The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee will today (Monday) begin its two-day bi-monthly meeting to review the state of the economy.
It is expected to take key policy decisions that will influence the direction of the economy.
Top on the agenda of the meeting is the need to tackle the biting recession occasioned by slow growth in the economy, rising inflation, and the volatility in the foreign exchange market.
Economic experts expect the 12-member MPC to begin an expansionary monetary policy by reducing the Monetary Policy Rate (the benchmark interest rate), and lower the Cash Reserve Ratio.
According to the economists, the MPC will need to reduce the liquidity ratio and take measures to address the lingering volatility in the foreign exchange market.
The Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Limited, Mr. Bismarck Rewane, said the MPC might have no other choice than to purse an expansionary monetary policy considering the state of the economy and the recent stimulus package announced by the fiscal authority.
He said, “We expect an accommodative monetary policy as against a contractionary one. The CBN will want to complement the effort of the fiscal authority, especially as regards the stimulus package that was recently announced.”
In an economic bulletin released on Friday, Rewane added, “The divergence between the year-on-year headline inflation and the annualised monthly rate of 6.17 per cent poses a major dilemma to the apex bank. Even though the monthly measure is more relevant to inflation expectations, it may need to maintain consistency with the previous measure.
“The clamour for a stimulus package and lower interest rates by the government and the public will force a more accommodative stance by the committee in spite of other considerations.
“The high inflation environment has reduced consumer spending, real returns and corporate profitability margins. The markets have reacted accordingly.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Asset Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu, was also of the view that the MPC would begin an accommodative monetary policy.
He said, “It is clear that we have not been able to control inflation with the tightening policy. If the overriding consideration is to reflate the economy, the MPC will need to reverse the last increase made in the MPR by reducing it from 14 to 12 per cent. The committee may need to cut the Cash Reserve Ratio from 22.5 per cent to 20 per cent and then to 15 per cent later.
A professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Sheriffdeen Tella, also said he expected the committee to reduce the MPR in order to lower interest rate on bank loans and subsequently boost credit in the economy.
He said, “This is a time to begin an expansionary monetary policy. The MPC must reduce the MPR, reduce the liquidity ratio or maintain the status quo. We have seen that the inflation we are experiencing is cost-push, i.e caused by increase in cost of capital and not by demand pull. So we need to reduce the cost of capital in the economy.
“There is also a need for the committee to tell us how they intend to tackle the volatility in the exchange rate. They need to tell us whether the volatility is being caused by speculators or real demand. If it is caused by real demand, there is nothing they can do about it. However, if it is activities of speculators, then they must state how they intend to deal with it.”
The MPC had during its July meeting hiked the MPR by 200 basis points to 14 per cent.
The 14 per cent MPR announced by the CBN is the highest in over a decade.
However, the committee left the CRR and the liquidity ratio unchanged at 22.5 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.
The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who announced the decision of the committee after a two-day meeting held at the apex bank’s headquarters in Abuja, said eight out of the 12 members of the committee attended the meeting.
Out of the eight, he said five members voted in favour of monetary tightening, while the other three voted to hold the MPR at 12 per cent.
In taking the decision to increase the MPR, the CBN governor said the committee was faced with two policy choices – whether to hold or reduce the rate to stimulate growth, or increase it in order to curb inflation.
Emefiele, however, said when considered from the standpoint that the primary mandate of the CBN was to maintain price stability, the committee decided to focus on its mandate by checking inflationary pressures.
The governor explained that members of the committee agreed that the economy was passing through a difficult phase, adding that the concern was that headline inflation had risen significantly in June.
The committee, he said, noted that inflation had risen significantly, eroding real purchasing power of fixed income earners and dragging down growth.
The CBN governor said the high inflationary trend had culminated in negative real interest rates in the economy, noting that this was discouraging savings.
According to him, members of the committee also noted that the negative real interest rates did not support the recent flexible foreign exchange market as foreign investors’ attitude had remained lukewarm, showing unwillingness to bring in new capital under the circumstance.
He said the decision to raise interest rate would give impetus to improving the liquidity of the foreign exchange market and the urgent need to deepen the market to ensure self-sustainability.
The governor said members were of the opinion that the liquidity of the foreign exchange market would boost manufacturing and industrial output, thereby stimulating the much needed growth.