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Nigeria’s N19tn Debt Portends Danger for Economy – Experts

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  • Nigeria’s N19tn Debt Portends Danger for Economy

Economic experts have cautioned the Federal Government against further borrowing, saying the country’s debt profile of N19tn portends danger for the economy.

They said the country’s debt, which has been increasing in the last few years, was becoming unsustainable as it might be difficult to service it due to the revenue challenges facing the country.

The experts spoke in separate interviews with our correspondent on Friday.

They advised that rather than continue to rely on borrowing to finance its activities, the Federal Government should adopt other sources of funding the infrastructural needs of the country.

These, according to them, include concession, privatisation and public-private partnership arrangements.

Those who spoke on the subject were the President, Institute of Fiscal Studies of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Ighedosa; a former Acting Managing Director, Unity Bank of Nigeria Plc, Mr. Rislanudeen Muhammed; and Director-General, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Chijioke Ekechukwu.

Ekechukwu said, “It is expected that the debt profile of the country will rise considering the fact that we have a deficit budget and even the deficit side of the budget was not met in the last budget year.

“With the recession of last year, government will need to continue borrowing to meet the increased size of the deficit. Of course, the borrowing portends danger for the economy because our debt profile is rising and we do not know when we are going to scale it down.

“Since we are borrowing to fund the infrastructure deficit of the country, with our rising oil prices and stability in the Niger Delta, we may be out of the woods.”

Muhammed said Nigerians needed to be worried about the country’s debt burden rising at a faster rate than revenue generation.

He stated that if something urgent was not done to shore up revenue, it would be difficult for the government to meet its debt servicing obligation.

He said, “The debt profile is scaring and worrying. It’s not a bad thing to borrow but it is good to be assured of the sustainability of the borrowing. If you go on a borrowing spree, then it will be difficult to service this debt when you don’t have the capacity to pay.

“We are not earning as much as we should, and there is need for the government to focus on bringing in investors into these sectors that funds are being borrowed to finance. We can use the PPP model and allow people to bring their money, while the government provides the conducive atmosphere like tax incentives and others.”

Ighedosa noted that while it was not bad to borrow, there was a need for a reduction in government expenditure.

He said, “We have a high fiscal deficit, which can only be funded through borrowing.

“When you borrow for investment, it improves the position on your balance sheet; and when you borrow for consumption, it can cause problems for the economy as it will affect the level of confidence in the economy from investors, because they will assume we can’t manage our economy.

“We already have a debt overhang, and as it is, we are building that up and so there is a need to reduce the rate of borrowing.”

The Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Mr. Ben Akabueze, however, said that the country’s debt profile was sustainable.

He maintained that the country’ debt profile was still within the globally accepted threshold, and argued that rather than worry about the level of borrowing, the priority should be on how to shore up revenue that would enable government finance its programmes.

Akabueze stated that the current level of revenue generation in the country was too small to fund an economy the size of Nigeria, noting the country had one of the lowest tax to Gross Domestic Product ratio in the world.

Akabueze stated, “As regard borrowing and whether our debt is sustainable, the answer is yes. We have to know where the problems is; it is with our revenues.

“Our revenues are way too low for the size and potential of this economy, and that is why we have the lowest tax to GDP ratio in the whole continent.”

He added, “We are right there at the bottom globally simply because people are not paying taxes and we also have to ensure that even what people pay does not leak and it is properly accounted for.

“That’s what we need to deal with; if we pay the revenues and the denominator grows, then the resultant ratio grows; but if we start tackling tax to GDP ratio and we don’t go through a proper diagnosis, we will end up in the wrong direction.”

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Economy

World Bank Commits Over $15 Billion to Support Nigeria’s Economic Reforms

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world bank - Investors King

The World Bank has pledged over $15 billion in technical advisory and financial support to help the country achieve sustainable economic prosperity.

This commitment, announced in a feature article titled “Turning The Corner: Nigeria’s Ongoing Path of Economic Reforms,” underscores the international lender’s confidence in Nigeria’s recent bold reforms aimed at stabilizing and growing its economy.

The World Bank’s support will be channeled into key sectors such as reliable power and clean energy, girls’ education and women’s economic empowerment, climate adaptation and resilience, water and sanitation, and governance reforms.

The bank lauded Nigeria’s government for its courageous steps in implementing much-needed reforms, highlighting the unification of multiple official exchange rates, which has led to a market-determined official rate, and the phasing out of the costly gasoline subsidy.

“These reforms are crucial for Nigeria’s long-term economic health,” the World Bank stated. “The supply of foreign exchange has improved, benefiting businesses and consumers, while the gap between official and parallel market exchange rates has narrowed, enhancing transparency and curbing corrupt practices.”

The removal of the gasoline subsidy, which had cost the country over 8.6 trillion naira (US$22.2 billion) from 2019 to 2022, was particularly noted for its potential to redirect fiscal resources toward more impactful public investments.

The World Bank pointed out that the subsidy primarily benefited wealthier consumers and fostered black market activities, rather than aiding the poor.

The bank’s article emphasized that Nigeria is at a turning point, with macro-fiscal reforms expected to channel more resources into sectors critical for improving citizens’ lives.

The World Bank’s support is designed to sustain these reforms and expand social protection for the poor and vulnerable, aiming to put the economy back on a sustainable growth path.

In addition to this substantial support, the World Bank recently approved a $2.25 billion loan to Nigeria at a one percent interest rate to finance further fiscal reforms.

This includes $1.5 billion for the Nigeria Reforms for Economic Stabilization to Enable Transformation (RESET) Development Policy Financing, and $750 million for the NG Accelerating Resource Mobilization Reforms Programme-for-Results (ARMOR).

“The future can be bright, and Nigeria can rise and serve as an example for the region on how macro-fiscal and governance reforms, along with continued investments in public goods, can accelerate growth and improve the lives of its citizens,” the World Bank concluded.

With this robust backing from the World Bank, Nigeria is well-positioned to tackle its economic challenges and embark on a path to sustained prosperity and development.

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Economy

Nigeria’s Food Inflation Hits 40.66% Year-on-Year in May 2024

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Nigeria's Inflation Rate - Investors King

Nigeria’s food inflation rate surged to 40.66% on a year-on-year basis in May 2024, a significant increase from 24.82% recorded in May 2023.

The latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) highlight the rising cost of essential food items, exacerbating the economic challenges faced by many Nigerians.

The NBS report attributes the steep rise in food inflation to substantial price increases in several staple items.

Notably, the prices of Semovita, Oatflake, Yam flour, Garri, and Beans saw considerable hikes.

In addition, the cost of Irish Potatoes, Yams, Water Yam, Palm Oil, and Vegetable Oil also climbed significantly. Within the protein category, Stockfish, Mudfish, Crayfish, Beef, Chicken, Pork, and Bush Meat experienced notable price jumps.

The month-on-month food inflation rate in May 2024 was 2.28%, reflecting a slight decrease of 0.22 percentage points from the 2.50% recorded in April 2024.

This month-to-month decline was due to a slower rate of price increases for Palm Oil, Groundnut Oil, Yam, Irish Potatoes, Cassava Tuber, Wine, Bournvita, Milo, and Nescafe.

Despite the minor monthly decrease, the average annual food inflation rate for the twelve months ending May 2024 was 34.06%.

This marks a significant rise of 10.41 percentage points from the average annual rate of 23.65% recorded in May 2023.

The sharp rise in food inflation is raising concerns among economic analysts and policymakers, as it significantly impacts the cost of living for Nigerians.

The rising food prices are straining household budgets and contributing to an overall inflation rate that threatens economic stability.

In response to the inflationary pressures, the Nigerian government and relevant stakeholders are being urged to implement effective measures to stabilize food prices and address the underlying causes of inflation.

Efforts to boost agricultural productivity, improve supply chains, and tackle market inefficiencies are seen as critical to mitigating the inflationary trend.

The NBS report underscores the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to manage inflation and ensure food security for the population.

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Economy

Nigeria’s Inflation Rate Climbs to 33.95% in May, NBS Reports

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The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed that Nigeria’s headline inflation rate rose to 33.95% in May 2024, a slight increase from the 33.69% recorded in April.

This 0.26 percentage point rise underscores the ongoing economic challenges the country faces as it continues to grapple with rising prices and economic instability.

The report highlights that on a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate increased by 11.54 percentage points compared to May 2023, when the rate was 22.41%. This significant annual increase indicates a persistent upward trend in the cost of living for Nigerians over the past year.

However, the month-on-month analysis presents a mixed picture. The headline inflation rate for May 2024 was 2.14%, slightly lower than the 2.29% recorded in April 2024. This 0.15 percentage point decrease suggests a marginal slowdown in the rate at which prices are rising month by month.

Urban vs. Rural Inflation Rates

The NBS report also provides detailed insights into urban and rural inflation dynamics. In urban areas, the inflation rate in May 2024 stood at 36.34% on a year-on-year basis, a substantial 12.61 percentage points higher than the 23.74% recorded in May 2023.

On a month-on-month basis, urban inflation was 2.35%, down by 0.32 percentage points from April 2024’s rate of 2.67%.

Conversely, the rural inflation rate for May 2024 was 31.82% year-on-year, which is 10.63 percentage points higher than the 21.19% recorded in May 2023.

Month-on-month, rural inflation slightly increased to 1.94% from 1.92% in April 2024, indicating a steady rise in prices in rural regions.

Implications and Responses

The continuous rise in inflation, particularly in urban areas, poses significant challenges for the Nigerian economy.

The increase in prices for essential goods and services such as food, transportation, and housing is putting immense pressure on household budgets and the overall standard of living.

Economic analysts suggest that the persistent inflationary pressures are driven by several factors, including supply chain disruptions, increased production costs, and fluctuating exchange rates. The impact of these factors is felt more acutely in urban areas, where the cost of living is inherently higher.

In response to these inflationary trends, policymakers are under pressure to implement measures that can stabilize prices and ease the financial burden on citizens.

Strategies such as tightening monetary policy, increasing food production, and improving supply chain efficiency are being considered to curb the rising inflation.

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