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Another lockdown will be disastrous -CBN

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As the spike in the second wave of COVID-19 raises concerns of another nationwide lockdown, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has cautioned the federal government against a second shutdown, saying it would be disastrous for the economy.

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“As long as we are seeing a second wave of COVID-19, even in Nigeria, we are trying to convince the government not to adopt a wholesome lockdown because that could be catastrophic on everybody and the economy,” CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele said.

Speaking during a press briefing to announce the outcome of the 2-day meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee of the apex Bank, Emefiele also announced that the Bank’s total financial disbursement under its various interventions amounted to N2trillion as of January 2021.

Under its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, the cumulative sum of N554.63billion has been disbursed to 2,849,490 beneficiaries since inception out of which N61.02billion has been allocated to 360 farmers during the dry season.

Central Bank of Nigria began its current interventions in 2015 with the launch of Anchor Borrowers’ Programme by President Muhammadu Buhari to assist small holder farmers to increase the production and supply of feedstock to agro-processors with the aim of creating an ecosystem to link smallholders to processors.

The CBN governor said the bank has disbursed N192.64 billion to 426, 016 beneficiaries under its COVID-19 targeted credit facility meant for household and small enterprises.

He stated: “We have also disbursed 106.96 billion to 27,956 beneficiaries under the CBN’s agricultural and small scale equity investment scheme. While under the healthcare support intervention programme, we have disbursed N72.96 billion to 73 different projects in the health, hospital and pharmaceutical centre that comprise 26 pharmaceutical projects, 47 hospitals and healthcare project services in the country.

“To support the provision of employment opportunity for the Nigerian youth, the Central Bank of Nigeria also provided financial support through our creative industry financing initiative and Nigerian youth investment fund amounting to N3.12 billion to 320 beneficiaries and N268 million to 395 beneficiaries respectively.

“On enhancing power supply, the CBN has so far provided N18.58 billion for the procurement of 347,853 electricity retail meters to distribution companies in support of the national mass metering programme. Our target is 5 million meters to ensure that all households are effectively metered in Nigeria.”

On the Bank’s interest rate concession which expires in March 2021, Emefiele said, “We would extend by 12 months again, the interest rate of 5 per cent for CBN interventions. It will result in losses for us, particularly if we see yields going up, but we think this should be central bank’s own contribution to ensure that interest rate, particularly for our interventions, which are targeted to either households, SMEs, agric, health sector, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing that will stimulate consumer spending and increase productivity.”

Reading the committee’s communiqué yesterday in Abuja, governor Emefiele said the MPC has also decided by a unanimous vote of all 10 members at the meeting to keep the monetary policy rate at 11.5 per cent, and do the same for all other policies parameters.

“What that means is that the MPC voted to also retain the asymmetric corridor at +100/-700 basis points around the MPR; retain the CRR at 27.5 per cent; and retain the liquidity ratio at 30 per cent.

“The MPC was of the view that whereas there maybe wisdom in loosening, given that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in constrained activities, destruction to supply chains, an accommodating stance is required to encourage credit expansion and boost recovery in the short term,” it added.

The committee also noted that expansionary policy would convince financial institutions to reduce non-pricing and defend interest and principal repayment to critically affected obligors in a sustainable manner.

It was also of the view that an aggressive expansionary stance may worsen inflation and the negative real interest rate, thereby resulting in negative consequences on exchange rate.

With regard to tightening, it said it may run contrary to its objective of providing affordable credit to households, MSMEs, agricultural sector and other output growth and employment stimulating sectors of the economy.

It resolved to pursue its current stance of systematic synchronisation of monetary and fiscal policy accommodation through its development finance initiatives aimed at mitigating the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians.

It noted the marginal increase in Non-Performing Loan ratio which rose to 6.01 per cent at the end of December 2020 from 5.88 per cent at the end of November 2020 and above the prudential threshold of 5 per cent.

The MPC maintained that the priority remains quick and targeted spending by fiscal authority, supported by the central bank interventions. It was thought to provide complementary measures to the fiscal side in a bid to increase aggregate supply and reduce prices.

The committee called on the government to redouble its effort at strengthening the infrastructural efficiency and address the emerging security challenges in the country.

The also urged the government to explore the option of effective partnership with the private sector to improve funding sources necessary to address the huge infrastructural financing deficit.

On the plan of the apex bank for 2021, Emefiele said the bank will be looking more at growth in 2021, especially measures that can encourage positive growth, stimulate consumer spending and ultimately lead to more facilities for manufacturing companies… to create employment and positively impact on the GDP.

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