IMF Seeks Economic Reform

Filed in News by on March 1, 2018

Nigerians are getting poorer despite the ongoing economic recovery after the recession, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said.

The Fund urged the government to urgently begin economic reforms to turn things around, according to the IMF Annual Article IV review of Nigeria quoted by Reuters.

The Fund expects the government to “muddle through” in the medium term, and any progress could also be threatened if elections next year consume political energy and resources, the report said.

The report said economic managers had continued to boast that they had set the economy back on track after emerging from recession in the second quarter of last year.

 

It said critics insisted much of the recovery came from a return to oil dependence after a rise in global oil prices and a recovery in crude production, mainly as a result of the militants in the Niger Delta stopping attacks on oil facilities than of economic policy under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

The IMF said in the report that the outlook for growth had improved but remained challenging. “Comprehensive and coherent” economic policies “remain urgent and must not be delayed by approaching elections and recovering oil prices,” it said in its annual Article IV review of Nigeria’s economy.

“Higher oil prices would support a recovery in 2018 but a ‘muddle-through’ outlook is projected for the medium term under current policies, with fiscal dominance and structural constraints leading to continuing falls in real GDP per capita,” the IMF said.

In the report, IMF identified risks to growth, including additional delays to implementing policies and reforms ahead of 2019 elections, security tensions, and oil prices, a fall which could see capital flows reversed. “Further delays in policy action — including pre-election pressures — can only make the inevitable adjustment more difficult and costlier,” the report said.

The lender repeated its call for Nigeria to simplify its “complex” foreign exchange system, a bugbear for the IMF for more than a year which has left large gaps between official rates and various windows that certain groups can use to get other rates.

“Moving towards a unified exchange rate should be pursued as soon as possible,” the IMF said. “(IMF) staff does not support the exchange measures that have given rise to the exchange restrictions and multiple currency practices.”

 

The Fund singled out the Central Bank, saying it should discontinue direct interventions in the economy. The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) frequently injects hundreds of millions of dollars into the foreign exchange market to keep its own rates stable.

Commercial banks struggling to remain solvent were also called out, but not identified by the IMF, including one that the lender said was already insolvent: “Some of these banks are kept afloat through continuous recourse to the CBN’s lending facilities.”

The IMF said it does not comment on purported leaks. A spokeswoman for the Fund said a statement would be issued after the lender’s board meets to discuss its assessment on Friday. A Finance ministry spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a phone call and email requesting comment, Reuters said.

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