Unprecedented fiscal support by governments during the pandemic has prevented more severe economic contractions and larger job losses, but risks remain of long-term scarring the International Monetary Fund says in its Fiscal Monitor report released on Wednesday (April 7) in Washington, DC.
Meanwhile, such support, along with drops in revenues, has raised government deficits and debt to unprecedented levels across all country income groups, said Vitor Gaspar, Director of the Fiscal Affairs Department at the IMF.
“The first lesson one year into COVID-19 is that fiscal policy can act timely and decisively. The fiscal policy response was unprecedented in speed and size looking across countries. We also learned that countries with easier access to finance or stronger buffers were able to give more fiscal support. They’re also projected to recover faster,” said Gaspar.
Average overall deficits as a share of GDP in 2020 reached 11.7 percent for advanced economies, 9.8 percent for emerging market economies, and 5.5 percent for low-income developing countries. Countries’ ability to scale up spending has diverged.
“So, what have we learned? We’ve learned that fiscal policy is powerful and that sound public finances are crucial in order to enable that power to be used to the fullest,” stressed Gaspar.
Gaspar urged policy makers to balance the risks from large and growing public and private debt with the risks from premature withdrawal of fiscal support, which could slow the recovery.
“In the spring 2021, we emphasize differentiation across countries. Moreover, COVID-19 is fast evolving, as are the consequences from COVID-19. The fiscal policy must stay agile and flexible to respond to this fast-evolving situation.” Said Gaspar.
He also warned that the targeting of measures must be improved and tailored to countries’ administrative capacity so that fiscal support can be maintained for the duration of the crisis—considering an uncertain and uneven recovery
“Moreover, countries are very different in their structures, in their institutions, in their financial capacity and much else. Therefore, policies and policy advice have to be tailored to fit.” Said Gaspar
Gaspar concluded his remarks by emphasizing that global vaccination is urgently needed, and that global inoculation would pay for itself with stronger employment and economic activity, leading to increased tax revenues and sizable savings in fiscal support.
“A fair shot, a vaccination for everybody in the world may well be the highest return global investment ever. But the Fiscal Monitor also emphasizes the importance of giving a fair shot at life success for everyone. It documents that preexisting inequalities made COVID-19 worse and that COVID-19 in turn made inequalities worse. There is here a vicious cycle that threatens trust and social cohesion. Therefore, we recommend stronger redistributive policies and universal access to basic public services like health, education, and social security,” said Gaspar.
AfCFTA: Nigeria-South Africa Chamber Advocate Single Africa Passport, Free Visa
The Nigeria-South Africa Chamber of Commerce (NSACC) has called for a single Africa passport and a free visa to ensure the success of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement.
Speaking on Thursday in Lagos during the chamber’s September Breakfast Forum, with the theme: `Perspectives on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area in Relation to Nigeria’, its President, Mr. Osayande Giwa-Osagie noted that AfCFTA would boost intra-African trade by 22 percent, adding that its implementation would impact positively on the Nigerian economy.
AfCFTA is a single continental market that adopts free flow of goods, services, and capital, supported by the free movement of persons across Africa.
Giwa-Osagie however said Nigeria must diversify its economy in order to harness the gains of the agreement.
“Current intra-African trade rated at 15 to 17 percent is low and the AfCFTA is expected to boost intra-African by 22 percent. Challenges to its implementation are lack of infrastructure, political instability and lack of economic diversification.
“This gives rise to the need for Nigeria to diversify its economy to harness the gains of the agreement. Given the importance of the free movement of people, there is a need for a free visa for Africa and a single Africa passport.
“While the implementation would help boost the Nigerian economy, the impact would be limited if there are no free movement of people,” he said.
Mr Jesuseun Fatoyinbo, Head, Trade and Transactional Services, Stanbic IBTC Bank, said the business community needed more clarification on tariff reduction or elimination under the agreement.
According to him, the little information available to corporate organisations with regards to tariffs may lead to holding back on investments.
“We have noted increased interests from global multinationals and other corporates in setting up facilities in Africa aimed at serving the continent and exporting abroad.
“So more transparency around tariff reductions both in terms of timelines and details of goods could prompt companies to act,” he said.
Fatoyinbo also called for more attention to the digitisation of trade processes across the continent. “Currently, trade in Africa is largely reliant on physical documentation and this is a major impediment. Policymakers need to prioritize regulatory amendments that allow for the digital signatures, a digital certificate of origin, digital bills of lading, and other documentation,” he added.
Nigeria Borrows $4 Billion Through Eurobonds as Order Book Peaked at $12.2 Billion
The Federal Government of Nigeria has raised a fresh $4 billion through Eurobonds, according to the latest statement from the Debt Management Office (DMO).
Nigeria had set out to raise $3 billion but investors oversubscription peaked at $12.2 billion, enabling the Federal Government to raise $1 billion more than the $3 billion it announced.
DMO said “This exceptional performance has been described as, “one of the biggest financial trades to come out of Africa in 2021” and “an excellent outcome”.
Bids were received from investors in Europe, America, Asia and several local investors. The statement noted that the quality of investors and the size of the Order Book demonstrated confidence in Nigeria.
The Eurobonds were issued in three tranches, details, namely seven years–,$1.25 billion at 6.125 per cent per annum; 12 years -$1.5 billion at 7.375 per cent per annum as well as 30 years -$1.25 billion at 8.25 per annum.
The DMO explained that the long tenors of the Eurobonds and the spread across different maturities are well aligned with Nigeria’s Debt Management Strategy, 2020 –2023.
The Eurobonds were issued as part of the New External Borrowing stipulated in the 2021 Appropriation Act. DMO noted that the $4 billion will help finance projects state in the 2021 budget.
Nigeria’s total debt stood at $87.239 billion as at March 31, 2021. However, with the $4 billion new borrowing, the nation’s debt is now $91.239 billion. A serious concern for most Nigerians given the nation’s weak foreign revenue generation and rising cost of servicing the debt.
CIBN Banking and Finance Conference 2021: Structural Transformation and Growth
Today we highlight one of the sessions, ‘Economic Recovery’, at the recently concluded CIBN Banking and Finance conference. This was a hybrid event in Abuja, Lagos and partially virtual last week. The Covid-19 disruptions have created demand and supply shocks in the global system while unlocking new opportunities for growth.
Given the pre-existing financing challenges and growing spending needs, many developing countries are in dire need of financial support. As a result of the pandemic, the financing gap for the sustainable development goals increased by 70% (over USD4.2bn). The speaker on this session, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group focused on structural transformation, technology, finance and sustainability.
Recent developments such as the allocation of the USD650bn in Special Drawing Rights (SDR) were highlighted during the session. Although the SDR offers improved liquidity into the system, Africa is set to receive only USD32.2bn (or 6.4% of the total amount). Therefore, it is important that the funds are channeled towards well-targeted sectors that can contribute to sustainable development.
The banking and finance sector plays a crucial role. The Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA) agreement offers an opportunity for the financial sector to work within a continental market of 1.2 billion people. According to Amina J. Mohammed, three main actions areas will reshape the financial sector and support stronger recovery.
The first, better customer engagement with a dynamic range of relevant products and services that go beyond bank-based financing mechanisms and offer innovative financial products tailored to specific needs of business ecosystems. Second, the adoption of new operating models to drive efficiency and inclusion. Third, a deliberate focus on enabling sustainable development investing.
Furthermore, Nigeria’s banking and finance industry is well positioned to drive specific UN sustainable development goals such as inclusive and affordable credit, especially for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises. The industry can also provide support towards climate change.
Technology also featured in the discussion points. Undoubtedly, technology is a catalyst for growth across economies and the pandemic has further exposed the deficit within the sector across developing countries. Investments in digital infrastructure need to be rapidly expanded and scaled up to boost socio-economic development.
The speaker commended the FGN’s efforts on its push towards sustainable economic recovery. Some policy and regulatory reforms highlighted include, regulation of fintechs and related services to strengthen payment systems and regulate data protection; the green bonds which Nigeria first issued in 2017 in support of green projects, including solar energy and the modernisation of the Nigerian stock exchange that has given rise to a new operational structure and leadership.
These are laudable steps. However, we note that there is still room for improvement. To achieve double-digit GDP growth and sustainable development, structural transformation should remain on the FGN’s priority list.
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