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Navigating Nigeria’s economic horizon beyond monetary policy

The proposition to develop de-risking instruments for private investment in key sectors like housing, textile, food supply chain, healthcare, and education acknowledges the potential for local input and value retention

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By Abdulrauf Aliyu

In the ever-evolving landscape of economic policy, Yomi Cardoso’s recent speech on Nigeria’s monetary policy direction provides insight into the Central Bank’s ambitious goals. However, a closer examination of the key takeaways reveals a potential overreliance on monetary measures, raising concerns about their long-term effectiveness in the face of Nigeria’s complex economic challenges.

Yomi Cardoso’s proclamation of assisting the administration in achieving a $1 trillion economy in the next seven years sets an ambitious tone. While such aspirations are commendable, it raises the question of whether monetary policy alone can propel Nigeria into this economic stratosphere. Noted economists like Kenneth Rogoff and Ricardo Hausmann emphasize the importance of addressing fundamental productivity issues for sustained economic growth. Merely pumping money into the system without structural reforms may yield short-term gains but could falter in the long run.

The plan to bolster the capital base for Nigerian banks aligns with the goal of supporting a $1 trillion economy. However, it prompts a pragmatic question about the feasibility of such an increase. Dani Rodrik’s work on economic growth highlights the significance of a balanced financial system, but an arbitrary surge in capital might not translate into genuine economic development without corresponding improvements in productivity and efficiency.

The announcement of a new framework for payment service policies acknowledges the changing landscape of financial technology. Yet, focusing on regulatory adjustments without addressing the core issues of financial inclusion and technological infrastructure might limit the potential benefits for the broader economy.

The revelation that the last two Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meetings did not take place due to perceived ineffectiveness raises concerns about the transmission mechanism. This admission aligns with critiques from experts like Rogoff, who argue that the impact of monetary policy can be hindered by institutional inefficiencies. Acknowledging the broken transmission mechanism is a crucial step, but it also underscores the need for comprehensive institutional reforms beyond monetary adjustments.

The plan for continued tightening over the next two quarters, with interest rates potentially reducing only in Q3 of 2024, raises eyebrows. While this approach aims to control inflation and maintain price stability, it could hamper investment and economic activities in the short term. Hausmann’s emphasis on diversification and efficiency gains in production processes becomes relevant here, suggesting that a broader economic strategy is essential for sustainable growth.

The commitment to refocus on the primary mandate of price stability and discontinue quasi-fiscal interventions aligns with a more traditional approach to central banking. However, it raises questions about the role of targeted interventions in stimulating specific sectors. Navigating this balance will be crucial, as a strict inflation-targeting framework might overlook the nuances of a diverse and dynamic economy like Nigeria’s.

The promise of new FX guidelines with extensive consultations is a positive step, considering the importance of foreign exchange stability. However, the devil lies in the details of implementation, and careful consideration of market dynamics and the banking sector’s capacity is essential to avoid unintended consequences.

The proposition to develop de-risking instruments for private investment in key sectors like housing, textile, food supply chain, healthcare, and education acknowledges the potential for local input and value retention. This aligns with Hausmann’s theory of economic complexity, emphasizing the importance of diversifying into sectors where a country has a competitive advantage. However, the devil, once again, lies in the execution, and the success of these instruments will depend on their design and implementation.

Critically examining these takeaways against the backdrop of Nigeria’s structural configuration reveals both prospects and challenges. The prospect lies in the acknowledgment of issues and the intent to address them. However, the challenges ahead are formidable.

The structural configuration of the Nigerian economy, heavily reliant on oil and marred by inefficiencies and corruption, poses a significant obstacle. Rogoff’s warnings about the limits of monetary policy effectiveness without addressing underlying structural issues echo loudly in this context. Without a holistic approach that tackles corruption, enhances institutional capacity, and diversifies the economy, the $1 trillion goal remains a lofty aspiration.

The challenges for the Central Bank, Nigerian economy, and citizens are intertwined. The CBN faces the task of ensuring that its monetary measures align with broader structural reforms, steering clear of the pitfalls of overreliance. The Nigerian economy demands a comprehensive strategy that addresses corruption, enhances efficiency, and fosters diversification. Citizens, in turn, need assurances that these policies will translate into tangible improvements in their lives, from job creation to enhanced public services.

In conclusion, Yomi Cardoso’s speech outlines a roadmap for Nigeria’s monetary policy, but the journey to a $1 trillion economy requires more than monetary maneuvers. It demands a pragmatic, comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes of economic challenges. The prospects are tantalizing, but the challenges are formidable. Only through a nuanced, well-coordinated strategy can Nigeria navigate the complex terrain ahead and truly usher in an era of sustained economic growth and prosperity.

Abdulrauf Aliyu
An economist and Policy Analyst writes from
45 Ashiru Road, U/Dosa New Extension
Kaduna

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