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CBN cuts interest rate to 13.5%

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele

For the first time in more than two years, the
Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on Tuesday
adjusted interest rate downwards to 13.5 per cent.

Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, told reporters after the second MPC meeting that
“the MPC voted to adjust the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) by 50 basis points from
14 to 13.5 per cent; retain the asymmetric corridor of +200/-500 around the
MPR; retain CRR at 22.5 per cent and retain the liquidity ratio at 30 per
Emefiele said in arriving at the decision to adjust
MPR (interest rate) downwards, “the committee was convinced that doing this
will further uphold the banks’ commitment to promoting strong growth by way of
encouraging credit flow to the productive sectors of the economy.
“The MPC also felt that through loosening by a
marginal rate, will serve to manage the sentiments in the capital flow market
owing to the wider spread in yields in the emerging markets and the developing
economies relative to the advanced economies. Moreover, the real interest rates
will still remain positive.”
Asked if there was a relationship between slashing
interest rates and the loosening stance of the MPC as signalled yesterday, and
funding Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Emefiele explained: “To a
reasonable extent, there is a relationship between lending to not just SME but
to the agriculture, manufacture and the real sectors of the economy and our
decision today.
“The reason being that if you consider the fact
that, for instance, January 2017, inflation had risen 18.72 percent and by
December 2017, as a result of the pressure on the foreign exchange market,
reserves have dropped to about $23 billion and by that same month, even what
was accruing into Central Bank had dropped to about $500 million from as high
as over $3 billion sometime in August 2013/2014.
“Exchange rate as a result of the pressure had
accelerated to as high as N525 to a dollar. But if you compare those numbers
with where we are today, the inflation at 11.3 per cent, foreign reserves at
close to $45 billion, and we feel this trend will continue. Exchange rate
converging in all the markets at between N358 to N360, GDP being in positive
trajectory consecutively for five to six quarters, then you will agree with me
that there is relative stability and we have proved that there is
sustainability in the level of macroeconomic indices in Nigeria.”
Defending the decision further, Emefiele noted that
“having being on this part, particularly the MPR  at about 14 per
cent since July 2016,  and with the relative stability we have seen
in the macroeconomic variables over the last two to two and a half years, we
just think that this should be the next phase where we begin to think about
consolidating growth. This should be the next phase where you should be talking
about how do we create more jobs and reduce the level of unemployment in our
country for people.
believe this should be the next phase where we should be talking about how do
we diversify the base of the Nigerian economy? And that in doing that, we will
continue to keep our eyes on the stability that we have achieved so far in the
macroeconomic environment. We will continue to do what we have been doing that
is keeping inflation low, we will continue to do what we are doing that is
keeping the exchange rate stable, we will continue to do what we are doing to
ensure the reserves remain on positive trajectory at comfortable levels to be
able to sustain the level of growth in our economy.”
The CBN boss, however, sounded a note of caution,
saying “there is a need for us to say, listen, we need to consolidate on what
we have achieved so far and that is to begin to look at the level of growth
“Looking at growth again also means that while
keeping our eyes on those other parameters, let’s see whether we can signal a
direction from the monetary policy to the direction of supporting and really
accelerating growth in the country.”
Accelerating growth, he explained, “means that we
need to push harder to consolidate GDP, we need to push harder to make sure we
create jobs and we need to push harder to diversify.
“So, doing this will naturally mean that we are
softening gradually, but I repeat and it shouldn’t be mistaken that we will
continue to do what we are doing, what we have done in the past, keeping
inflation at a moderated level, we will continue to do so. I think we are
moving in the right direction.”
Asked if this new level of ease on the interest rate
will put pressure on the naira, Emefiele said: “The answer is a capital no, I
don’t see that happening. Like I just told you that we have seen stability in
the market over the last two to two and a half years and there is no need for
anybody to worry. We will withstand any pressure.”
When questioned if Nigeria is prepared for any
economic pressure, the governor answered: “We have gone through it in 2015,
2016 and 2017. With the support of everybody, our management and MPC members
were able to overcome such challenges and I do not think that there is any
challenge that the management of the Central Bank cannot surmount. We would
surmount them.”
On the growth projection of 2.7 per cent by the CBN,
Emefiele said: “We have actually been in positive growth trajectory in the last
five to six quarters with an average GDP growth of about 1.9 per cent. I think
that if you look at the trend from 2017 into 2018, we will naturally say that
if we push hard, even harder than we have done in the past, that we should be
able to attain the 2.7 per cent and three per cent growth.
“What we are just trying to say here is that with
the data available, and with consistency and with the push, that we are
positive we will be trending towards 2.7 per cent  to three per cent
in growth rate which is actually not fantastic if you consider where Nigeria’s
growth trajectory has always been around five per cent.
The MPC decided by a vote of six out of 11 members
to reduce the MPR by 50 basis points, that is 0.5 per cent. Two members voted
to reduce MPR by 0.25 per cent –  that is 25 basis points. A member
voted to reduce it by 100 basis points, which is one per cent.
Two members, however, voted to hold MPR at its
current level. Ten members voted to hold all other parametres constant while a
member voted to reduce the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) by 100 basis points from
22.5 per cent to 21.5 per cent.
The CBN governor also reacted to concerns raised
over the impact of the discounted CRR, stressing. “We received a couple of
demands but not many of those demands met our expectations. Don’t forget that
this is money – liquidity that should be sterilised in central bank as cash
reserve requirement, making them available to the banks and doing that we must
make sure that they go into the employment and growth stimulating sectors of
the economy: like agriculture and manufacturing. We will make sure that this
liquidity given to the banks must be for projects and expansion plan.”
The decision to slash interest rate, he explained,
followed the action of “banks themselves which have started dropping the
interest rate very marginally. But we are trying to let them know that in fact,
in this case, I will say that we are following them. That is why we say that we
are signaling. We are signaling in the sense that with time this will permeate
the entire banking sector and people will begin to see the expected impact.”
When asked if it will be the beginning of MPC rate
cutting circle, Emefiele said: “I’ve not said so. I repeat, don’t quote me
wrong, I only said it is a signal, but we will continue to do what we are doing
that is keeping our friends happy, keeping everybody happy. But we are going to
see if it will take us to the real growth trajectory that we so desire for
The MPC also noted the need to rebase the economy
(GDP), which was last done in 2010.
Reacting to this development, Prof Uche Uwaleke of
the Nasarawa State University said: “The reduction in MPR by 50 basis points
signals the CBN’s desire to relax monetary policy to support economic growth.
Obviously, it is a right response to the declining inflationary pressure and
the relative stability in exchange rate which have prevailed for quite some
“Moreover, on the external front, crude oil price
has stabilised around $65 per barrel while the US interest rate normalisation
has slowed down. All these must have combined to influence the MPC decision
which is expected to increase the flow of credit to the real sector.
“The reduced MPR will also be positive for the
capital market as some of the increased liquidity that will ensue will flow
into the equities market. Also, it will be cheaper for the government to issue
bonds, given that part of this year’s budget deficit will be financed through
domestic borrowing.”
The Nation.

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