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INCREASE IN MPR AND CRR BY MPC WILL HURT REAL SECTOR, SAYS CPPE

By Martins Azuwike

The Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE) has reviewed the outcome of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC’s) meeting of 27th February 2024 and came up with a stern conclusion that it would hurt the real sector of the economy which is already contending with numerous macroeconomic challenges.

Economist and CPPE’s Chief Executive Officer, Dr Muda Yusuf says in response to the outcome of the MPC’s decisions: “The increase of Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 18.75% to 22.5%; and cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) from 32.5% to 45% pose a major risk to the financial intermediation role of banks in the Nigerian economy.  The increase would constrain the capacity of banks to support economic growth and investment, especially in the real sector of the economy because the increases are quite significant.

“Although the decision was consistent with the typical policy response of the Central Banks globally, it failed to reckon with domestic peculiarities. The key drivers of Nigeria inflation are largely supply-side variables, and the CBN ways and means financing.  Over the last two years, there had been persistent monetary policy tightening, yet there has not been any significant impact on the inflationary pressures. If anything, the general price level had been continuously on the increase.”

Yusuf adds: “We recognize that the primary mandate of the CBN is price stability, but numerous headwinds had posed significant risks to this critical objective. Some of these include the surge in commodity prices and impact on energy cost, disruptive effects of insecurity on agricultural output, and global supply chain disruptions. The surge in ways and means finance also makes the CBN a culprit in the inflation predicament over the past few years.”

Following these developments, he contends that the hike in MPR or CRR would not change these variables.

The CPPE’s position is supported by observations that bank lending has been constrained by the high CRR which was until the latest review, 32.5% (many operators in the sector claim that effective CRR is as high as 50% for various banks), the discretionary debits by the apex bank.  He further says: “The credit situation in the economy is already very tight, with lending rate ranging between 25 -30%.   The Nigerian banks are yet to live up to their financial intermediation role because of these constraining factors.

“The Nigerian economy is not a credit driven economy, unlike what obtains in many advanced economies which have much higher levels of financial inclusion, robust consumer credit framework and strong correlation between interest rate and aggregate demand.  The level of financial inclusion in the Nigerian economy is still quite low, access to credit by households and MSMEs is still very challenging, and the informal sector accounts for close to 50% of the economy.

“Private sector bank credit as a percentage of GDP was 14% in 2022 in Nigeria. It was 59% in South Africa, 30.9% in Egypt, 30% in Botswana, 51.6% in the United States and 130% in the United Kingdom.  These underscore the variabilities across economies; thus, policy responses have to be different.” 

Dr Yusuf also remarked that the transmission effects of monetary policy on the Nigeria economy are still very weak.   In the Nigerian context, price levels are not interest sensitive, he said, while submitting that supply side issues are much more profound drivers of inflation.   

His words: “The new dramatic increase in MPR to 22.5% hike means that the cost of credit to the few private sector that have exposure to bank credits will increase which will impact their operating costs, prices of their products and profit margins, amid very challenging operating conditions.  The equities market may also be adversely impacted by the hike.

“It is thus imperative for the CBN to accelerate the process of increased capitalization of the development finance institutions to create a concessionary financing window for the real sector and the small businesses.”

Dr Yusuf identifies the key drivers of inflation in the country as acute scarcity of foreign exchange affecting access to manufacturing and other inputs,

supply chain disruptions resulting initially from the pandemic, and now exacerbated by the Russian – Ukraine conflict, and lately the Israeli-Hamas war, security concerns disrupting agricultural output, climate change effects on agricultural production, structural constraints affecting productivity in the agricultural value chain and manufacturing, high transportation costs affecting distribution costs across the country, which is also reflected in the huge differential between farm gate prices and market prices.

Other factors include high and increasing energy cost, especially the cost of diesel, monetization of fiscal deficit (CBN financing of deficit) which is highly inflationary because of the liquidity injection effects on the economy, high transactions costs at the nation’s ports, high import duty on intermediate goods and raw materials, and aggressive revenue drive by government agencies.

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To reverse the spiralling inflation, CPPE recommends that government need to urgently address some cardinal issues such as the security concerns causing disruption to agricultural activities, sustaining reforms in the foreign exchange market to stabilize the exchange rate, reduce volatility and stimulate forex inflows, forex liquidity issues through appropriate policy measures incentives forex inflows into the economy, and fix the structural problems to boost productivity and competitiveness of domestic firms.

He also recommends that government should address the challenge of high transportation and logistics cost, reduce fiscal deficit monetization to minimize incidence of high-powered money in the economy, manage climate change consequences to reduce flooding and desertification, ensure the restoration of normalcy and good order at the nations ports to reduce transaction costs, reduce import duty on intermediate products and raw materials for industries to reduce production costs, especially in the light of the sharp depreciation in the exchange rate, address concerns around high energy cost, and create an investment friendly tax environment to boost investments and output in the economy.

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A highly motivated, creative, and versatile economist, researcher, analyst, and writer/commentator on economic development with bias for and experience in community development, citizen wellbeing, financial and corporate analysis.