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Expert Alarmed as Reserves Drop Below Minimum Threshold For Six Months Imports

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Nigerian authorities have been warned to take pragmatic steps to save the economy from crisis, with the observation that the country’s reserves have dropped below the minimum threshold for six months of imports.

Speaking at the Finance Correspondents Association of Nigeria (FICAN) Half-Year Economic Review and outlook for the banking sector, Dr. ‘Biodun Adedipe, founder and Chief Consultant of B. Adedipe Associates Limited (BAAConsult) said, with a monthly import bill of N2.283 trillion or $6.025 billion in the first quarter (Q1) 2021, liquid external reserves of $32.85 billion (as at July 9, 2021), represents 5.45 months of import, meaning that Nigeria is below the minimum threshold of 6 months of imports for stability and twice below 11 months required for an economy in crisis.

He also called on the banks to do more, saying they were facing extensive competition from Silicon Valley both in the form of Financial Technology (FinTech) companies and big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and now Walmart that is here to stay.

He observed that the Nigerian banking industry grew double-digit in the last five years, demonstrating effective marketing, but that with the loan-to-deposit ratio averaging 70.4 percent, the banks were below the prescribed maximum.

He said they had room to expand lending “but the challenge then is how the lending environment can be de-risked, especially lending to Medium, Small and Medium-scale Enterprises (MSMEs).

He said, “There is no sector you operate in, in the Nigerian economy that there is no space for you to thrive, if you do the right things, at the right places, and right time, for the right person and with most things now digital.

“The downward trend in all indices: price, production and export is a warning sign for Nigeria and is a sign of the urgency of diversification of foreign earnings.”

On the positive side, observed improvements in some economic indices and the resilience of the banking industry in the last five years.

He said banking in Nigeria is almost as sophisticated as you can find anywhere else in the world and they have proven to be at the forefront of technology leverage.

According to him, the banks were doing well in the digital space supported by deepening internet penetration, large youthful and rapidly growing population, rapid urbanization, strengthening innovation culture driven by survival instinct and increasing attention to competitive strategy.

He said critical future and forward-thinking is now the order of the day and banks are already competing against large powerful shadow banking systems.

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Economy

IMF Staff Completes Virtual Mission to Lesotho

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IMF

Lesotho has been struggling with the fallout from the pandemic and a sharp decline in revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU); The authorities and the mission team made significant progress in their discussions on policies that could be supported by the IMF under a financial arrangement.

A team from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), led by Mr. Aqib Aslam, conducted a series of virtual missions, most recently from September 7 to October 15, 2021, to discuss the authorities’ economic and financial program and their request for IMF financial support.

The authorities and the mission team had productive discussions on policies that could be supported by the IMF under a financial arrangement. The program under discussion would aim to support a durable post-pandemic recovery, restore fiscal sustainability, strengthen public financial management, and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable. Other key structural reforms to be implemented include strengthening governance and fostering private sector investment to spur inclusive growth and employment over the medium term.

At the end of the visit, Mr. Aslam issued the following statement:

“Lesotho has been experiencing twin economic shocks resulting from the pandemic and a decline in revenues from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) that have proved to be highly volatile. Public expenditures have been increasing while SACU revenues were buoyant but have not adapted to their decline and the limited growth in other revenue sources. At the same time, the economy has been in recession since 2017. The resulting fiscal and external imbalances, if left unaddressed, would continue to put pressure on international reserves and lead to government payment arrears.

“Discussions emphasized the need to support a robust and inclusive post-pandemic recovery. To this end, the mission discussed with the authorities a number of options for containing the fiscal deficit to a level that is sustainable and can be fully financed. The team noted that the adjustment should be focused on expenditure measures while boosting poverty-reducing social spending to protect the most vulnerable. Complementary actions include efforts to broaden financial access and inclusion; strengthen financial supervision; modernize the legal frameworks for bank lending, business rescue, and restructuring, and digitalize payment systems.

“On the fiscal front, efforts should focus on addressing the public sector wage bill, which is one of the largest in the world compared to the size of the economy; saving on public sector and official allowances; better targeting education loans; streamlining the capital budget and initiating gender-responsive budgeting. Discussions also considered measures to modernize tax policy and improve domestic revenue mobilization. The mission noted the need to address long-standing PFM issues to ensure the provision of reliable fiscal data, the integrity of government systems, and the sound use of public resources.

“Significant progress was made during the visit, and discussions will continue in the coming weeks. If agreement is reached on policy measures in support of the reform program, an arrangement to support Lesotho’s economic program would be proposed for the IMF Executive Board’s consideration.

“The IMF team thanks the authorities for their hospitality and constructive discussions.”

The IMF mission met with Prime Minister Majoro, Minister of Finance Sophonea, Central Bank Governor Matlanyane, and other senior government officials. The team also met with representatives of the diplomatic community, private sector, civil society, and multilateral development partners.

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Nigeria’s Inflation: Prices Increase at Slower Pace in September 2021

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Consumer Confidence

Prices of goods and services moderated further in Africa’s largest economy, Nigeria in the month of September 2021, the latest report from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed.

Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures the inflation rate, grew at 16.63 percent year-on-year in September, slower than the 17.01 percent rate achieved in the month of August.

On a monthly basis, inflation rose by 1.15 percent in September 2021, representing an increase of 0.13 percent from 1.02 percent filed in August 2021.

Food Index that gauges price of food items grew at 19.57 percent rate in the month, below the 20.30 percent rate recorded in August 2021.

The increase in the food index was caused by increases in prices of oils and fats, bread and cereals, food product N.E.C., fish, coffee, tea and cocoa, potatoes, yam and other tuber and milk, cheese and egg.

However, on a monthly basis, the price of food index rose by 0.20 percent from 1.06 percent filed in August 2021 to 1.26 percent in September 2021.

The more stable twelve months average ending in September 2021 revealed that prices of food items grew by 0.21 percent from 20.50 percent in August to 20.71 percent in September.

Prices of goods and services have been on the decline in Nigeria in recent months, according to the NBS. However. on masses are complaining of the persistent rise in prices of goods and services across the nation.

Some experts attributed the increase to Nigeria’s weak foreign exchange rate given it is largely an import-dependent economy.

 

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Global Debt Rises by $27 Trillion to $226 Trillion in 2020 – IMF

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IMF - Investors King

The pandemic has led to an unprecedented increase in debt—issued by governments, nonfinancial corporations, and households the IMF estimated in the latest Fiscal Monitor report. In 2020 global debt reached $226 trillion and increased by $27 trillion, the IMF estimated Wednesday  (October 13) in Washington, DC.

High and growing levels of public and private debt are associated with risks to financial stability and public finances, said Vitor Gaspar, Director of the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department.

“According to preliminary estimates from the Global Debt Database, global debt by governments, households, and non-financial corporations reached $226 trillion. That represents an increase of $27 trillion relative to 2019. Both the level and the pace of increase are record highs. We know that high and rising debts increase risks to financial stability and public finances,” Gaspar said ahead of the Fiscal Monitor release.

Gaspar emphasized that countries with a high credibility fiscal framework benefit from better bond market access. They also experience lower interest rates on sovereign bonds.

“A strong message from the fiscal monitor is that fiscal credibility pays off. Countries that have credible fiscal frameworks benefit from better and cheaper access to bond markets. That’s a precious asset to have in an uncertain and difficult times like COVID 19. Fiscal credibility pays off!,” added Gaspar.

He also recognized that while the international community has provided critical support to alleviate fiscal vulnerabilities in low-income countries, still more is needed.

“In 2020, the IMF’s rapid financing and the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative contribute to make resources available to the countries that need it the most. But more is needed. With a general allocation of SDRs of $650 billion, liquidity has been provided, but much more could be achieved if rich countries would make part of their resources available to the developing world. By doing so, donors would be contributing to fighting the pandemic and to the achievement of sustainable and inclusive growth,” said Gaspar

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