23

Mar

SENSIBLE PATH TO A STRONGER NAIRA AND ECONOMIC PROSPERITY 01022016

2016-02-01

SENSIBLE PATH TO A STRONGER NAIRA AND  ECONOMIC PROSPERITY
BY HENRY BOYO

This column has consistently maintained that the root cause of our economic paradox of increasing income, with unbridled unemployment rate, and deepening poverty will be found in the conscious but incorrect adoption of a faulty and distortional process for the infusion of our crude export dollar revenue.

Hereafter, we will discuss the related ADVERSE consequences of the Current Payments Model (CPM) against the POSITIVE attributes of the Advocated Payments Model (APM) for the allocation, for example, of $1bn export revenue in the following explanatory steps.

Thus, in CPM: -1 The CBN unilaterally determines the naira exchange rate and thereafter unconstitutionally captures the distributable $1bn revenue and prints/creates in replacement (read as monetizes) N200bn as statutory allocations, which are then domiciled in the bank accounts of beneficiaries.

 CPM:-2 If, however, CBN's mandatory cash reserve ratio for banks is, for example 10 percent, the N200bn inflow can be leveraged ten-fold, to create additional credit and expand consumer spending power which will invariably fuel inflation. The recent establishment of the Treasury Single Account will, regrettably, only temporarily absorb such cash injections, as the N200bn allocation, for example, will ultimately migrate, when spent, into private sector bank accounts and invariably expand Naira liquidity and, banks' credit capacity and consumer demand.

CPM:-3  In response to evolving inflationary threats, the same CBN, ironically, 'altruistically' sells treasury bills and borrows money it does not need, often, at over 10 percent, just to combat the challenges of systemic excess Naira and excessive consumer demand! Inexplicably, however, despite the crying need of the real sector for cheap  funds, these CBN borrowings are simply kept as idle funds, while fresh cash interventions are created to stimulate sectors of the economy, despite the subsisting systemic liquidity challenge.

CPM:-4 Since unrestrained access to excess cheap funds, instigates spiraling inflation with adverse economic and social consequences, the CBN responds by raising its Monetary Policy (Control) Rate (MPR) to force banks to also significantly increase their own lending rates, so that higher cost of funds would discourage borrowing, and sadly, inadvertently also reduce any prospect of industrial growth and job creation. Thus, CBN unexpectedly becomes vicariously liable for the very high cost of funds that cripple the real sector.

 CPM:-5 Meanwhile, Ministries and State Governments, who require imports to enhance social infrastructure, become constrained to buy back their earlier captured dollars at a higher regulated rate from banks, who strangely become the prime beneficiaries of CBN's dollar auctions. Ultimately, naira exchange rate comes under threat as increasingly surplus naira is unleashed by CBN to chase the dollar rations it regularly auctions. Consequently, the market dynamics of demand and supply become unfavorably skewed against the naira, ironically, despite CBN's custody of relatively impressive 'reserves'.

CPM:-6 The less dollars sold, the larger would be CBN’s purported reserves, but the weaker ironically also will be the naira rate, as less and less dollars become pitched against the flood of excess naira that CBN earlier instigated. Ultimately, the gap between official and black market naira rates will invariably, widen, to provide irresistible opportunities for speculation, hoarding and currency round tripping.

CPM:-7 In order to reduce the gap between parallel market and official exchange rates, the CBN commits the unforced error of allocating dollars to Bureau de Change, who in turn fund the requirements of treasury looters and smugglers of contrabands, not minding the adverse economic impact of such misguided dollar allocations; (thankfully, after seven long years of this recklessness, the CBN terminated this clearly obnoxious strategy of official dollar sales to BDCs in January 2016).

CPM:-8 The CBN, ironically continues to maintain its monopoly of the forex market and sits on bountiful naira and dollar reserves, while domestic and external debt accumulation and deepening poverty, inexplicably, persists, while banks, unexpectedly, simultaneously celebrate bountiful profits.

Conversely the Advocated Payments Model would turn around the existing counterproductive process and operate as follows.
APM:-1 The same $1bn distributable revenue is not immediately substituted with N200bn allocation; instead, constitutional beneficiaries receive dollar certificates equal to their respective allocations, while the actual $1bn remains domiciled in CBN, so that the naira exchange rate is conversely determined by, competitive market forces of demand and supply.

APM:-2 With strictly dollar allocations, the $1bn income does not translate to additional FRESH naira inflow; consequently, naira supply remains the same, and cannot therefore further instigate the usual disenabling spectre of systemic surplus cash which fuel inflationary consequences.

APM:-3 Without the usual naira surplus, CBN does not have to mop up liquidity by borrowing money it does not need, often with interest rates above 10 percent; consequently, the present N12tn ($60bn) oppressive debt and related service charges will become restrained; additionally, reduced government borrowing, would also naturally force commercial banks to chase the real sector for business and promote economic growth.

APM:-4 Furthermore, with optimal Naira liquidity, CBN can gradually align its Monetary Policy (control) Rate to international best practice below 3 percent; commercial banks will also, without persuasion, correspondingly drop lending rates across board to single digit, to attract real sector borrowers.

APM:-5 MDAs and State governments can directly exchange for naira, all or portions of their dollar allocations from time to time, through COMMERCIAL banks. Thus, in the absence of the usual naira surge when CBN substitutes fresh naira creations for dollar revenue, market dynamics will inevitably change to favor the naira, with relatively more dollar supply chasing the EXISTING 'STABLE' NAIRA BALANCES. A stronger Naira rate will expectedly reduce production cost and also lower fuel prices to make subsidy totally unnecessary; furthermore, a 10 percent sales tax on cheaper petrol and kerosene could favorably consolidate over N1000bn annually into the Treasury.

 APM:-6 CBN’s usual monopolistic dollar auctions will cease, as the constitutional beneficiaries directly trade their dollar certificates for existing Naira balances with banks before spending, (since the dollar is not legal tender in Nigeria). Nonetheless, the dollars, will remain domiciled with CBN, irrespective of the ultimate buyer, until the apex bank receives appropriate instruction from respective banks to directly pay overseas suppliers of 'authorised' goods/services, from the dollar balances in the accounts, banks maintain with CBN; this payment process certainly provides a more transparent usage of funds than presently.

APM:-7 With optimal Naira liquidity and relative dollar surplus, the naira rate would gradually improve, and stabilize and promote the perception of Naira as a safe store of value. Furthermore, with little motivation for round tripping, capital flight and speculative dollar purchases, the black market for the dollar will rapidly contract. 

APM:-8 Optimal Naira liquidity will invariably precipitate lower MPR,  and therefore promote single digit interest and inflation rates below 3 percent, with positive knock-on impact on consumer demand, industrial consolidation as well as increasing job opportunities, with bourgeoning economic prosperity. A stronger naira will similarly drive down fuel prices and ultimately eliminate oppressive subsidies values annually.

Sadly, the patriotic and rational fervor evident in President Buhari's recent affirmation, at a meeting with the Nigeria community in Kenya, that he did not see any valid reason to further devalue the Naira, may ultimately come to nothing if the increasing pressure from local and international experts and powerful interest group persists and the gap between official and parallel exchange rates further widen beyond N100/dollar.

In conclusion, therefore, the present payment system will shunt us back to the fourth world, while the advocated model will propel us amongst the top world economies within a decade. Clearly our fate as a nation is not in our stars, but obviously  in the choices we make!

SAVE THE NAIRA,SAVE NIGERIANS!!