The world is in a fix. Covid-19, unprecedented as it is, has led to economic shocks owing to severe disruptions in the global supply chain, rising levels of corporate and public debt, rising levels of unemployment, negative shocks to commodity prices, and more. To cushion the negative impacts on economies around the world, global leaders have put policies in place hoping that it will stop or, at least, slow down the negative trajectory of these failing economies. It was in the same light that the Central Bank of Nigeria decided to lower the MPR rate to 12.5% from 13.5%.
How the Decision Came About
In a meeting held by the CBN’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) on Thursday this week, a majority of the members voted to cut the rate from 13.5% to 12.5%. During an earlier meeting held in March, the decision to hold rates had been unanimous. However, given the deepening challenges of the present time, seven out of the 10 members at the MPC meeting voted to cut the rate. Even more interesting is the fact that the rest of the panel opted for a more aggressive easing, with two voting for a 150 basis-point reduction and one for 200 basis points.
Why the Decision Was Made
COVID-19’s adverse effects on the global economy have been unprecedented and severe. During the meeting, which was broadcast live on Thursday 28th May, the MPC had noted key observations in the macroeconomic environment resulting from the adverse impacts of COVID-19 as well as the drop in crude oil prices. Some of the key highlights of the current economic situation include:
- The significant decline in Manufacturing and non-Manufacturing Purchasing Manager’s Indices (PMIs) to 42.4 and 25.3 index points, respectively, in May 2020, compared with 51.1 and 49.2 index points in March 2020.
- The marginal growth in broad money (M3) to 2.66 percent in April 2020 from 2.42 percent in March 2020, largely due to increases in Net Domestic and Foreign Assets.
- The significant growth of aggregate net credit by 8.07 percent in April 2020 compared with 4.90 percent in March 2020 (still below the indicative benchmark of 16.85 percent for the year.
The committee also mentioned the gradual improvement in macroeconomic variables, particularly the improvement in the equities market, the containment measures of the COVID-19 induced health crisis, as well as the impact of the increase in crude oil price on the external reserves. It also noted the stability in the banking system as shown by the increase in total assets by 18.8 percent and total deposits by 25.52 percent (year-on-year).
Given the overall economic situation and its impact on the average Nigerian, the MPC was of the view that any tightening of policy stance is, for now, inappropriate as it will result in further contraction of aggregate demand, thereby leading to a decline in output – which is necessary to sustain the supply chain for growth recovery. For the option of holding previous policy stance, the MPC believed holding may indicate that the monetary authorities are insensitive to prevailing weak economic conditions. Also noteworthy is the fact that this move to cut rates have been carried out by many other central banks across the globe, including Australia, Malaysia, and the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The Impact Of The Decision
The expected outcome of the decision of the CBN is to ensure that the economy reverses from the recession quickly. As such, the decision is geared towards stimulating growth and swift recovery. The cut, being the lowest in four years, rests on the optimism that it will possibly avert a recession. It, however, has its limitations. A clear challenge is the impact the rate cut will have on inflation which has been way above the target range of 6% to 9% for five years. There is also the issue of increasing pressure on the naira.
The rising question is whether the rate cut will do enough to prevent a recession. This is an important question, taking into account the volatility in the crude market – a sector that accounts for about 90% of exports and more than half of government revenue, the fall in private sector credit of 61% from just a year earlier, as well as all of the same challenges that spurred the making of the decision in the first place.
We are on the brink of a recession. Whilst policies like these could offer a buffer, the prolonged existence of the pandemic on the economy is one nail in the coffin that can only be halted by the provision of a vaccine. It is only when life reverts to normalcy that we can begin to undo the damage thus far.
Productivity-enhancing reforms is required for quick economic recovery – World Bank
Productivity-enhancing structural reforms key to quick economic recovery.
The World Bank has revealed that a slow recovery of the global economy is not an inevitability and can be avoided through productivity-enhancing structural reforms.
This is contained in the Bank’s flagship report – Global Economic Prospects.
The Bank believes structural reforms are capable of offsetting the pandemic’s scarring effects and lay the foundations for higher long-run growth. It agrees that the global economy appears to be emerging from one of its deepest recessions and beginning a subdued recovery, beyond the short term economic outlook, following the devastating health and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.
According to the report, policymakers face formidable challenges — in public health, debt management, budget policies, central banking, and structural reforms, as they try to ensure that this still-fragile global recovery gains traction and sets a foundation for robust growth and development.
- Growth in Nigeria is expected to resume at 1.1% in 2021 – markedly weaker than previous projections – and edge up to 1.8% in 2022, as the economy faces severe challenges.
- Investment is projected to shrink again this year in more than a quarter of economies – primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), where investment gaps were already large prior to the pandemic.
- Growth in Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to rebound only moderately to 2.7% in 2021 – 0.4% point weaker than previously projected, before firming to 3.3% in 2022.
- Relative to advanced economies, disruptions to schooling have, on average, been more prolonged in emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs), including in low-income countries.
What the World Bank is saying
- “In the longer run, a concerted push toward productivity-enhancing structural reforms will be required to offset the pandemic’s scarring effects.
- “The intended productivity-enhancing structural reforms encompass promoting education, effective public investment, sectoral reallocation, and improved governance. Investment in green infrastructure projects can provide further support to sustainable long-run growth while also contributing to climate change mitigation.”
Are we ready to adjust structurally?
The World Bank has identified key areas that could trigger quick economic recovery. A close look at events in the country appears to suggest that we may be far from ready in terms of adjusting structurally.
A cursory look at the structural adjustment areas suggested by the Bank indicates that in Nigeria, for example, and maybe elsewhere, the single most important factor is improved governance.
All other factors appear to be contingent on this, as the Bank admits that improved governance and reduced corruption can lay the foundations for higher long-run growth. Policymakers and politicians in the country are therefore advised to pay close attention to activities geared towards reduced corruption and improved governance.
Another key area is public investment. Even though most public enterprises and related establishments are usually plagued with corporate governance problems, there are several ways by which the problems could be curtailed.
The issue of education, especially tertiary education, has been problematic with governments failing to meet the demands of university unions, resulting in strikes, almost on a yearly basis. It is hoped that a lasting solution to this springs forth soon.
Nigerian government spends equivalent of 83% of revenue to service debt in 2020
The Federal Government of Nigeria achieved a debt service to revenue ratio of 83% in 2020.
The Federal Government of Nigeria achieved a debt service to revenue ratio of 83% in 2020. This is according to the information contained in the budget implementation report of the government for the year ended December 2020.
According to the data seen by Nairametrics, total revenue earned in 2020 was N3.93 trillion representing a 27% drop from the target revenues of N5.365 trillion. However, debt service for the year was a sum of N3.26 trillion or 82.9% of revenue.
Nigeria’s debt service cost of N3.26 trillion has now dwarfed the N1.7 trillion spent on capital expenditure of N1.7 trillion incurred in 2020. This is also the highest debt service paid by the Federal Government since we started tracking this data in 2009.
The total public debt (External and Domestic) balance carried by Nigeria as of September 2020 stood at N32.22 trillion ($84.57 billion). Included in the total debt is a domestic debt of about N15.8 trillion.
What this means: Nigeria’s debt to GDP ratio is estimated at about 22%, one of the lowest in the world and much below what is obtainable in most emerging markets.
- However, the challenge has always been the debt service to revenue ratio, a metric that reveals whether the government is generating enough revenues to pay down its debts as they mature.
- Since the first recession experienced in 2016, Nigeria has struggled with a higher debt service to revenue ratio as revenues slid in direct correlation with the fall in oil prices.
- Nigeria’s government spent about N2.45 trillion in debt service in 2019 out of total revenue of N4.1 trillion or 59.6% debt service to revenue ratio.
- At 83%, 2020 ranks as the highest debt service to revenue ratio we have incurred. Before now it was 2017 with 61.6%.
Breakdown of what debts were serviced
The following amount was spent on debt service during the year
- To service domestic debt, the government spent N1.755 trillion in 2020 as against a budget of N1.87 trillion.
- For foreign debts, a sum of N553 billion was spent against a target budget of N805.47 billion. The drop here is likely a result of lower interest rates on foreign borrowing as well as very limited borrowing from the foreign debt market during the year.
- The government only contributed N4.58 billion into its sinking fund instead of the budgeted N272.9 billion.
- The sinking fund is required to set aside funds that will be used to pay down on other loans such as bonds when they mature in the future.
- Finally, a sum of N912.57 trillion was spent on servicing CBN’s loans, granted via its Ways and Means provisions.
- Nairametrics reported last week that a total sum of N2.8 trillion was extended by the CBN to the FG as Ways and Means.
What happens next: In 2021, the government projects a debt service of N3.1 trillion against revenue of N6.6 trillion or debt service to revenue ratio of 46.9%.
- The government plans to spend N4.3 trillion on capital expenditure during the year.
FG receives N144 billion in dividends from NLNG in 2020
NLNG, paid the Federal Government a dividend of N188 billion in the fiscal year ended December 2020.
Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas Company, NLNG, paid the Federal Government a dividend of N144 billion in the fiscal year ended December 2020.
This is according to the information contained in the Ministry of Finance Budget implementation report for the period of January 2020 to December 2020 and presented by the Minister for Finance Dr. Zainab Ahmed.
During the year, the Federal Government budgeted a sum of N80.3 billion as its share of dividends from NLNG, however, the actual sum received as its share was N144 billion, N63.2 billion more or 79% higher than projected.
The year 2020 was a difficult year for the government as the fall in crude oil prices and the economic shutdown that was triggered by the Covid-19 Pandemic dented projections and ravaged revenues.
NLNG Dividend Bliss
The dividend received from NLNG was a major bright spot in the government’s revenue performance for the year.
- During the year, the government projected revenue of N5.36 trillion but only received N3.9 trillion in revenues representing a shortfall of N1.4 trillion or 27% for the year.
- The huge dividend windfall received in 2020 is a stark contrast from 2017 when Nigeria just exited a recession triggered by falling oil prices and a sharp exchange rate devaluation.
- In that year, the Federal Government’s share of dividends from Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) dropped by as much as $687 million, from $1.04 billion in 2015 to $365 million in 2016, a 65% drop.
- The N144 billion received in 2020 topped the amount received from signature bonuses only N78.2 billion and complimented the N192 billion received by VAT.
- It is the most effective form of revenue generation for the government.
Back in July Nairametrics reported that the House of Representatives planned to investigate the alleged illegal withdrawal of $1.05 billion from the NLNG account by NNPC without its knowledge and appropriation.
- They had accused the NNPC of illegally tampering with the funds at the NLNG dividends account to the tune of 1.05 billion dollars thereby violating the nation’s appropriation law.
- NLNG is a company jointly owned by Nigerian owned NNPC(49%), Shell (25.6%), Total (15%), and ENI (10.4%).
- The company is located in Bonny Island and has six trains with a total capacity to process 22 million tonnes of LNG a year and as much as 5 million tonnes of natural gas liquids.
- NLNG currently accounts for about 7% of the total LNG supply in the world. Nigeria is ranked as the 4th exporter of Natural Gas in the world.
Upshots: The FG is targeting a revenue of N208 billion from NLNG as dividends in 2021. If this materializes, it will be a significant payout in dividend (in naira terms) competing with the N238.4 billion expected from VAT.
- Important to note that the recent devaluation of the naira will increase the naira value of dividends and other government revenue, as it did in 2020.
- The government also targets N6.6 trillion in revenue for the period under review.
Updated: An earlier version of this article captured the dividend as N188 billion instead of N144 billion. It has now been corrected.