CBN Targets Rate Convergence with Directive to Sell Remittances to BDCs

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  • MPC meets today

By Obinna Chima   

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday explained that its directive to banks that act as agents of international money transfer operators to commence the sale of foreign currency remittances to licensed Bureau De Change (BDC) operators was aimed at achieving exchange rate convergence.

The Special Adviser, Financial Markets to the CBN Governor, Mr. Emmanuel Ukeje, who said this in a phone interview with THISDAY, stressed that the move should not in any way be described as a policy sommersault, as seen by some commentators.

THISDAY reported at the weekend that the central bank had directed authorised dealers who are agents to approved international money transfer operators to sell foreign currency accruing from remittances to licensed BDCs as part of efforts to boost dollar liquidity in the market and ensure stability of the exchange rate.

In its circular, the central bank said: “The foreign currency proceeds of international money transfers sold to BDC operators shall be retailed to end-users in compliance with the provisions of Anti-money Laundering Laws and observance of appropriate Know-Your-Customer (KYC) principles, including the use of Bank Verification Numbers (BVNs).”

Lending further insight into the directive, Ukeje explained that it was not a policy reversal, adding that the CBN would not be the sole source of FX funds to the BDCs.

“Previously, we were allocating forex, but we decided that we were not going to be taking money from our reserves to be doing that.

“So it is those remittances that are going to banks that we want used to fund that market, so that rates can come down. That market is very dry, that was why we decided to open the window.

“So it is not a policy somersault because you remember that even when we decided to stop funding them, we said they could get their money from autonomous sources, and that the central bank will not sell dollars to them,” he said.

Ukeje pointed out if the central bank does not take any step to support the BDCs, the exchange rate volatility observed recently might continue, thereby disrupting the objective of the CBN.

“We keep dialoguing. We cannot say we shut them (BDCs) out completely. Nobody is saying export proceeds should be given to them.

“We want them to have access to the funds to oil their businesses. So to a very large extent, it should help ease the pressure in the FX market.

“What happens is that if they are sure of more sources of forex, people would be calm. Now, if this other source which is supposed to be supplementing the interbank market gets supply, no matter how small it is, we think it would reduce the panic in the system,” he added.

Ukeje said despite the decision by the central bank to pave the way for a purely market-determined exchange rate on the interbank market, the banking sector regulator would not abdicate its role as a market participant.

“The central bank will not shirk its role as an interventionist in that market. We will continue to play that role because it is one of our mandatory duties to the moderate rate depending on what happens in that market,” he added.

But as the CBN’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) commences its two-day meeting today, experts have advised members of the committee to be more proactive than reactive in their response to the challenges in the economy.

In a note, Afrinvest West Africa Limited said MPC should ensure that its decision(s) would be such that would help restore investors’ confidence in the aftermath of the newly launched forex framework.

“We believe we are already at the end of the monetary easing cycle, while the realities of funding the budget deficit and stimulating private capital inflows (as short to medium term outlook for oil remains bearish) could lead to a more conventional management of the monetary policy in the medium term once the impact of the current monetary stance starts to fully reflect in aggregate macroeconomic variables,” the company said.

However, Sub-Saharan Africa’s Economist at Renaissance Capital (RenCap), Yvonne Mhango, predicted a three percentage point hike in the monetary policy rate (MPR) to 15 per cent to counter accelerating inflation and naira weakness.

“This will only add to consumer woes, in our view,” she said.

FSDH Merchant Bank Limited pointed out that with the situation in the country, there are arguments to both support an increase as well as a hold in rates by the MPC.

“There is no argument in support of a rate cut given the current economic situation. The impending recession in the Nigerian economy supports a hold on rates at the current level while the fiscal measures to reflate the economy are implemented.

“The current high double digit inflation rate supports a rate hike. We however believe that at the end of it, the MPC and other government agencies will pursue growth and trade-off high inflation,” FSDH argued.

The MPC at its last meeting in May 2016, retained the MPR at 12 per cent. It also retained the cash reserve requirement (CRR) and Liquidity Ratio (LR) at 22.50 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively.

Last Thursday, Nigeria’s external reserves stood at $26.347 billion.