Finance

As MPC ends today, stakeholders seek urgent solution to naira scarcity

As MPC ends today, stakeholders seek urgent solution to naira scarcity

With the scarcity of the naira biting harder in many parts of the country, financial experts have urged the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to take urgent steps to address the perennial shortage of cash.

The meeting, which started yesterday, is expected to end today, with the CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele, announcing decisions on the direction of monetary policy rates.

Financial expert, Mr Okechukwu Unegbu, told the News Agency of Nigeria, that the MPC should discuss the cash situation as a matter of priority,

Unegbu, a past president of the Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), said that the apex bank’s claim of circulating more than N900 billion did not reflect on the Nigerian economy.

He, however, said that the problem would likely ameliorate as elections had been concluded in the country.

“Our biggest challenge presently is the cash situation, and I think the committee should discuss it as a matter of urgency.  “The CBN says it has over N900 billion in the system, but it is not reflecting because cash is still scarce.

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“But I believe that with the elections over, cash will start to circulate,’’ he said.

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He urged the committee to also address the “rumblings in the economy’’ in terms of inflation and exchange rates.

On the policy rates, Unegbu advised for retention of all existing parameters until the next meeting.

“I suspect that because of rising inflation, which is now 21.91 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the MPC may be tempted to raise the rates again.

“But my suggestion is that all the rates should be held constant to allow the MPC

study the situation until its next meeting,’’ he said.

Another financial expert, Mr Muktar Muhammed, urged the apex bank to explain to Nigerians the reasons why Naira notes were still scarce.

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On policy expectations, Muktar said the MPC would have liked to increase the prevailing rates but could be discouraged by the already high inflation rate.

Ordinarily, we could see a hike in rates but as it stands now, because of the Naira shortage and what it has done to the economy, I do not think they will want to do that.

“Again, inflation is already high and I do not see how hiking rates, alongside the cash shortage will help the economy grow better,’’ he said.

According to Uche Uwaleke, a Professor of Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, the use of cash scarcity to stifle demand is not a sustainable way to tackle inflation.

Uwaleke said that such a step could hurt economic growth and could lead to loss of jobs thereby, fuelling unemployment.

“Going forward, the CBN should ensure that measures are put in place to ease the cash crunch while gradually implementing its cashless policy.

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Inflation rate rose from 21.82 per cent in January to 21.91 per cent in February, the economy witnessed a slight downward pressure in the general prices of commodities.

“This may not be unconnected with the cash scarcity which resulted in low demand for goods and services in view of the cash-based nature of the Nigerian economy.

“Recall that as a result of the cash scarcity and low demand, many traders who deal in perishable items were forced to sell them at below purchase price or cost of production due to lack of storage facilities,’’ he said

Recall that at its last meeting in January, MPC increased the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) by 100 basis points from 16.5 per cent to 17.5 per cent.

It, however, retained the Assymetric Corridor of +100/-700 basis points around the MPR, the Liquidity Ratio of 30 per cent and the Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) of 32.5 per cent.

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