From Uche Usim, Abuja
The Monetary Policy Committee of the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN, on Tuesday, expressed concerns over Nigeria’s fiscal headroom, which it said has remained constrained and fragile, following the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, crude oil price volatility and the continued build-up of public debt, which hit N32.9 trillion by December 31, 2020.
This is as the committee retained all economic policy parameters in its latest meeting on Tuesday. Thus, the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) remains 11.5 per cent; the asymmetric corridor at +100/-700 basis points around the MPR; the CRR at 27.5 per cent; and the Liquidity Ratio at 30 per cent.
Speaking at a media briefing after the MPC meeting, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele noted that despite the scathing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, provisional data showed that banking system credit to the economy increased by 1.75 per cent to N43.67 trillion in February 2021 from N42.92 trillion in January 2021, reflecting the ongoing broad-based monetary and fiscal stimulus to various sectors of the economy.
In terms of funding, the Committee noted that the Bank has disbursed funds under its various agricultural interventions towards improving food supply in Nigeria. The Committee noted the disbursement of ₦107.6 billion to 548,109 farmers cultivating 703,619 hectares of land between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 to boost dry season output in support of agricultural value chain development. Total disbursements as at end-February 2021 amounted to ₦1.487 trillion under the various agricultural programmes, of which N686.59 billion was disbursed under the Commercial Agricultural Credit Scheme (CACS) and ₦601.75 billion under the Anchor Borrowers Programmes (ABP) to 3,038,649 farmers to support food supply and dampen inflationary pressures.
Under the Targeted Credit Facility, the Bank has disbursed N218.16 billion to 475,376 beneficiaries, of which 34 per cent of beneficiaries are SMEs. Under AGSMEIS, N111.62 billion has been disbursed to 28,961 beneficiaries, 70 percent of which are in the agricultural sector. Under the Creative Industry Financing Initiatives mainly targeted at youths, N3.19 billion has been disbursed to 341 beneficiaries, of which 53 percent is to the movie industry.
Under the National Mass Metering Programme, N33.45 billion has been disbursed to 9 distribution companies for the procurement of 605,852 meters, while N89.89 billion has been disbursed under the Nigeria Electricity Market Stabilisation Facility (NEMSF 2) to 11 distribution companies to improve the electricity supply industry in Nigeria.
Under the N100 billion Health Care intervention Fund, the Bank has disbursed N94.34 billion, and is willing to expand the facility, to 85 projects in the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and State governments for both brown field and green field projects, mostly to expand pharmaceutical drug lines, acquire MRI and other equipment and upgrade laboratories and other hospital services.
Under the N1 trillion Manufacturing Intervention Stimulus, the total of N803.36 billion has been disbursed to 228 projects across various sectors in agro-allied, mining, steel production and packaging industries, amongst others.
The Committee thus, enjoined the Bank to maintain its current drive to improve access to credit to the private sector, while exploring other initiatives with the fiscal authorities to improve funding to critical sectors of the economy.
The MPC reiterated its concerns on the activities of persons and groups causing security challenges in the food producing areas of the country, as this has contributed to the major uptick in food prices across the country. The Committee, thus called for collaborative and coordinated efforts by all the relevant agencies and stakeholders towards addressing the prevailing insecurity issues and social challenges.
The Committee noted that while vaccination against COVID-19 had gained significant grounds in major advanced economies, some emerging markets and developing economies were yet to commence any form of vaccination.
This development, it added, portends an uneven recovery to global growth, as barriers to trade and the global supply chain are likely to remain in place much longer than anticipated to prevent re-infection in countries that have achieved significant vaccination and some form of herd immunity.
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