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Subsidy economics

A government subsidy is a tax cut to the poor, the vulnerable, and the economically backward.

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IMF, tax, rate, Buhari’s Budget of Sustaining Growth & Job Creation (Full text), Nigeria generates N1.36 trillion from corporate tax, others as oil revenue drops , Nigeria-Algeria highway gets Buhari's approval , Earnings from rich petroleum resources not enough to cater for Nigeria – Buhari , Tax: Buhari appoints Muhammad Nami as FIRS boss, Subsidy economics

“The key issue is that if I buy crude whether, from Nigeria or anybody, I buy at an international price. If I produce product and want to sell, I should sell that product at an international price. So, I would not be affected by the decision of local pricing, it is on that concept that we went into refining” – Engr. Mansur Ahmed, Director, Dangote Group, March 2016

The laws in Nigeria don’t support Dangote’s Groups position. If Dangote Refinery buys local crude or imports international crude for their refinery in Lekki, they must sell at mandated local prices. In 2013, The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja declared as “unconstitutional, illegal, null and void” a proposal by the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) to deregulate the prices of petroleum products. The Court’s position was that the Petroleum Act and the Price Control Act mandates fixing the prices of petroleum products, thus unless that law is repealed by another law (like the PIB), petroleum prices cannot simply be deregulated by fiat.

Currently in Nigeria, crude oil is allocated to NNPC, which refines/swaps that crude offshore at international prices, but sells at mandated local prices. That’s why Nigeria pays a subsidy to cover differences between local crude oil and landed cost of imported petrol. This is also why Nigeria has had no investment in a new major refinery for PMS even with 25 licenses issued. No corporate has been able to build a new refinery where the firm cannot determine their selling price to breakeven.

So I am proud and hopeful of this new Dangote Refinery but must ask questions.

READ MORE: Nigeria in trouble as rising subsidy cost exacerbates revenue crisis

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NNPC explains why kerosene price is not stable

Mele Kyari, NNPC Group Managing Director.

Is Dangote investing $14 billion in a project where he is not sure of his selling prices? Or does Dangote believe the downstream sector will be deregulated by the time the refinery will be completed? Why can’t the President signal there will be a process to deregulate the downstream sector so that more “Dangote’s” can begin the process of raising funds to build more local refineries?

The only policy that will ensure availability at the right petrol prices is competition. Liberalization by deregulation is what ensures competition. The policy of fixing local prices of imported products thus creating a subsidy regime and removing the private incentive to build local refineries has failed. If it has failed, why retain it?.

The only way to cut down the cost of paying subsidies is to reduce the cost of petroleum products and the way to do so is to refine locally. To refine locally means that refining companies can buy crude oil forward contracts to feed their refineries. To open up the crude buying process is to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).

The PIB allows a transparent and measurable process of ownership of petroleum assets. With the PIB regime, it’s possible for a refinery to buy crude oil in advance, at a price she negotiated with private crude suppliers to feed its refinery stock. So long term, pass the PIB, this will encourage local refineries. More local refineries will eradicate the need to import fuel and pay subsidy on “inefficiencies”.

The subsidy is not the problem. A government subsidy is a tax cut to the poor, the vulnerable, and the economically backward. However, If Nigeria is subsidizing fuel imports, she is simply subsidizing imported consumption, creating jobs outside Nigeria and destroying the value of the Naira. So subside local refining not imported fuel. However, this creates another problem, the subsidized locally refined petrol can find its way to Cameroon, Togo, and the Benin Republic.

The solution is to subsidize local purchase at the pumps, not the ports. The Federal Government should land the imported PMS at market prices but apply the subsidy at the pumps. Let the market prices be reflected, but pay every citizen a direct subsidy payment to purchase the “expensive” fuel. This ensures Nigeria fuel cannot be exported to take advantage of arbitrage, the subsidy rests with the citizens and is exercised only with local purchase.

Nigeria can make these direct subsidy payments via sales tax return, motor vehicle registry refund, POS cashback even GSM phone number credit, but that refund has to be tied to local purchases of the product.

 

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Columnists

Emerging concerns on crude oil price dents economic recovery

The economy continues to face severe dollar shortages due to lower oil receipts which continues to pressure the nation’s FX reserves.

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Crude Oil prices, oil

Yesterday, Brent crude oil price settled at US$41.44/bbl, down 10.7% from 6-month high of US$45.86/bbl. We note rising emerging concerns on the outlook for oil price in the global market. Cases of coronavirus are now rising faster in many European countries that had earlier taken gradual steps to open up their economies. For example, in the United Kingdom, Prime minister Boris Johnson stated the possibility of another lockdown to curtail the recent resurgence in new cases of infections. Furthermore, Libya (who has not been producing crude) announced the lifting of the force majeure on some oilfields & ports where fighters no longer have their presence. This implies Libya would resume production soon which may lead to a glut in the crude oil market particularly as the country is exempted from all OPEC cuts. The fear of increased supply comes amidst fragile demand for jet fuel.

The renewed concerns around crude prices is an unwelcome development for Nigeria considering the fact that hope of an economic rebound is largely hinged on sustained rebound in crude prices. Last week, the Minister of Finance highlighted that the country has suffered a 65% slump in revenue largely due to weak oil revenue. Furthermore, the
economy continues to face severe dollar shortages due to lower oil receipts which continues to pressure the nation’s FX reserves. In addition, external trade condition continues to worsen with a trade deficit of N2.2tn in H1 2020. With oil prices still down by c.30% from 2019 levels amidst the nation’s pledge to OPEC cuts, we do not expect any significant improvement in external conditions. However, we believe news of a decline in crude prices may provide succour for the Nigerian consumer given that lower crude price is expected to translate into lower petrol prices following the deregulation of the downstream sector.

That said, we reiterate our position that the diversification of the economy from oil remains the key strategy in reducing the vulnerability of the Nigerian economy to volatilities in oil market. The non-oil economy (which accounts for c.90% f GDP) remains crucial and its potentials can be best exploited by the private sector.


CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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Are we heading towards a food crisis?

The government may need to review the protectionist measures in place in order to avert a food crisis.

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How Nigeria’s GDP growth and food security hinges on financial inclusion of farmers

Based on the selected food price watch data for August 2020 released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), major consumer staples showed substantial increases between August 2019 (when the land border closure took effect) and August 2020. The steep price increases across the food items is consistent with the increase in food inflation from 13.17% in August 2019 to 16.0% in August 2020. Of more concern is the fact that rice, the most
widely consumed food staple among consumers showed substantial increase in the two variants; local sold loose (up 37.5% y/y) and imported high quality sold loose (up 40.7% y/y).

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

READ: Nigeria among countries to be worst hit by food crisis globally

In our view, the predominant factor behind the surge in the prices of major food items is the closure of the land borders, which has been exacerbated by administrative controls employed by the monetary and fiscal authorities in rationing foreign exchange. We recall that in July, the CBN included Maize on the list of items ineligible for FX from official sources. Recently, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to allocate foreign exchange to importers of food and fertilizer. We also understand that heavy rainfalls in the northwestern part of the country have also affected farmlands, as the head of Kebbi state branch of the Rice Farmers Association of Nigeria revealed that about 90% of the 2 million tons of rice to be harvested were destroyed.

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READ: Has the President erred in stopping CBN from funding food imports?

The persistent increase in the prices of food items despite the protectionist measures implemented by the government suggests that local production still lags consumption significantly. Considering the weak harvest season due to the impact of the global pandemic amidst higher distribution costs linked to higher PMS prices following the deregulation of the downstream sector, we believe price of food items will continue to trend upwards.

Additionally, we expect the pass-through impact of the devaluation in the local currency to put further pressure on imported food inflation. Overall, we think the government needs to review the protectionist measures in place in order to avert a food crisis.


CSL Stockbrokers Limited, Lagos (CSLS) is a wholly owned subsidiary of FCMB Group Plc and is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Nigeria. CSLS is a member of the Nigerian Stock Exchange.

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Columnists

Has the President erred in stopping CBN from funding food imports?

What implication does the President’s directive to the CBN hold for the economy?

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President Buhari may sign 2020 Budget tomorrow, President Buhari approves N37 billion for National Assembly renovation, President Buhari appoints Sarki Auwalu to head DPR , FG may stop interstate and inter-town travels, COVID-19: President salutes Elumelu, Dangote, Atiku, Banks, others for support, Naira export earnings, Covid-19: FG to set up N500 billion intervention fund, sovereign wealth, FG issues guidelines on implementation of gradual easing of lockdown nationwide, Electricity: FG approves one year waiver of import on meters

The President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week said, “I am restating it that nobody importing food or fertilizer should be given foreign exchange from the Central Bank. We will not pay a kobo of our foreign reserves to import food or fertilizer. We will instead empower local farmers and producers.”

Why is the president stopping the CBN from funding food imports? The answer is simple. The CBN Exchange rates are cheaper than autonomous sources. The CBN lists the exchange rate for the Dollar at $1 to N379, however the Naira is being sold on the parallel market at N440. Hence, importers prefer to access CBN funds to import, because it reduces the cost of those imports. In effect, at N379, the CBN is subsidizing those imports via a ‘strong Naira’

The President’s directive is thus in line with his new overall push to eliminate all subsidies especially subsidies funded by the scare US dollar. In this aspect, the President is simply seeking to protect the foreign reserves which are paying for other imports. So, he is right.

READ: CBN to set up $39.4 billion infrastructure development company with AFC, NSIA

Is this a wise strategy?

Nairametrics earlier reported on the NBS recently released report on Nigeria’s total spending, which indicated that about N22.7 trillion was spent on food in 2019. This is 56.7% of the total spending (N40.2 trillion) for that period.

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Where does the food Nigerians eat come from? Clearly Nigeria has a large agricultural base, but a significant proportion of Nigeria’s food is imported, and the cost of those imports have risen, as the value of the Naira has depreciated in relation to the US dollar.

(READ MORE: Agrorite leading the fight against food insecurity using Agtech)

According to data from the NBS, Nigeria’s spending on food and drink importation increased from $2.9bn in 2015 to $4.1bn in 2017, but dipped in 2018.

Have these imports plus local production met local demand on a consistent basis? The answer is no. Take rice for instance, the BBC reports that, “Between 2015, when the foreign exchange restrictions for rice came into effect, and early 2017, the price of a 50kg bag of rice went from $24 to $82 and fell in mid-2017 to $34, but in June 2019, the price stood at $49.”

The law of supply in economics, states that when the price of a commodity increases, its supply also increases. Hence, there is a direct relationship between price and supply of a commodity. In other words, if the price of rice goes up, more suppliers will enter the market to supply rice.

READ: Naira devaluation would affect our profit margins – Flour Mills

However, In Nigeria, as the price of food is rising, the NBS in the latest Inflation report, says the composite food index rose by 15.48% in July 2020 compared to 15.18% in June 2020. This rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of Bread and cereals, Potatoes, Yam and other tubers, Meat, Fruits, Oils and fats, and Fish. (essentially everything). The NBS says, the average price of 1kg of rice (imported high quality sold loose) increased year-on-year by 37.72%.

So why has the supply of rice not risen to correspond with rise in prices? Well, because the supply of rice and other foodstuff have indeed risen, but the problem remains logistics processing & storage.

In Nigeria, you only eat corn during corn season, same with mangoes, and tomatoes. Prices fall during harvest, then rise after harvest. The problem is not just with the harvest, but getting that harvest to market, storing the excess, and processing its supplies all year round. Therefore, imports are needed to plug supply holes.

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READ: CBN removes “third parties” from buying forex routed through Form M

Nigerians in 2019 alone spent N1.9trillion or 4.7% of their budget on rice alone. When the President banned food importers from getting the CBN dollar at N379; he simply pushed them to import rice at N440; a N61 difference that will be added to the cost of imports, and will fuel imported inflation.

Where the president got it wrong is trying to fix a local logistics problem with a foreign exchange fix.

READ: Official: Nigeria spends N1.2 billion only on imports of Arms and Ammunition

The solution is to go back to the various food supply value chains, de-risk and de-cost them. If food is cheap and plentiful, there will be no need for imports and inflation will fall.

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