The International Monetary Fund, IMF on Tuesday approved a sum of $3.4 billion via a Rapid Financial Instrument to Nigeria. The loans come at a period when countries across the world are battling with the Covid-19 pandemic and the crash in crude oil prices.
While the loans do not necessarily come with strings, the IMF did reveal in its press release acknowledging that Nigeria was on the path to unifying its exchange rata and moving towards a flexible exchange rate regime. As Nigerians get acquainted with the terms of the deal, the IMF released more reports shedding more light into what the country might expect to happen in the coming weeks and month should they have their way.
One of such policy changes it demands from Nigeria is a change in some of the most loved monetary policies, currently in place under the Godwin Emefiele led central bank. The CBN Governor has often defended his heterodox policies claiming it is expedient if Nigeria were to dislocate itself from its thirst for foreign imports. The IMF may well be on a collision course with the CBN if it wants the CBN to reverse these policies.
CBN Policies IMF wants to be reversed.
Exchange Rate Unification: The CBN currently maintains a multiple exchange rate regime where it buys and sells forex through several windows. The IMF wants the CBN to collapse these windows into one.
“With the spread across the various exchange rate windows now very narrow, this is also a good moment to immediately move to full and formal unification—e.g., by converging all foreign exchange windows to the I&E window. This critical step to ensuring a well-functioning market would be helped by the CBN’s calibration of its foreign exchange sales in the market at a level commensurate with protecting central bank reserves while taking into account low international oil prices and reduced FX demand. A unified and more flexible exchange rate will be an important shock absorber, especially in turbulent times— with CBN FX interventions limited to smoothing large fluctuations in the exchange rate.” IMF
The CBN already moved towards this after it devalued from N305 to N360 in its official window. However, the rate still differs from that of the BDCs and the I&E window. CBN also does not have a flexible exchange rate and have resisted this for years under Emefiele. This will be one of the greatest ever policy changes in Nigeria’s economic history and goes against every defense President Buhari has put forward defending a fixed exchange rate regime. It will be a huge victory for more market-friendly analysts if this happens under Emefiele and Buhari.
Remove FX Restriction on Imports: The IMF also wants the CBN to remove all FX related restrictions on imports. This includes its flagship ban on the sale of forex to import on 41 items, a major policy thrust of Emefiele.
“Along with exchange rate unification, existing FX restrictions on goods imports should be removed and monetary policy tightening through more orthodox tools (i.e., no discretionary CRR that distorts banks’ liquidity management) resumed to enable the CBN to reach its single-digit inflation target.” IMF
Dropping this policy will be a very difficult one considering how critical it is to the CBN’s import substitution policy. Once it does this, it would have done a complete 360 degrees to one of its most controversial policies. The CBN believes these bans have led to an increase in the local production of rice and a boost to the agricultural sector.
Stop the CRR & LDR policy: Banks hate the CBN’s increase in CRR and the CBN’s frequent unilateral debits of its deposits due to non-compliance of the load to deposit ration monetary policy. The IMF seems to hate that too.
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“Recent regulations to spur lending through the loan-to-deposit ratio, which encourages higher credit risk and a shorter maturity structure, should be eliminated. Banks’ own capital and liquidity buffers should remain the first line of defense, which in the case of Nigeria means that supervisors could temporarily allow banks to drop below the minimum capital requirement (currently 15 percent for large banks, which is significantly above the Basel II 8 percent requirement).” IMF
The CBN’s CRR & LDR policy is at the heart of the bank’s quest to push banks away from the safety of treasury bills and OMO towards the more risky private sector lending. Some naysayers believe the CBN has an ulterior motive which probably includes defending the naira. Getting the CBN to also reverse this policy will be a huge win for banks who have complained that the policy affects its profitability growth.
It will be interesting to see how the CBN reacts to these demands from the IMF and how quickly it could reverse its much-maligned policies if it does agree to reverse them.
Paypal’s Venmo now permits cryptocurrency trading
Venmo will support four different cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin.
Venmo, a mobile payment service owned by PayPal has announced that it has started allowing users to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrencies on its app. Just like PayPal, Venmo will support four different cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin, Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, and Litecoin, and users can carry out transactions with as little as $1 on the app
Founded in 2009, Venmo has over 70 million users and it is one of the most popular payment channels in the US. The payment platform processed around $159 billion in payments last year.
Since the app functions like a social network, adding cryptocurrency will offer a more user-friendly feel for people who love buying and selling crypto.
As bigger companies show more interest in cryptocurrency, there will be wider adoption of virtual currencies in future. Venmo is the latest payment app that is offering support for cryptocurrency on its platform.
Paypal, the parent company of Venmo is one of the most active companies in the crypto space as it allows users to buy, sell and hold cryptocurrencies in their digital wallets. Paypal users can also spend their coins at millions of merchants globally.
Crypto on Venmo is enabled through PayPal’s partnership with Paxos Trust Company, a regulated provider of cryptocurrency products and services.
What they are saying
Darrell Esch, Venmo’s Senior Vice President and general manager said “Our goal is to provide our customers with an easy-to-use platform that simplifies the process of buying and selling cryptocurrencies and demystifies some of the common questions and misconceptions that consumers may have.”
ABCON asks CBN to check impact of cryptocurrencies on diaspora remittances
The association also noted that the apex bank needs to address other issues driving the patronage of cryptocurrency exchanges for remittance transfers.
The Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria (ABCON) has asked the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to introduce measures that will neutralize the positive effects of cryptocurrencies as a channel for diaspora remittances.
This is to redirect diaspora remittances away from cryptocurrency exchanges to official channels and also protect such against potential disruptions.
This call was made by ABCON during its Quarterly Economic Review for the first quarter of 2021 where it commended the CBN for the N5/$ rebate scheme introduced to encourage diaspora Nigerians to use official channels to remit their funds.
However, the association noted that the apex bank needs to address other issues driving the patronage of cryptocurrency exchanges for remittance transfers.
What ABCON is saying in their statement
The association in its statement said, “It is noteworthy that public acceptability for cryptocurrency exchanges are rising which could be quite accountable for the wide drop in diaspora inflows to Nigeria. Insecurity in the country is giving it greater prominence as investors and citizens are finding Cryptocurrency a safe haven for their wealth in case of any eventuality.
In most Emerging Markets Bitcoin transfers surged last year, as the pandemic exposed the cheaper and more efficient digital remittance services. Migrants sending money across borders to their families prefer the minimal transaction costs of cryptocurrency exchanges against the exorbitant costs of traditional money transfer companies like Western Union.”
According to ABCON, “Cryptocurrency transactions are faster than the conventional transfers, which require passing through banks reliant SWIFT, the sluggish, half-century-old interbank messaging system that handles cross-border payments.
These exchanges override the political complications of official channels. The global reach of cryptocurrencies avoids the inflation risk inherent to official currencies, especially in politically unstable countries reliant on fickle foreign investors.
Thus, while we commend the efforts of CBN in introducing the package of Five Naira for One Dollar transfer, it can be seen from the analysis above that the challenges exceed just non-payment of foreign currency by the IMTCs and the exchange rate. Strategies that satisfy the most sensitive of these advantages of Cryptocurrency exchanges must be introduced to redirect flows to the official channel.”
ABCON also expressed concerns over the country’s huge unemployment rate, urging the government to apply radical approaches with the use of both conventional and unconventional economic and political tools to redress the trend.
What you should know
- It can be recalled that the apex bank had about 2 months ago, warned the Deposit Money Banks, Non-Financial Institutions and other Financial Institutions against doing business in crypto and other digital assets.
- The CBN directed financial institutions to immediately close the accounts of persons or entities transacting in or operating cryptocurrency exchanges, warning of severe regulatory sanctions in the event of any breach of the directive.
- The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had a few days ago, revealed that it is working with the CBN for a better understanding and regulation of cryptocurrencies in the country.
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