Nigeria Leaves Key Rate on Hold at 12%

The central bank of Nigeria kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 12 percent at its May 2016 meeting, despite surging inflation, contracting economy and rising unemployment while market expected a hike of 100 bps. Policymakers also voted for a greater-flexibility in exchange rate after it has been pegged for 15 months.

Excerpts from the Statement by the Central Bank of Nigeria:

The Committee acknowledged the severely weakened macroeconomic environment, as reflected particularly in increased inflationary pressure, contraction in real output and rising unemployment. The Committee recalls that in July 2015, it had hinted on the possibility of the economy falling into recession unless appropriate complementary measures were taken by the monetary and fiscal authorities. Unfortunately the delayed passage of the 2016 budget constrained the much desired fiscal stimulus, thus edging the economy towards contractionary output. As a stop-gap measure, the Central Bank continued to deploy all the instruments within its control in the hope of keeping the economy afloat. The actions, however, proved insufficient to fully avert the impending economic contraction. With some of the conditions that led to the contraction in Q1, 2016 still largely unresolved, the weak outlook for growth which was signaled in July 2015 could extend to Q2. To this effect, today’s policy actions have to be predicated on a less optimistic outlook for the economy in the short term, given that, even after the delayed budgetary passage in May 2016, the initial monetary injection approved by the Federal Government may not impact the economy soon, as the processes involved in MDAs finalizing procurement contracts before the disbursement of funds may further delay the much needed financial stimulus to restart growth.

The Committee expressed concern over sustained pressure in the foreign exchange market and the necessity of implementing reforms to engender greater flexibility of rate and transparency in the operation of the inter-bank foreign exchange market. Accordingly, the Committee noted that it was time to introduce greater flexibility in the management of the foreign exchange market. The Committee reaffirmed commitment towards maintenance of price stability and reiterated the need to reappraise the coordination mechanism between monetary and fiscal policy and initiate reforms, for the purpose of more efficient policy synchronization and management. 

The Committee, in its assessment of the relevant risk profiles, came to the conclusion that although, the balance of risks remains tilted against growth; previous decisions need time to crystalize. Consequently, in a period of stagflation, the policy options are very limited. To avoid complicating the conditions, the Committee decided on the least risky option to hold. The foreign exchange market framework, now ready, the MPC voted unanimously to adopt greater flexibility in exchange rate policy to restore the automatic adjustment properties of the exchange rate. Consequently, all 9 members voted to hold and introduce greater flexibility in managing the foreign exchange rate. The Bank would however, retain a small window for funding critical transactions. Details of operation of the market would be released by the Bank at an appropriate time.

In summary, the MPC voted to:

(i) Retain the MPR at 12.00 per cent;
(ii) Retain the CRR at 22.50 per cent;
(iii) Retain the Liquidity Ratio at 30.00 per cent; and
(iv) Retain the Asymmetric Window at +200 and -500 basis points around the MPR
(v) Introduce greater flexibility in the inter-bank foreign exchange market structure and to retain a small window for       critical transactions.

Central Bank of Nigeria | Mojdeh Kazemi |
5/24/2016 6:14:38 PM