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Socio-Economic Implications of Downfall of Naira

Supreme Desk
26 Jun 2022 10:30 AM GMT
Socio-Economic Implications of Downfall of Naira
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The consequences are grave for the economy. The rising inflationary pressure is not unconnected with imported inflation.

Financial experts say the continuous downfall of the Naira has worsened the living standards of Nigerians and made inflation to rise.

The experts said in separate interviews that if the local currency continued to fall against the dollar, it could pose great consequences for the economy.

A professor of Finance and Capital Market, Uche Uwaleke, said that the free fall of the Naira was not in the interest of the economy.

"The consequences are grave for the economy. The rising inflationary pressure is not unconnected with imported inflation.

"The official exchange rate which is now higher than the 2022 budgeted figure will end up widening the government's budget deficit.

"It will equally increase oil subsidy, which may push the economy into deeper debt.

"Again, in terms of the naira equivalent of servicing government foreign loans, the burden will also increase,'' he said.

According to Uwaleke, the only benefit of naira depreciation is to the Federal Government and the Sub Nationals which naira equivalent of the Federal Accounts Allocation Committee (FAAC) distribution might increase.

"But of what use is an increase in quantity of money which value is eroded by inflation?

"Naira depreciation ordinarily should help the country's Balance of Payments position through discouraging imports and making exports cheaper.

"Unfortunately, this does not happen given Nigeria's weak export base and Nigerians penchant for foreign goods.''

He said that Nigeria needed a strong currency to be able to provide the required leadership in Africa, especially in the context of African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Sheriffdeen Tella, a Professor of Economics, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun, said the downfall of the naira was what caused the rising inflation.

"Its what is causing inflation and difficulty in production presently.

"Prolonged situation can affect employment and general welfare of citizens, just as it can cause expected global recession arising from the Russian war with Ukraine which will affect Nigeria in no small measure,'' he said.

Ndubisi Nwokoma, the Director of the Centre for Economic Policy Analysis and Research of the University of Lagos, Akoka, urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to increase the supply of foreign exchange and manage demand.

"The fall of the Naira has had serious socio-economic implications for the average Nigerian. Inflation has been skyrocketing and living standards getting worse. Challenges of insecurity also add to all these,'' he said.

The downfall of the naira has had a huge impact on the oil and gas industry as well, which is critical to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.

The situation is further worsened by the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine with the price of crude oil averaging about 120 dollars per barrel in recent weeks.

This has led to a rise in the prices of petroleum products such as Jet A1 (aviation fuel) diesel, kerosene, Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) as well as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas).

Presently, the cost of diesel ranges from N650 to N800 per litre across the country, while aviation fuel according to domestic airline operators is selling for between N600 and N700 per litre depending on the location.

Similarly, kerosene is retailing at N650 per litre in some filling stations while a 12.5kg cooking gas cylinder is being sold at between N9,000 to N10,000 to end users.

According to the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), the landing cost of PMS is currently above N400 per litre, compelling the Federal Government to spend huge amounts in subsidising the product to retail for N165 per litre.

Mr Clement Isong, the Executive Secretary, MOMAN, empathised with Nigerians and the government over the challenges being faced as a result of the rising cost of crude and its derivatives at the international market.

He said lack of access to foreign exchange was one of the reasons for the increment in the retail prices of aviation fuel and diesel.

Isong also decried the subsidising of petrol by the government with huge funds that could be deployed to other critical areas of the economy such as education, health care and infrastructure development.

"A return to cost recovery and free market and competitive economics (including access to foreign exchange at competitive rates) is inevitable for the sustainability of the production and distribution framework in the petroleum downstream industry,'' he said.

Mrs Nkechi Obi, the Managing Director, Techno Gas Ltd. also called on the Federal Government to intervene in halting the rising price of cooking gas in the country.

Obi, who made the appeal while speaking during a panel session at the recently concluded Nigerian Content Midstream and Downstream Oil and Gas Conference in Lagos, said the product was becoming unaffordable to Nigerians.

Obi said since marketers were importing over 60 per cent of the LPG consumed in Nigeria, it was imperative that the government should make forex available to them at competitive rates.

Obi said this would reduce the cost of the product and make it affordable for Nigerians who were already returning to using kerosene stoves and firewood for cooking.

Mr Michael Umudu, the National Chairman, the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Retailers (LPGAR) branch of National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), described the situation as worrisome for both retailers and consumers.

"The worrisome aspect of this development is that it has continued to rise on daily basis for weeks now but began to escalate in the last few weeks leading to significant increases in both depots and retail outlets.

"For us as retailers, it is a big problem because we can't even afford to stock up our shops and even when we do, it will take time before we can make enough sales to get back our investments.

"What we find now is that people even bring in 12.5kg cylinders but opt to fill them with less than 6kg of gas just to manage at home.''

Umudu, therefore, appealed to the government to create a dedicated forex window for LPG importers to help bring down the cost of cooking gas.

Dr Muda Yusuf, an economist attributed the downfall of the naira to consequences of the CBN fixed exchange rate regime and administrative allocation of foreign exchange.

Yusuf, also founder, Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprises (CPPEs), said the policies had created a huge enterprise around foreign exchange, round tripping, speculation, over invoicing, capital flight among others.

He said that the action of the apex bank amounted to tackling the symptoms rather than dealing with the causative factors, which was not a sustainable solution.

"It is regrettable that the CBN does not believe in the market mechanism, yet market systems are time tested as instruments of efficient resource allocation in leading economies around the world.

"Of course, market failures are recognised in economics, and these cases are exceptions that can be identified and dealt with.

"A market based management framework will restore calmness and stability to the foreign exchange market.

"Although, there may be a momentary spike in exchange rate, but stability and gradual appreciation of the rate would follow soon after.

"Suppressing the market is like swimming against the tide, it is a difficult battle to win," he said.

Yusuf likened moving retail forex transactions from Bureau De Change (BDC) to the banks to "kicking the can down the road'', stating that the same issues would manifest even with the banks.

He noted that the BDCs were generally more accessible, required minimum documentation, had short response time and better interface with the Small and Medium Enterprises and the informal sector, the dominant players in the Nigerian economy.

He said that the way out of this free fall of the Naira was for the CBN to allow the market to function.

Yusuf said it was also imperative for the apex bank to de-emphasise demand management and focus on strategies to stimulate foreign exchange inflows.

According to him, a fixed exchange rate regime is a major disincentive to inflows as it creates enormous pressure of demand for foreign exchange.

Dr Chinyere Almona, the Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), noted that the Naira had recorded unprecedented volatility already in the first quarter of 2022.

This, she said was due to the widening premium between the official (NAFEX) rate at N415 per dollar and the BDC/Parallel market rate of N580.

She said that the position of industrialists was for the monetary authorities to liberalise the foreign exchange market by unifying the multiple rates and ensuring that the rates were market-driven.

This, Almona posited was critical to the process of enhancing stability, liquidity, and transparency in the foreign exchange market.

She said the unification would improve the country's currency management framework given that the multiple exchange rate systems had been creating uncertainty issues and sources of arbitrage.

"The CBN needs to initiate a gradual transition to a unified exchange rate system and allow for a market reflective exchange rate.

"The currency market is still beset with persisting liquidity challenges evidenced in the wide premium between the NAFEX and parallel market rates.

"To consolidate on the interventions earlier initiated, the CBN needs to roll out more friendly supply-side policies to boost liquidity in the market.

"This would help bolster investor confidence and attract foreign investment inflows into the economy.

Almona also stressed the need for more deliberate efforts toward making the business environment more conducive for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and large corporates at the national, subnational, and local government levels are imperative.

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