The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is set to convene its third meeting of the year, where crucial decisions regarding interest rates will be made. With the primary objective of achieving price and exchange rate stability, the MPC faces the dilemma of either maintaining its hiking cycle or keeping policy parameters unchanged. However, experts argue that tackling Nigeria’s inflation requires efforts beyond tightening the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) alone. As the meeting commences, stakeholders keenly anticipate the Committee’s decisions amidst various economic challenges.
Previous Rate Hikes and Objectives:
During the last MPC meeting in March, the benchmark rate was raised by 50 basis points to 18.0 percent, marking the sixth increase in the past twelve months. These hikes aimed to combat perceived liquidity-induced demand-pull inflation and align with the hawkish stance of global central banks. However, concerns persist about the efficacy of such measures in curbing inflationary pressures.
Supply-Side Shocks and Inflation Drivers:
Experts suggest that Nigeria’s elevated price levels are primarily driven by supply-side shocks rather than demand-side factors. Even during periods of liquidity crunch, inflation rates continued to rise, indicating the influence of domestic supply constraints. Notably, the closure of land borders for food importation since 2019 has contributed to sustained food inflation due to a significant slack in domestic supply capacity.
Considerations for the MPC:
The MPC will evaluate several factors during the meeting, including the domestic economy, inflation, foreign exchange (FX) supply, and global central bank policies.
- Domestic Economy:
The first quarter of 2023 witnessed a cash crunch resulting from the CBN’s naira redesign drive and increased production costs. The informal sector, which constitutes a substantial portion of GDP, particularly felt the impact. Analysts expect a significant slowdown in the non-oil sector, with sub-sectors like agriculture, trade, real estate, and arts & entertainment likely being most affected.
Recent Consumer Price Index (CPI) data reveals a continued upward trend in consumer prices, with food prices and core inflation reaching record highs. The MPC is expected to express concerns about inflationary pressures, including the prospect of subsidy removal, and discuss measures to address them.
- FX Supply:
Analysis of exchange rate volatility over the past seven years indicates that sharp declines in FX inflows from crude oil sales lead to inadequate FX injections by the CBN, resulting in heightened volatility. Foreign investors’ confidence has dwindled since capital control measures were implemented in 2020, leading to a significant erosion of the Naira’s value. The Committee will likely emphasize the need for sustained FX interventions and increased crude oil production.
Economists at Afrinvest and Cordros Research anticipate a modest 50 basis points hike in the MPR during the upcoming MPC meeting. This move is expected to slightly increase market yield and savings rates, leading to a reduction in household propensity to consume in line with the CBN’s expectations.
As the MPC of the Central Bank of Nigeria convenes its third meeting of the year, stakeholders await decisions on interest rates amidst a challenging economic landscape. While previous rate hikes aimed to tackle inflation and align with global trends, concerns remain regarding their effectiveness. Supply-side shocks and food inflation continue to pose challenges, and the availability of foreign exchange remains a critical concern. As experts provide their forecasts, the MPC’s decisions will shape Nigeria’s monetary policy direction and its impact on the economy.
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