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Columnists

Growing concern for Nigeria’s ballooning debt profile

With planned borrowing of N6.17trn in 2021, total public debt is expected to rise to N38.68tn by December 31, 2021.

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How to avoid debt despite economic challenges

According to reports, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, in her presentation to the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts noted that the country’s total public debt will hit N38tn by December 2021. She noted that the total public debt stock (external and local borrowings) of the federal and state governments and the Federal Capital Territory stood at N31.01tn (US$85.90bn) as of June 30, 2020 and is projected based on existing approval to rise to N32.51tn by December 31, 2020. With planned borrowing of N6.17trn in 2021, total public debt is expected to rise to N38.68tn by December 31, 2021.

The N6.17trn planned borrowing mentioned by the Minister of Finance is higher than the expected budget deficit for 2021e. According to the president’s 2021 budget presentation documents, the Federal government plans to spend N13.08tn in 2021 which would be financed by Revenue of N7.88tn. This implies a budget deficit of N5.20tn which would be financed mainly by borrowings of N4.28tn, privatisation proceeds of N205.15bn and finally
project linked bilateral & multilateral loans of N709.69bn.

Whilst debt to GDP ratio remains within the acceptable threshold, we are increasingly worried about the government’s ballooning deficits and unsustainable debt service costs. While we acknowledge the need to pursue an expansionary fiscal policy under current economic conditions, it comes at the detriment of long term fiscal sustainability. In the recently released Medium-Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy (MTEF/FSP),
debt service to revenue ratio rose to 99% in the first quarter of 2020.

With the economy on the path to a recession, government revenues particularly non-oil revenues would likely remain depressed in the next few quarters. In our view, the FG must implement fiscal consolidation measures to manage its expenditure. In addition, implementing policies aimed at improving the business environment will help mitigate the impact of the global pandemic on the profitability of private sector enterprises, thus providing support for non-oil revenue.


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

Currency deregulation and finding the true value of the Naira

Why does a government borrowing heavily choose to subsidize the dollar?

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A colleague said to me, “it’s uncanny how your Central Bank’s policy on Foreign Exchange is similar to that of Zimbabwe of 2008”.

I had to go check what Zimbabwe did and where it led them to.  Zimbabwe. after a bout of hyperinflation, abandoned its currency. Nigeria’s current arrangement may get us there.

It is a good time to own a BDC. BDC licenses can cost as much as N15m now. The same license cost about N3m some years ago. Why has it gone up? A BDC can generate a weekly return of N1.3-1.4m just on a $50k bid.  Most people can live on that. With a spread of N65 on a dollar: official at 410 and parallel at 475, why do you have to sweat?

So what is the impact of this? A long run destruction of the economy, a higher subsidy than calculated on petrol and a significant market distortion. A distortion that profits less than 1% of the population and sending a higher number into poverty.

READ: FG rejects IMF’s advice to devalue the naira

With, until recently, accretion to reserves impaired by low crude prices and low volumes, there is a rapid depletion of the country’s reserves. Why does a government borrowing heavily choose to subsidize the dollar?

The answer is corruption. Corruption played out supported by perceptions of what could happen to the middle class if the Naira were allowed to float. Nigerians tend to politicize the exchange rates. It’s for them a sign of economic management. Governments in power have that awareness. It’s part of the play in sustaining corruption.

The future is bleak. The external reserves shed over a $1billion in the last few weeks. Nigeria is consuming the present and the future. There is really nothing to show for the years of interventions. With the ongoing challenges in security and rising poverty, the destination is going to be a crash.

It is time for market unification. It is time for Nigeria to move to find the true value of the Naira. It must stop the corruption in the markets.

 

Written by Demola Adigun

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Columnists

Tinted windows: A quest for privacy and our collective need to be safe

There is an urgent need to balance out the need for privacy/comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society.

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It is 6:30 pm on a cold harmattan smothered evening on Oregun Road in Lagos, and Sola was driving his friend’s car as they headed for an evening hangout. Fred, the owner of the car is sitting in the front seat as Sola attempts to make a U-turn just before the exit into Opebi Link Road when a commercial motorcyclist (Okada) comes speeding on the driver’s side.

In the ensuing crash, the Okada rider was sent flying into the air and his bike slid into the middle of the road. As is normal in Lagos, a large crowd had gathered taking pictures and generally being a nuisance and when they saw the occupants of the car were all young men, the assumption being that they were drunk and that was the cause of the accident.

A Police patrol team on routine patrol arrived at the scene to forestall the breakdown of law and order and immediately moved the crowd away after pictures of the accident scene had been taken. The experienced Inspector who led the team noticed the windows of the car were dark and heavily tinted- with small holes cut into it to allow a limited view of the side mirrors. This limited the angle of view of the driver as he made the turn and thus the accident.

A very high percentage of accidents at turnings/ intersections in Nigeria are caused by poor visibility on the part of drivers in heavily tinted vehicles. The use of 5% tint (which is the darkest form of tint) is most prevalent in quasi security vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux in convoys and in vehicles owned by personnel of government security agencies.

Tinted windows are a fad amongst Nigerians and a status symbol especially for politicians and the wealthy. Tinted windows are basically two kinds: the factory tinted and the fit for purpose tints installed by the owner of the vehicle. Factory tinted windows have the tint coloured into the windows themselves and so it is not removable; while for the fit for purpose tint involves the use of a layer of film over the glass and it can be removed.

Some of the reasons for a window tint in a vehicle include a level of privacy for the occupants, protection from UV rays / the glare of the sun and to provide a look that is pleasing to the eye. Tints were initially only included in Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) because they do not come with a covered-up luggage area (Boot) and so the tint provided some sort of cover for the items in the Boot from prying eyes.

Factory tinted windows have a pigment inside of the glass themselves; while the purpose fit tints require the installation of a nylon film over the window that creates a tint in varying degrees. The degrees range from 50% which is the same as a factory tint, 35% which is a light and acceptable tint, 25% tint which is dark and acceptable in most instances and the 5% tint which is very dark and not acceptable in most instances.

Factory tint can be found on the rear windows of most new and fairly used SUVs and trucks. Tints are measured by the Visible Light Transmission Percentage (VLT%) in terms of the amount of light (UV rays that they allow into the Vehicle) and the 5% is the extreme of the spectrum with very little light coming through and thus it is very dark inside the vehicle especially at night, while the 50% is the very start of the spectrum with plenty light into the vehicle, thus it is bright).

In Nigeria, the Police determines and regulates the use of tints in vehicles and what is acceptable in the entire Federation. The Laws of the Federal Republic Nigeria places the onus and burden for the regulation of the use of tint in vehicles on the Nigeria Police both as a regulator and enforcer of the rules and procedures.

In the beginning, the Police only licensed vehicles with factory tinted windows, but in recent times the permit has been issued for non-factory tinted windows. According to the regulations, exemptions are issued for owners with a medical requirement for these types of tint for their vehicles and owners are required to provide evidence from government-owned hospitals for the permit to be issued.

Some of the reasons why window darkness is regulated include safety issue for vehicle occupant and other road users (i.e., you cannot see clearly enough especially at night and thus become a danger to yourself and other road users). Secondly, law enforcement officers need to be able to see the occupants of a vehicle at any point in time (this might be for purposes of a routine search or just so that occupants are visible in the event of harm being done to anyone inside the vehicle).

In absence of a clear scope from the Nigeria Police on the acceptable levels of tint, what we have in play in Nigeria is individuals opting for varying levels of tints based on their own desires, needs and their location. The existing laws have been widely ignored and this has led to the proliferation of some of the harshest degrees of tints in vehicles in Nigeria and profiteering by unscrupulous groups and individuals in the market for vehicle tints. Road users have been known to be subject of inducements from law enforcement officers especially on the highways between states in the federation.

There is an urgent need to balance out the need for privacy/comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society. The Nigeria Police has on several occasions raised the alarm about the use of dark tinted vehicles by kidnappers and armed robbers. This led to the issuance of the Tint Permit which required a physical inspection of the vehicle and capturing of the biometrics of the owner.

The non-enforcement of the original policy and its dilution with all manner of exemptions have totally eroded the initial gains of the policy. On the Portal for the tint permit hosted on the website of the Nigerian Police, there is a clear notice to vehicle owners informing them that the permit is only issued for factory tinted vehicles and there is a need to enforce this provision if we are going to eliminate the dangerous levels of tints we presently have on our roads.

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While it is understandable that some individuals want to guard their privacy, public safety comes first.

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