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Lift forex ban on 41 items, criminalize Bureau D’Change to exit recession early—IMF

The long awaited warning from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) finally came and two major contents include that the Federal Government need to lift the remaining foreign exchange restrictions on the 41 items and see how it can outlaw multiple exchange rates as soon as possible.

The report came after the visit of the IMF officials to Nigeria to assess the economy.

The World Bank has been in talks with the Federal Government for more than a year over an application for a loan of at least $1bn and the African Development Bank has $400m on offer. It is on record that the current government has accessed loans from China more than any past government in Nigeria.

Details analysed from a statement posted on its website titled: ‘IMF Executive Board concludes 2017 Article IV consultation with Nigeria’, harped more on applying stronger macroeconomic policies were urgently needed to rebuild confidence and foster economic recovery in the country.

“Directors underscored that external adjustment is necessary to protect foreign currency buffers and reduce vulnerabilities. They commended the recent easing of some exchange restrictions and urged the authorities to remove the remaining restrictions and multiple currency practices, thus unifying the foreign exchange market and helping regain investor confidence.

“Directors emphasised that these policies should be supported by tighter monetary policy and fiscal consolidation to anchor inflation expectations and to limit the risk of exchange rate overshooting, as well as structural reforms to improve competitiveness.”

Just as IMF called on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) quickly resolve the issue of declining asset quality in the financial services industry, it went further to add that “Directors welcomed the steps to strengthen banking sector’s resilience through stronger prudential requirements. With asset quality declining, they recommended further intensifying bank monitoring, enhancing contingency planning, and strengthening resolution frameworks”.

“Directors encouraged quickly increasing the capital of undercapitalised banks and putting a time limit on regulatory forbearance.”

The IMF however commended Nigerian government in reducing vulnerabilities and enhance resilience, including increasing fuel prices, raising the Monetary Policy Rate, and allowing the exchange rate to depreciate.

“Directors welcomed the authorities’ Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which focuses on economic diversification driven by the private sector, and government initiatives to strengthen infrastructure, including the recently adopted power sector recovery plan. However, they underlined that without stronger policies, these objectives may not be achieved.

“Directors generally emphasised the need for a front-loaded, revenue-based fiscal consolidation starting in 2017, to reduce the Federal Government’s interest payments-to-revenue ratio to sustainable levels. They underscored that priority should be given to increasing non-oil revenue, including through raising VAT and excise rates, strengthening compliance, and closing loopholes and exemptions.”

“Administering an independent fuel price-setting mechanism to eliminate fuel subsidies, strengthening public financial management, and developing a well-targeted social safety net would also support the adjustment. Directors stressed the need to contain the fiscal deficit of state and local governments, including through improved transparency and monitoring.

“Directors emphasised that ambitious structural reforms are key to achieving a competitive, investment-driven economy that is less dependent on oil. Priority should be given to improving infrastructure, enhancing the business environment, improving access to financing for small enterprises, and strengthening governance and anti-corruption efforts. Timely and effective implementation of these measures would promote sustainable and inclusive growth.”