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WHO Collaborates With Legislators to Improve Universal Health Coverage and Health Security

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WHO - Investorsking

Legislators from the National Assembly, State Houses of Assembly and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) converged at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja from 23-25 May 2021 for the Fourth Legislative Health Summit.

Every year, since the first Summit was convened in July 2017 (except in 2020 because of COVID-19), Legislators have gathered to apply their statutory functions of legislation, appropriation, oversight (accountability), and representation to raise health high on the agenda of the government.

A major output of the Summit is the Legislative Health Agenda (LHA) with actionable steps and timelines for implementation at the national and state levels. The LHA details critical interventions for legislative action that will support the attainment of UHC and health security in Nigeria.

The theme of the 2021 Summit which was chaired by the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmed Lawan and represented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Sabi Aliyu, is “Universal Health Coverage and Health Security, two sides of a coin for an efficient health system”.

“This summit is coming at a time when COVID-19 has revealed the fractures in the global and indeed Nigerian health systems demonstrated by apparent disruptions in the economy and provision of essential health services”, stated Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Nigeria Country Representative (WR) at the Summit.

“The WHO within our mandate under the GPW13 and the Transformation Agenda is committed to supporting member States in the achievement of the health agenda of their choice. With the ongoing restructuring going on including here in Nigeria, stepping up political leadership as a vehicle towards accelerating UHC and health security has, therefore, been considered an appropriate strategic shift.” He added.

To conclude his remarks, Dr. Kazadi promised WHO’s support to develop appropriate accountability mechanisms to track implementation of the Legislative Health Agenda and to extend good practices to other countries.

Earlier in his remarks, Nigeria’s Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, represented by the Minister of State for Health, Senator (Dr) Olorunnimbe Mamora, reassured Nigerians of the commitment of the Government towards UHC and health security.

“The attainment of the Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians and especially for the most vulnerable Nigerians are at the heart of the human capital development initiative of this administration. Our experience in the last year of COVID19 in Nigeria has exposed the vulnerability of our health system and the importance of preparedness, diagnosis and response mechanism. The Federal Ministry of Health is committed to the achievement of universal health coverage for all citizens through the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), revised to provide a much richer Basic Minimum Package of Health Services, to meet the common healthcare needs of all citizens.”

In an address of welcome, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health and Convener of the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage (LNU), Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, stated that the purpose of the Summit is to review progress against the Legislative Health Agenda set at the last Summit in 2019 towards developing priorities for the year ahead for improvement of the Nigerian health system. He underscored the challenges in the system including COVID-19 and appreciated all development partners who supported the Summit.

The First Counsellor and Deputy Head of Delegation at the European Union Delegation to Nigeria and ECOWAS (EU), Mr. Alexandre Borges Gomes in his goodwill message reiterated the EU’s support and urged the Government of Nigeria to improve strategic investment for UHC and Health Security. “The EU shares the very real concern, a fear, about the impact of COVID-19 on the maintenance of essential health services. Routine immunization has suffered which does not abode well for those States in Nigeria with already extremely low rates. Health is an expensive business and Nigeria, one of the countries of the world with the worst health indicators, has also one of the lowest spending ratios. It would be essential that the sector be prioritized right at the time when appropriations are set if we are to have anything like minimally effective and accountable delivery of services”.

The 3-day event which was supported by development partners including the WHO with funding from the European Union (EU), was graced by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo represented by the Minister of State for Health Senator (Dr) Olorunnimbe Mamora, the Speaker of the House of Representatives Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajiabiamila who was represented by the Chairman House Committee on Healthcare Services, Hon. Tanko Sununu, and the Chairman Senate Committee on PHC and Communicable Diseases Senator Chukwuka Utazi.

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Economy

Goldman Sachs Urges Bold Rate Hike as Naira Weakens and Inflation Soars

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Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)

As Nigeria grapples with soaring inflation and a faltering naira, Goldman Sachs is calling for a substantial increase in interest rates to stabilize the economy and restore investor confidence.

The global investment bank’s recommendation comes ahead of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) key monetary policy decision, set to be announced on Tuesday.

Goldman Sachs economists, including Andrew Matheny, argue that incremental rate adjustments will not be sufficient to address the country’s deepening economic challenges.

“Another 50 or 100 basis points is certainly not going to move the needle in the eyes of an investor,” Matheny stated. “Nigeria needs a bold, decisive move to curb inflation and regain investor trust.”

The CBN, under the leadership of Governor Olayemi Cardoso, is anticipated to raise interest rates by 75 basis points to 27% in its upcoming meeting.

This would mark a continuation of the aggressive tightening campaign that began in May 2022, which has seen rates increase by 14.75 percentage points.

Despite this, inflation has remained stubbornly high, highlighting the need for more substantial measures.

The current economic landscape is marked by severe challenges. The naira’s depreciation has led to higher import costs, fueling inflation and eroding consumer purchasing power.

The CBN has attempted to ease the currency’s scarcity by selling dollars to local foreign exchange bureaus, but these efforts have yet to stabilize the naira significantly.

“Developments since the last meeting have definitely been hawkish,” noted Matheny. “The naira has weakened further, exacerbating inflationary pressures. The CBN’s policy needs to reflect this reality more aggressively.”

In response to the persistent inflation and naira weakness, analysts are urging the central bank to implement a more coherent strategy to manage the currency and inflation.

James Marshall of Promeritum Investment Management LLP suggested that the CBN should actively participate in the foreign exchange market to mitigate the naira’s volatility and restore market confidence.

“The central bank needs to be a more consistent and active participant in the forex market,” Marshall said. “A clear strategy to address the naira’s weakness is crucial for stabilizing the economy.”

The CBN’s decision will come as the country faces a critical period. With inflation expected to slow due to favorable comparisons with the previous year and new measures to reduce food costs, including a temporary import duty waiver on wheat and corn, there is hope that the economic situation may improve.

However, analysts anticipate that the CBN will need to implement one final rate hike to solidify inflation’s slowdown and restore positive real rates.

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Currency Drop Spurs Discount Dilemma in Cairo’s Markets

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Egyptian pound

Under Cairo’s scorching sun, the bustling streets reveal an unexpected twist in dramatic price drops on big-ticket items like cars and appliances.

Following March’s significant currency devaluation, prices for these goods have plunged, leaving consumers hesitant to make purchases amid hopes for even better deals.

Mohamed Yassin, a furniture store vendor, said “People just inquire about prices. They’re afraid to buy in case prices drop further.” This cautious consumer behavior is posing challenges for Egypt’s consumer-driven economy.

In March, Egyptian authorities devalued the pound by nearly 40% to stabilize an economy teetering on the edge. While such moves often lead to inflation spikes, Egypt’s case has been unusual.

Unlike other nations like Nigeria or Argentina, where costs soared post-devaluation, Egypt is witnessing falling prices for high-value items.

Previously inflated prices were driven by a black market in foreign currency, where importers secured dollars at exorbitant rates, passing costs onto consumers.

Now, with the pound stabilizing and foreign currency more accessible, retailers are struggling to sell inventory at pre-devaluation prices.

Despite price reductions, the overall consumer market remains sluggish. The automotive sector has seen a near 75% drop in sales compared to pre-crisis levels.

Major brands like Hyundai and Volkswagen have slashed prices by about a quarter, yet buyers remain cautious.

The economic strain is not limited to luxury items. Everyday expenses continue to rise, albeit more slowly, with anticipated hikes in electricity and fuel prices adding to the pressure.

Experts highlight a period of adjustment as both consumers and traders navigate the volatile exchange-rate environment. Mohamed Abu Basha, head of research at EFG Hermes, explains, “The market is taking time to absorb recent fluctuations.”

Meanwhile, businesses face declining sales, impacting their ability to manage operating costs. Yassin’s store has offered discounts of up to 50% yet remains quiet. “We’ve tried everything, but everyone is waiting,” he laments.

The devaluation has spurred a shift in economic dynamics. Inflation has eased, but the pace varies across sectors. Clothing and transportation costs are up, while food prices fluctuate.

With the phasing out of fuel subsidies and potential electricity price increases, Egyptians are bracing for further financial strain. The recent 300% rise in subsidized bread prices adds another layer of concern.

The situation underscores the balancing act between maintaining consumer confidence and attracting foreign investment.

Economists suggest potential stimulus measures, such as lowering interest rates or increasing public spending, to boost demand.

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MPC Meeting on July 22-23 to Tackle Inflation as Rates Set to Rise Again

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Interbank rate

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is set to convene on July 22-23, 2024, amid soaring inflation and economic challenges in Nigeria.

Led by Olayemi Cardoso, the committee has already increased interest rates three times this year, raising them by 750 basis points to 26.25 percent.

Nigeria’s annual inflation rate climbed to 34.19 percent in June, driven by rising food prices. Despite these pressures, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) projects that inflation will moderate to around 21.40 percent by year-end.

Market analysts expect a further rate hike as the committee seeks to rein in inflation. Nabila Mohammed from Chapel Hill Denham anticipates a 50–75 basis point increase.

Similarly, Coronation Research forecasts a potential rise of 50 to 100 basis points, given the recent uptick in inflation.

The food inflation rate reached 40.87 percent in June, exacerbated by security issues in key agricultural regions.

Essential commodities such as millet, garri, and yams have seen significant price hikes, impacting household budgets and savings.

As the MPC meets, the National Bureau of Statistics is set to release data on selected food prices for June, providing further insights into the inflationary trends affecting Nigerians.

The upcoming MPC meeting will be crucial in determining the trajectory of Nigeria’s monetary policy as the government grapples with economic instability.

The focus remains on balancing inflation control with economic growth to ensure stability in Africa’s largest economy.

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