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Nigeria’s Creditor Insists On Fuel Subsidy Removal

One of Nigeria’s creditors, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has insisted on the removal of fuel subsidies by the Nigerian authorities.

The position of the organization was contained in the Executive Board’s conclusion of the Article IV consultation with Nigeria report, which was released, yesterday.

According to the Fund’s statement on the report, “Directors also urged the removal of untargeted fuel subsidies, with compensatory measures for the poor and transparent use of saved resources.

“Directors called for stronger efforts to improve the transparency of COVID-19 emergency spending.”

In this regard, they called for significant domestic revenue mobilization, including further increasing the value-added tax rate, improving tax compliance, and rationalizing tax incentives.

“Directors welcomed the removal of the official exchange rate and recommended further measures towards a unified and market-clearing exchange rate to help strengthen Nigeria’s external position, taking advantage of the current favourable conditions.

“ They noted that exchange rate reforms should be accompanied by macroeconomic policies to contain inflation, structural reforms to improve transparency and governance, and clear communications regarding exchange rate policy.

“Directors considered it appropriate to maintain a supportive monetary policy in the near term, with continued vigilance against inflation and balance of payments risks.

“They encouraged the authorities to stand ready to adjust the monetary stance if inflationary pressures increase.

“Directors recommended strengthening the monetary operational framework over the medium term—focusing on the primacy of price stability—and scaling back the central bank’s quasi-fiscal operations.”

Executive Directors commended the Nigerian authorities’ proactive management of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impacts.

They noted that the outlook remained subject to significant risks, including from the pandemic trajectory, oil price uncertainty, and security challenges.

Looking ahead, they emphasized the need for major reforms in the fiscal, exchange rate, trade, and governance areas to lift long-term, inclusive growth.

Directors also highlighted the urgency of fiscal consolidation to create policy space and reduce debt sustainability risks.

The board noted the Nigerian economy was recovering from a historic downturn benefitting from government policy support, rising oil prices and international financial assistance.

It said, “After registering a historic deficit in 2020, the current account improved in 2021 and gross FX reserves have improved, supported by the IMF’s SDR allocation and Eurobond placements in September 2021.

“Notwithstanding the authorities’ proactive approach to contain COVID-19 infection rates and fatalities and the recent growth improvement, socio-economic conditions remain a challenge. Levels of food insecurity have risen and the poverty rate is estimated to have risen during the pandemic.”

The Executive directors said that the outlook faced balanced risks, adding, “On the downside, low vaccination rates expose Nigeria to future pandemic waves and new variants, including the ongoing Omicron variant, while higher debt service to government revenues (through higher US interest rates and/or increased borrowing) pose risks for fiscal sustainability. A worsening of violence and insecurity could also derail the recovery.

“On the upside, the non-oil sector could be stronger, benefitting from its recent growth momentum, supportive credit policies, and higher production from the new Dangote refinery.”

The Directors “welcomed the resilience of the banking sector and the planned expiration of pandemic-related support measures.”

They agreed that while the newly launched eNaira could help foster financial inclusion and improve the delivery of social assistance, close monitoring of associated risks will be important.


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