The National Bureau of Statistics announced a couple of months ago that the Nigerian Economy had contracted by about 0.3% for the first quarter of 2016. That was the first time Nigeria was recording a negative GDP growth rate since 1995. The Bureau also reported higher inflation trends that has now seen the consumer price index rise to as high as 16.5% the highest inflation rate since March 2005. It is now widely believed that Nigeria is in a recession as we only await confirmation from the National Bureau of Statistics.
The Central Bank and other handlers of the economy have reacted with a rash of new policies that they hope will kick-start growth in the economy. The Naira is now floating and the government has passed the 2016 Budget. This has led to many asking Nairametrics, when will things get better?
It’s a tough question to answer considering that recessions are often hard to come out of and there are no one size fits all policies that can make things work. Nevertheless, we believe there are few things that need to happen before we can expect a turnaround for the economy. We call them the four lights in the tunnel. They need to be switched on, if there is going to be any way forward out of the darkness that a recession and stagflation brings.
Oil Prices – Oil prices need to rise again for there to be a positive outlook for the economy. Currently at an average $42, we will need it to stay above $50 for our revenues to gain traction. Nigeria is still a mono export economy with oil dominating over 90% of our export revenue. That figure is now down to under 85% since the price of oil began its slide in mid 2014. Nigeria’s crude oil exports have dropped from about N11.8 trillion in 2014 to about N6.8 trillion in 2015. It currently stands at about N821.8 billion in the first quarter of 2016 according to data from the Bureau of Statistics, less than the quarterly average of N3 trillion and N1.5 trillion recorded in 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Nigeria’s total export is also down from N16.3 trillion in 2014 to about N9. trillion in 2015. The government has talked about diversifying the economy away from oil for decades but to no avail. Maybe this time they are serious about it. Unfortunately, that is a long term goal meaning that we remain stuck with oil for at least the next 5 years.
Bombings in the creeks – The activities of the Niger Delta Militants need to be STOPPED for Nigeria to begin the process of turning the economy around. As mentioned above, Oil is a mainstay for Nigeria and it’s what drives this economy. Nigeria is said to lose about $1 million per day to bombing and at some point dropped our crude oil production to under 1 million barrels per day. So even if prices rise above $50, we will still need to meet Nigeria’s oil production quota of about 2.5 million barrels per day to meet our revenue targets. The bombings are currently making that target impossible to achieve.
External Reserves – Nigeria’s external reserves need to rise again to above $40 billion for Nigeria to be on the path of economic recovery. It’s a tall order considering that we are currently at around $26 billion. The foreign currency reserves or external reserves as some call it, is the total amount of forex Nigeria has in the custody of the CBN. It is what the CBN uses mostly to fund our imports, travel allowances, school fees abroad etc. CBN takes dollars from the reserves to sell to you and I via our commercial banks. So the smaller it is, the more difficult it is for you and I to buy forex leading to a further depreciation of the Naira.
Nigeria’s external reserve was at about $39 billion in July 2014 when the price of oil started to fall drastically. Since then it has fallen nearly every other month. Our external reserves peaked at $62 billion in September 2008 under the Yaradua regime. Incidentally, increase in government revenues and inflow of forex from foreign investors are two of the main sources of inflow for the external reserves.
Foreign Investors – Nigeria needs to attract foreign investors (both portfolio and direct) into the country again. Foreign Portfolio investors are short term investors who invest in stocks, treasury bills, bonds etc. Foreign direct investors are more long term investors who set up businesses in Nigeria so that they can tap into our natural and human resources in exchange for making profits. Whilst, FDI’s are often preferred to FPI’s they both serve the same purpose of bringing in forex into the Nigerian economy. FDI’s and FPI’s mostly exited or stopped investing in Nigeria when the price of oil began a downward slide. Things got worse when the CBN imposed capital controls which restricted the outflow of forex from Nigeria.
The CBN did this because they were trying to guard our external reserves by curtailing the outflow of forex by foreign investors who were afraid that the economy might tank. Most of them were FPIs. Unfortunately, this worsened the situation as both FPI’s and FDI’s who may have considered investing in Nigeria became hesitant. No investor will like to invest in an economy that restricts how they take their money out or bring it in. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the total value of investments (FPI+FDI) into Nigeria in the first quarter of 2016 was $710.97 million, the lowest level since we started keeping this data in 2007. This was a decline of 54.34% when compared to the (preceding) fourth quarter of 2015 and also a decline of 73.79% when compared to the same period in 2015. Both the quarterly and year on year declines were also the lowest recorded since 2007. At its peak in 2014, foreign investment into Nigeria was about $20.7 billion with FPI’s accounting for about $14,9 billion of that.