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CIBN dinner: Emefiele harps on building resilient economy

The 56th Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN)’s annual bankers’ dinner, which took place at the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, last Friday, was yet another opportunity for the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, to again, stress the need for all Nigerians to work towards building a resilient economy for the country, writes Tony Chukwunyem

 

As the biggest high-profile social forum organised annually – usually in the last week of November – by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) for the banking and finance industry, the annual bankers’ dinner has, over the years, provided a platform for whoever is occupying the office of Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), to speak on economic and financial market developments over the past year and also provide the economic outlook for the new year.

 

While his predecessors usually found time to attend the dinner, the current Governor of CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is clearly one occupant of that office, who, as the President/Chairman of Council, CIBN, Mr. Bayo Olugbemi, put it in his speech at the event, has made the annual dinner “his own.”

 

Indeed, confirming that he attaches a lot of importance to ensuring that he attends the dinner, Emefiele, in his keynote address, said: “Since I became Governor of the CBN over seven year ago, this is perhaps the one event I have never missed at all.”

 

As has been the pattern in all the six speeches he had given at previous annual bankers’ dinner, Emefiele’s speech dwelt mainly on the need for the country to have a resilient economy that would be able to withstand external shocks.

 

Analysts note that this is not surprising given that following his appointment for his first term as CBN Governor, in June 2014 Emefiele unveiled a 10-point agenda, which he said, would see the apex bank, under his watch, not only using its resources to build a resilient financial system that will serve the growth and development needs of the country, but also introducing a broad spectrum of financial instruments to boost specific enterprise areas in agriculture, manufacturing, health and oil and gas.

 

However, as other prominent personalities such as the Chairman Body of Bank CEOs and GMD, Access Bank, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, who spoke at the dinner pointed out, this year’s event was unique because it was being held at a time when the global economy was beginning to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The CBN governor, in fact, also began his speech by highlighting the massive impact the pandemic had on the Nigerian economy.

Impact of COVID-19

 

He said: “Prior to the start of the pandemic in 2019, our economy was making steady progress out of the difficulties from the global oil price vagaries of the previous years. Indeed, our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate for 2019 stood at 2.3 per cent, on the back of a relatively strong fourth quarter GDP of 2.55 percent that year. This growth was accompanied by significant foreign capital inflows due to improved fundamentals of the economy.

 

“Then came the pandemic in the first quarter of 2020 and, indeed, it’s been close to two years since the onset of COVID-19 and the wide-ranging impact it has had on, not only the global economy, but also on the Nigeria economy.”

Listing some of the major negative developments occasioned by the COVID-19 crisis such as volatility in the price of crude oil (the commodity that accounts for the bulk of the country’s export earnings), the withdrawal of over $120 billion in portfolio flows from emerging and frontier market countries in the first half of 2020, the global spike in food prices and the introduction of export restrictions by many advanced economies, which were trying to address supply chain disruptions triggered by the crisis, Emefiele noted that the pandemic and its attendant effects, “re-ordered” the paths of the country’s macro-economic and financial indicators after the gains the fiscal and monetary authorities had achieved following the impact of the 2015-2017 oil price crisis and eventually resulted in the Nigerian economy falling into a second recession in four years, in the third quarter of 2020. However, according to the CBN governor:

 

“The impact of COVID- 19 provided many lessons that have helped to shape subsequent actions by the monetary policy authorities. For example, we realised how vulnerable our economy was, relative to advanced markets, in not only access to essential medical supplies, but in the form of monetary policy support that Central Banks in developing countries could provide in supporting the recovery of their respective economies.”

 

He noted that the CBN worked with the fiscal authorities in instituting strong policy support measures capped under the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), which was designed to contain the effects of the pandemic, restore stability to the economy by helping households and businesses affected by the pandemic and to revive the economy through massive interventions to critical sectors.

Apex bank’s interventions

 

While the monetary and fiscal authorities collectively mobilised and injected over N5 trillion under the ESP to support households and businesses, Emefiele particularly noted that CBN deployed over N3.5 trillion – about 4.1 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP to critical sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, electricity, and healthcare in order to stimulate and help the economy recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the specific measures that the apex bank implemented to cushion the impact of the crisis on the economy, listed by the governor include reduction of the monetary policy rate from 13.5 per cent to 11.5 per cent; reduction of the interest rate on CBN intervention loans from nine to five per cent; extension of the moratorium on principal repayments for CBN intervention facility to March 2022; granting of regulatory forbearance that allow banks restructure loans given to sectors severely affected by the pandemic and strengthening of the Loan to Deposit Ratio (LDR) policy, which, Emefiele, said, has resulted in a significant rise in loans provided by financial institutions.

 

According to him, total gross credit rose by over 21.1 per cent over the past year from N19.4 trillion to N23.5 trillion. In addition, CBN also created a N50 billion target credit facility for affected households and small and medium enterprises through the Nirsal Microfinance Bank. Emefiele said N363.5 billion has been disbursed to over 767,000 Nigerian households and micro businesses under this facility.

 

Furthermore, the apex bank created a N1 trillion facility in loans to boost local manufacturing and production across critical sectors as well as a N100 billion intervention fund for pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions.

 

Emefiele explained that CBN increased the healthcare intervention fund to N200 billion to accommodate more players in the healthcare sector, such as phytomedicine practitioners and manufacturers of medical devices and vaccines. He stated: “So far, over N107.7 billion has been released to support 114 healthcare projects, including six greenfield (new) and 108 are expansionary (brownfield).

 

The projects financed included cancer treatment centres, medical diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, dental services, eye clinics, and other healthcare service providers.”

 

Economic growth

 

According to Emefiele, “as a result of these measures, we witnessed robust economic recovery as GDP growth stood at 4.03 per cent in the third quarter of 2021, following the 5.01 per cent growth recorded in the second quarter of 2021. “The economy has remained on a positive growth path for four consecutive quarters after the recession in the third quarter of 2020.

 

41 out of the 46 sectors assessed in the third quarter by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recorded positive growth as growth was driven by significant improvements in the non-oil sector, particularly, agriculture manufacturing, trade, ICT, construction, finance and transportation.

We have also witnessed a gradual recovery in manufacturing output growth as the Manufacturing PMI index rose to 47.3 points in October 2021 from 44.9 in January 2021.” He also noted that the apex bank’s interventions, particularly in manufacturing and agriculture, significantly helped to encourage continuous improvements in growth in these two key sectors of the country’s economy.

 

In fact, according to Emefiele, the nation’s food production systems have become more sustainable due to the improved output at farms and local factories. He said:

 

“Output of staple commodities such as rice, maize, palm oil and tomatoes have grown significantly and we have also seen increased efforts of our local manufacturing firms to engage in backward integration efforts.

 

“A visit to any major retail chain will reveal an increasing number of high quality made in Nigeria products relative to imported goods, which is helping to increase domestic production, generate employment and wealth in our country.”

 

He added: “If these intervention efforts were not carried out by the monetary and fiscal authorities, our economy would have been in a grim state.”

 

Expectedly, the CBN governor also used the occasion to speak about some of the regulator’s recent initiatives, such as the 100 for 100 policy on production and productivity, which is aimed at engendering growth and employment, the eNaira and the planned setting up of an International Financial Centre at the Eko Atlantic City in Lagos, “that would serve as a hub for attracting domestic and external capital which is needed to strengthen our post covid economy.”

 

Conclusion

 

Despite the fact that global financial markets last Friday, were negatively impacted by the news of the discovery of a reportedly more virulent strain of the coronavirus, there was no doubt that the audience that listened to the CBN’s governor left the event feeling optimistic about the country’s economic prospects.

 

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