With Far-reaching Measures, Economy Now on Positive Track, Says CBN

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Kunle Aderinokun and Obinna Chima in Washington DC

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has said measures taken so far to stimulate growth in the country have put the economy on the right track. The Acting Director, Corporate Communications, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, said this during an interview with journalists on the side lines of the IMF -World Bank meetings in Washington DC.

Okoroafor recalled that about a year ago, when the country’s delegation attended same meetings in Washington, the story was different, as almost all economic indicators were negative. He pointed out that since the second half of last year, the story had changed, with measures such as the Investors’ and Exporters’ (I&E) window, aggressive development finance intervention, among others.

“If you recall, then, the Nigerian economy was going through one of its worst moments,” Okoroafor stated. “Inflation was high, the foreign exchange market was in turmoil and the economy was in recession. Also, we faced a crunchy foreign exchange scarcity, and everybody swooped on Nigeria. Our reserves were down and the whole situation was ominous. I can recall that at that time, we said we knew what we were doing and everybody was saying we were wrong. But we waited for time to play out.”

Okoroafor added, “Today, I am happy to report that time has proved that we were right, and they (the IMF and World Bank) were wrong about our economy. We have our reserves strong, over $47 billion, inflation has gone down to 13.34 per cent, foreign exchange market is now very stable, and growth has taken off -we are out of recession.

“It’s all positive news. We needed to underscore this top, say that, yes, we were right, we knew our economy and we have done what was then wrong which we believed is the right thing and we are happy to report that everything we have done proved to be right and we will continue to do that.”

The central bank spokesman assured that the bank would fund the real sector more vigorously, saying the issue of productivity is very important.

He explained, “We have launched the Agri-business, Small and Medium Enterprises Investment Scheme (AGSMEIS), which will support production by small and medium enterprises. We have launched the Accelerated Agriculture Development Scheme, which will further boost employment, especially youth employment.

“We know we are on the right track, we will continue to build up reserves. We have maintained stability in the foreign exchange market for the past nine months. Industrial production has improved because we have steadily supplied the manufacturing sector with foreign exchange for their raw materials and machinery.

So, we are happy that this year, not a negative mention has been said about Nigeria. It is left for them to admit that we were right and they were wrong.”

Furthermore, Okoroafor noted that the CBN had achieved a considerable level of exchange rate stability, pointing out that since its introduction, the I & E window has continued to attract foreign exchange inflows.

“We have achieved stability in a significant way and we are working towards a time when all the sectors of the market converge at one point. As time goes on, we will see it play out as we promised last year,” he said.

Responding to a question on why the central bank has left interest rate high, he said: “Like the CBN Governor said, it is the opinion of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) that will determine where the rates will be.

“We will look at the needs of the economy and continue to see how the rates will be adjusted. Members of the MPC will look at the sectors of the economy and adjustments will be done accordingly.”