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N24.39tn Debt: IMF Worries Over Nigeria’s Repayment Capacity

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  • N24.39tn Debt: IMF Worries Over Nigeria’s Repayment Capacity

The International Monetary Fund, on Tuesday, expressed worry over Nigeria’s ability to repay its foreign debt which had continued to rise.

Though it said conditions were favourable for the country to continue to borrow, the IMF equally expressed worry over the capacity to repay.

The Financial Counsellor and Director, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, IMF, Tobias Adrian, while presenting the Global Financial Stability Report at the ongoing joint annual spring meetings with the World Bank in Washington DC, said, “Nigeria has been borrowing in international markets but we worry. So, on the one hand, that is very good because it allows Nigeria to invest more; but on the other hand, we do worry about rollover risks going forward.

“At the moment, funding conditions in economies such as Nigeria and other sub-Saharan African countries are very favourable but that might change at some point. And there is a risk of rollovers and there is the risk of whether these needs for refinancing can be met in the future.”

Recall that Nigeria’s total debt profile as of December 31, 2018, stood at N24.387tn. The figure swelled by 12.25 per cent from N21.725tn in 2017 to N24.39tn in 2018.

The Debt Management Office said the debt rose by N2.66tn from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

Statistics provided by the DMO showed that the country’s public debt rose from N21.73tn in 2017 to N24.39tn within the one-year period.

According to the DMO, the year-on-year growth of public debt show 12.25 per cent within the one-year period.

However, in a swift reaction to the IMF statement, the Federal Government described the nation’s debt burden as sustainable. Speaking on Wednesday in Abuja, the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo-Udoma, argued that it posed no harm to the economy of Nigeria.

Udo-Udoma had argued that borrowing to spend on infrastructure and productive purposes was done by all countries, so long as there was a back-up revenue base.

The minister spoke at the Presidential Villa at the end of Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council meeting.

It was presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo in the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said, “With regard to our debts, our debts are sustainable.

“We do have a revenue challenge and we are focusing on that. Once the revenues come up, it will be obvious that we don’t have a debt problem at all.

“We are working on a number of initiatives to increase our revenues. We are looking at initiatives to widen the tax base. We are looking at initiatives to increase efficiency in collection.

“We are looking at a single window, which will help to increase efficiency, custom collections. We are looking at many different ways to improve revenues.

“The debts are sustainable; every nation borrows. We are working on increasing our revenues.”

Udo-Udoma also spoke on the 2019 budget still awaiting passage by the National Assembly.

“With regard to the budget, we are happy to see the focus of the National Assembly on the budget and we look forward to whenever it is passed and the executive receiving it,” he added.

Last week, the Peoples Democratic Party had raised the alarm over the country’s debt profile.

The party, which alleged that Buhari’s administration borrowed so much money in the last four years, noted that by 2016, the debt stock was already N17.5tn.

When asked to comment on the risk of Chinese growing investment in Africa, Adrian said, “Lending — capital flows in general and these include flows from China — are, of course, important for development, on the one hand. On the other hand, what is very important in those lending arrangements are the terms of the loans.”

He urged recipients of Chinese loans in sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that terms were favourable to them.

“We urge countries to make sure that when they borrow from abroad, that the terms are favourable for the borrower. In Particular, we tend to recommend that loans to countries should be conforming to Paris Club arrangements. And that is not always the case with loans from China.”

Meanwhile, the IMF has said corruption is a challenge for many resource-rich countries and this has affected the way they manage their Sovereign Wealth Funds.

In view of this, the Bretton Wood institution ranked Nigeria the second worst performer on the Sovereign Wealth Funds user index only ahead of Qatar in the Fiscal Monitor report also released on Wednesday.

Relying on the data from the Natural Resource Governance Institute and Worldwide Governance Indicators, the IMF said the index was compiled using the corporate governance and transparency scores of the Sovereign Wealth Funds and the size of assets as a percentage of 2016 GDP of the countries considered.

Other African countries on the index that performed better than Nigeria include Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Gabon, Angola, Libya, and Botswana. Ghana came second after Columbia.

The Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund was put at $2.15bn in May 2018.

The IMF in the report advised that “Sovereign Wealth Funds should abide by clearly established rules and governance arrangements, and report regularly on operations and investment performance, with eternally audited annual financial statements.”

Adding that the Sovereign Wealth Funds should not be allowed to undertake extra-budgetary spending, the IMF said, “It is critical to develop a strong institutional framework to manage these resources—including good management of the financial assets kept in sovereign wealth funds—and to ensure that proceeds are appropriately spent. This remains a significant challenge in many resource-rich countries that, on average, have weaker institutions and higher corruption

“The governance challenges of commodity-rich countries— that is, the management of public assets— call for ensuring a high degree of transparency and accountability in the exploration of such resources. Countries should develop frameworks that limit discretion, given the high risk of abuse, and allow for heavy scrutiny.”

The Deputy Director, Fiscal Affairs Department, IMF, Paolo Mauro, emphasised the need for transparency of Sovereign Wealth Funds, adding that it was important for resource-rich countries to channel appropriately their resources to the people that needed it.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

Economy

Nigeria, Morocco sign MOUs on Hydrocarbons, Others

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The Federal Government and the Kingdom of Morocco have signed five strategic Memoranda of Understanding that will foster Nigerian-Morocco bilateral collaboration and promote the development of hydrocarbons, agriculture, and commerce in both countries.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, led the Nigerian delegation to the agreement signing ceremony on Tuesday at Marrakech, Morocco, while the Chief Executive Officer of OCP Africa, Mr Anouar Jamali, signed for the Kingdom of Morocco, according to a statement by the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board.

Under the agreement between OCP, NSIA and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria will import phosphate from the Kingdom of Morocco and use it to produce blended fertiliser for the local market and export.

The statement said Nigeria would also produce ammonia and export to Morocco.

“As part of the project, the Nigerian Government plans to establish an ammonia plant at Akwa Ibom State,” it said.

The Executive Secretary of NCDMB, Mr Simbi Wabote, and the Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, were part of the delegation and they confirmed that their organisations would take equity in the ammonia plant when the Final Investment Decision would be taken, the statement said.

Sylva said the project would broaden economic opportunities for the two nations and improve the wellbeing of the people.

He added that the project would also positively impact agriculture, stimulate the growth of gas-based industries and lead to massive job creation.

He said the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), had mandated the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and it agencies and other government agencies to give maximum support for the project.

“He mandated me to ensure that at least the first phase of this project is commissioned before the expiration of his second term in office in 2023,” he added.

According to the statement, the MOUs were for the support of the second phase of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative; Shareholders Agreement for the creation of the joint venture company to develop the multipurpose industrial platform and MOU for equity investment by the NNPC in the joint venture and support of the gas.

Other agreements are term sheet for gas sales and aggregation agreement and MOU for land acquisition and administrative facilitation to the establishment of the multipurpose industrial platform for gas sales and aggregation agreement.

The NCDMB boss described the bilateral agreement as significant to the Nigerian economy as it would accelerate Nigeria’s gas monetisation programme through establishment of the ammonia plant in the country.

The agreement would also improve Nigeria’s per capita fertiliser application through importation of phosphate derivatives from Morocco, he added.

Wabote challenged the relevant parties to focus on accelerating the FID, assuring them that the NCDMB would take equity investment for long-term sustainability of the project.

He canvassed for the setting up of a project management oversight structure to ensure project requirements and timelines are met.

“There is also need to determine manpower needs for construction and operations phase of the project and develop training programmes that will create the workforce pool from Nigeria and Morocco and design collaboration framework between research centres in Nigeria and Morocco to develop technology solutions for maintaining the ISBL and OSBL units of the Ammonia complex,” he said.

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Economy

Dangote Fertiliser Plant to Commence Shipment of Urea in March 2021

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Dangote to Sells Petrol in Naira, Plans to Commence Urea Shipment in March 2021

The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has said Dangote Fertiliser Plant will commence shipment of Urea in March 2021.

The CBN governor disclosed this during an inspection tour of the sites of Dangote Refinery, Petrochemicals Complex Fertiliser Plant and Subsea Gas Pipeline at Ibeju Lekki, Lagos on Saturday.

Emefiele further stated that Dangote Refinery would sell refined petroleum products in Naira when it starts production.

This he said would save the country from spending 41 percent of the nation’s foreign exchange on importation of petroleum products yearly.

Based on agreement and discussions with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and the oil companies, the Dangote Refinery can buy its crude in naira, refine it, and produce it for Nigerians’ use in naira,” Mr Emefiele said.

That is the element where foreign exchange is saved for the country becomes very clear. We are also very optimistic that by refining this product here in Nigeria, all those costs associated with either demurrage from import, costs associated with freight will be totally eliminated.

Emefiele explained that this will make the price of Nigeria’s petroleum products affordable and cheaper in naira.

If we are lucky that what the refinery produces is more than we need locally you will see Nigerian businessmen buying small vessels to take them to our West African neighbours to sell to them in naira.

“This will increase our volume in naira and help to push it into the Economic Community of West African States as a currency,” Mr Emefiele said.

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Economy

UK Budget 2021: Will Sunak’s Budget Run Into Unintended Consequences?

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Rishi Sunak’s Budget will encourage higher earners to consider their “international financial options” and will drive businesses away from the UK, warns the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory and fintech organizations.

The warning from Nigel Green, chief executive and founder of deVere Group, comes as the Chancellor delivered his 2021 Budget in the House of Commons, his second since he took on the role.

Mr Green says: “The Chancellor has got an extraordinarily difficult hand to play as he tries to stem the economic damage caused by the pandemic, support jobs and businesses and, crucially, rebuild the public finances.

“Whilst Mr Sunak is being hailed a hero for the continued and unprecedented levels of support, it should also be remembered that he is – in a stealth move – dragging more people firmly into the tax net.

“He is raising taxes under the radar.

“Yes, there is no income tax rise. However, he is freezing personal tax thresholds, meaning as incomes rise and thresholds don’t, he is able to raise money by fiscal drag.”

Earlier this week, the deVere CEO noted: “Those most impacted by this stealth move will be looking at the financial planning options available to them, including international options, in order to grow and protect their wealth.”

Rishi Sunak also confirmed that corporation tax will increase to 25% from 2023, up from the current level of 19%.

Of this tax hike, Mr Green goes on to say: “Lower corporation tax helps job and wealth-creating business to survive and thrive. It also helps attract business to move and invest in the country.

“Instead of increasing taxes, Mr Sunak should have relentlessly focussed on growth and stimulus policies for businesses.  This would have been of greater help to firms, the economy, jobs and, ultimately, the Treasury’s coffers.”

He adds: “Again, this corporation tax hike is likely to serve as a prompt for businesses to consider their overseas financial options.”

The deVere CEO concludes: “The Chancellor had to perform a tough juggling act.  But stealthily dragging more people into the tax net and raising corporation tax might have negative, unintended consequences for the Treasury’s bottom line.”

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