled to meet at OPEC’s Vienna headquarters in early June to review production levels for other months in the year.
Oil Gains Marginally on Possible Demand Recovery in China
Oil prices inched slightly higher on Wednesday as optimism for a demand recovery in China and expectations that major producers will maintain current output policy offset global recession worries.
Brent crude oil, against which Nigerian oil is priced, appreciated by 17 cents, or 0.2%, to $86.30 per barrel after falling by 2.3% on Tuesday. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude climbed 7 cents, or 0.1%, to $80.20, after a 1.8% drop on Tuesday.
“Expectations that China’s fuel demand will recover in the second half of the year are growing and are likely to support market sentiment,” said Hiroyuki Kikukawa, general manager of research at Nissan Securities.
Analysts from the Bank of America Securities said the reopening of the Chinese economy after years of tough COVID restrictions could unleash a large wave of pent-up demand over the next 18 months.
On the supply side, volumes should remain steady for the medium term as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, a group known as OPEC+, is expected to keep its output policy unchanged.
An OPEC+ panel is likely to endorse the producer group’s current oil output policy when it meets next week, five OPEC+ sources said on Tuesday, as hopes for higher Chinese demand are balanced by worries over inflation and the global economy.
OPEC+ in October decided to trim output by 2 million barrels per day from November through 2023 on a weaker economic outlook.
However, gains in oil prices were capped by a bigger-than-expected build in U.S. oil inventories that was reported after the market settled on Tuesday.
U.S. crude stocks rose by about 3.4 million barrels in the week ended Jan. 20, according to market sources citing American Petroleum Institute figures. That was triple the forecast for an about 1 million build in a preliminary Reuters poll on Monday.
Nissan’s Kikukawa, however, expects the build “to be temporary as the supply disruptions from a cold snap in the United States a few weeks ago would only impact data in the next couple of weeks”.
Official data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration will be released later on Wednesday.
Kikukawa expects WTI to trade in a range between $75 and $85 a barrel in the coming weeks.
Markets are also watching out for interest rate decisions from central banks for more trading cues.
“It seems that the absence of hawkish Fed comments from the current blackout period has removed a key overhang for risk sentiments for now, providing some renewed traction back into growth,” Yeap Jun Rong, market analyst at IG, said in a note.
Investors are waiting to see if the U.S. Federal Reserve will “react to recent downside surprise in inflation and growth” when it meets next week, the analyst added.
Fuel Scarcity: IPMAN Decries 50% Reduction of Product Supply Since July 2022
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN has faulted the oil sector’s incapability to cater for the full fuel supply order of oil marketers nationwide.
Investors King learnt that the volume of products supplied to marketers dropped by 50 percent since July, 2022 which has worsened the fuel scarcity situation.
The Deputy National President of IPMAN, Zahra Mustapha, during a Television interview stressed that there is confusion in the nation’s oil sector.
Mustapha, who said the fuel subsidy issue is complex, explained that the federal government is overwhelmed by the burden of fuel subsidy which is not sustainable.
“The fact of the matter is that we are in a very complex situation because the burden of subsidy that the government is carrying is no more sustainable and the volume that the NNPC for now, being the sole importer of the petroleum product, PMS, has been hit hard, because of that the supply that we receive as the marketers at the loading point is being reduced by over 50 per cent.
“It doesn’t seem that they (NNPC) are bringing in more, if they are, we will be getting the volume we usually get before. Since July/August last year the volume we receive now is not up to 40 or 50 percent of what we usually get. As of today, the volume we are getting is not enough,” he said.
Mustapha stated that the situation has been reported to the oil sector regulatory bodies and the oil marketers are expecting their actions.
He further lamented the high supply cost and transportation which makes them sell it at a much higher rate to the consumers.
“We are supposed to get this product at N148 but we are buying at N22o and it keeps increasing. 240 in Lagos, 235 in Warri, 240 in Port Harcourt, in Calabar it is as high as N250 per litre for marketers, and you buy and transport yourself to where your retail outlet is. We cannot buy the product between 220 to 240 naira, transport it for about N50, which is already N300, then expect the marketer to sell to the public for N200 or N190. It is not realisable.
“There are a lot of confusions in the industry, which the government must come in and address these confusions so that the common man can get the product for the approved price,” said Mustapha.
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