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Forex interventions give false hope on naira, says IMF

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REGULAR foreign exchange (forex) interventions in Nigeria and other emerging economies create false sense of security and hope on the local currency, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), has warned.

Nigeria, which operates a flexible exchange rate regime, spends about $16 billion annually to defend the naira.

A large part of the forex interventions are auctions at the inter-bank spot, sale of dollar for invisibles; Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs); Bureaux De Change (BDC); Investors and Exporters (I&E) Forex window and Forwards.

In a joint report released at the weekend by IMF Director, Monetary and Capital Markets Department, Tobias Adrian; Director of the Fund’s Research Department; Gita Gopinath and Director of the Strategy, Policy and Review Department Ceyla Pazarbasioglu, the trio said that while flexible exchange rates can act as a useful shock absorber in the face of capital flow volatility, they do not always offer sufficient insulation.

They said the impact of the interventions is worse when access to global capital markets is interrupted or market depth is limited.

The report quoted Fund as saying “Persistent interventions might feed a (false) sense of security about future exchange rate developments that leads firms or households to take on more foreign currency debt, thus increasing balance sheet vulnerabilities.”

The IMF team said that in a continuous effort to help countries manage volatile cross-border capital flows, it has taken a major step toward a new analytical macroeconomic framework that can guide appropriate policy responses.

IMF analysis suggests that there is no “one-size-fits-all” response to capital flow volatility, nor is it a case of “anything goes” or that all policies are equally effective.

“Optimal policies depend on the nature of shocks and country characteristics. For instance, the appropriate policy response in a country with less developed financial markets and large foreign currency debts may differ from that of a country that does not have foreign currency mismatches on their balance sheets, or those that can rely on more sophisticated (deep and liquid) markets.”

“Generally, in countries with flexible exchange rates, deep markets, and continuous market access, full exchange rate adjustment to shocks remains appropriate.

“However, when a country has certain vulnerabilities, such as shallow markets, dollarization, or poorly anchored inflation expectations, while flexible exchange rates continue to provide significant benefits, other tools can play a useful role as well.

“In particular, macro-prudential measures, foreign exchange intervention, and capital flow management measures can enhance monetary policy autonomy so monetary policy can adequately focus on containing inflation and promoting stable economic growth. The same tools—including precautionary capital flow management measures on capital inflows, applied before shocks hit—can also help lower financial stability risks.”

For them, the work reflects evolving thinking on macroeconomic policy and will feed into the upcoming review of the IMF’s Institutional View on the Liberalization and Management of Capital Flows, which currently guides the Fund’s advice and assessments of members’ policies.

According to the Fund, international capital flows provide significant benefits for economic development but can also generate or amplify shocks. This dilemma has long posed challenges for policymakers in many open economies.

It said that many policymakers reach for a mix of policy tools to complement interest rate policy when dealing with capital flows. These tools include macro-prudential measures, foreign exchange intervention, and capital flow management measures.

Such diverse approaches were also used during the COVID-19 crisis, with significant differences in responses between countries. However, despite the widespread use of the various tools, to date, there has been no clear conceptual framework to guide the integrated usage of these tools.

The new framework represents a significant advance in thinking about when various tools should and should not be used and how these tools can work together to achieve better outcomes.

-The Nation

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Buhari signs N983bn supplementary budget into law

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President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday signed the 2021 supplementary appropriation bill of N983 billion into law.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly (House of Representatives), Umar El-yakub, announced this while briefing state house correspondents after the signing.
He said a total sum of the supplementary budget assented to is N982,729,695,343, adding that the supplementary budget would be largely focused on funding security and health concerns.
The assent by the President is coming a month after the Federal Executive Council approved the supplementary budget for the year 2021.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, had said the budget contained an aggregate sum N770.60 billion to further enhance the capacity of the defense and the security agencies to address current and emerging security challenges in our country.
Ahmed said a total of N83.56 billion expenditure is set aside in the budget for COVID-19 vaccine programme, covering 30 million vaccines from Johnson and Johnson and the logistics costs related to the deployment of the vaccines.
The budget also has N40 billion provision to take care of the needs for allowances to the health, education sectors, and other wage-related issues.
Ahmed had added that the supplementary also had N1.69 billion for the Nigeria Comprehensive AIDS programme.

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Gas-powered mass transit buses set for operation in Nigeria

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A revolutionary mass transit operation using ECO-Green buses is soon to be introduced in some Nigerian city centres.
The buses already being used in major cities of the world are powered by flare gas recovered compressed natural gas (CNG), which is usually flared in the Niger Delta, Nigeria and causing environmental pollution and crisis in the region.
Chief Executive Officer of Austrian Technologies Nigeria Limited, Johann Rieger, said the ECO-green buses had been built on European standards for critical climate and infrastructure as in Nigeria.
According to him, the buses are the safest and most economic public mass transit vehicles that can reduce carbon footprints by 95 per cent and operating cost by 30 per cent.
Specifically, he said the buses, coming with a lifespan of at least 15 years, had been equipped with engines of higher emission standards (Euro 5) with no toxic, smog or smoke, guaranteeing reduced noise and lower fuel costs. In Malaysia, those buses run 15 years with over 90% average uptime.
Rieger also said the project would guarantee local capacity building of the buses through extensive transfer of the technology and know-how within a short time of the entire value chain.
Indeed, he said, “Up to 70 per cent of all components of the eco-green buses should be manufactured or assembled locally within five years of operation including the first green engine.”

He said the project would come with uniquely designed and efficient drivers’ safety training that would allow safe increase of passengers’ capacity by 30 per cent in accordance with international standards of public transport.

He said the vehicle had been built with the highest operational standards and expected to save the operator a minimum of $25,000 in comparison to any other large capacity bus.

He noted that six eco-green buses would do the job of at least 10 biggest BRT buses currently being operated in Nigeria and by switching over to locally available natural gas, he said at least $20,000 of foreign exchange is also saved.

He noted that driving with natural gas is the most environmentally friendly solution wherever this green fuel is available. They partnered already with local CNG suppliers who are ready to invest and guarantee 24/7 availability of the gas directly inside the bus depot of operators anywhere in the country.

About 90 per cent uptime, and maximum efficiency and transparency would be guaranteed through permanent real-time monitoring of each bus by eco- telematics and extended after-sale service with 24/7 spare parts availability and directly including service and wear parts for the first two years, said Rieger.

Some of the unique features of an ECO-green bus are given as roof mounted CNG cylinder with up to 500km range and gas leakage detection system and tyre pressure monitoring system.
The air and surfaces in their buses is permanently and chemical free sanitized by their ECO Viroxx air conditioning system with bipolar ionization.
Others are speed limiter, alcohol test and driver’s fatigue detection with driver’s biometric identification, CCTV camera system that can be directly integrated into the city surveillance system reverse camera; handicapped ramp and wheelchair area.

Rieger listed some of the technical features of the bus as electronic dashboard with extended eco-telematics system, real time driver’s feedback on safety and economic driving; on board video education in cooperation with UNICEF.
The bus is said to come on the same bus platform as 8.7m for 60 passengers; 10.5m for 80 passengers, 12m for 100 people and 18m accommodating 160 passengers.

 

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Autochek, Appzone collaborate on flexible vehicle finance solution

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Autochek automotive technology company has entered into a partnership with Appzone Group, a leading FinTech firm, to provide Nigerians with quick and flexible access to car financing, including those in the rural areas.
The partnership, according to the two firms, will see the Autochek platform integrating with Appzone’s proprietary digital core banking service, BankOne, in facilitating access to credit from over 400 microfinance institutions for people across the country.
Speaking at the official signing event, Chief Technology Officer at Autochek, Chetan Seth, said, “Obtaining access to financing in Nigeria is a tedious process. At Autochek, we are committed to providing consumers with seamless access to credit in order for them to own their vehicles. With technology, we are able to provide vehicle financing at sca d this will be accelerated even further by integrating with le, an Appzone’s network.
“We are very much customer-focused and we operate in an on-demand economy, we therefore recognise the need to efficiently provide a plethora of options for customers to access loans. Our partnership with Appzone will enable us to further increase their options through access to the microfinance banks currently available on their platform.”

Mr Mudiaga Umukoro, the CEO of Appzone Core, a subsidiary company of Appzone Group said, “BankOne is our flagship product and Africa’s foremost banking-as-a platform (BaaP) solution. Over the last 10 years, we have focused on digitizing the microfinance sector. We have enabled over 400 microfinance institutions spread across the entire country, with the capability for fully-digital banking operations. And now through our partnership with Autochek, these institutions available can now provide quick digital loans to prospective car owners anywhere in Nigeria.
“What this ensures is a win-win approach as MFBs can target more customers as well as increase revenue through loan offerings, whilst customers across the country, either in urban or remote areas, are more easily empowered with business and/or personal vehicles with little hassle.”
Some details about the new auto loan arrangement provided in a statement indicate that the credit sourcing process starts with the listing of prequalified vehicles from the dealers on Autochek’s platform.
Potential customers have the opportunity to select their choice from a pool of cars that have gone through a 150 point inspection process carried out by Autochek’s accredited technical experts.
The customers are then able to submit their loan applications digitally through the autochek website to over 400 financial partners currently available on Appzone’s BankOne network. Within 24 hours, customers receive multiple offers and have the option to select their most preferred financial partner.
Appzone transitions all accepted loan applications into the BankOne’s proprietary credit administration module which automatically enables the account opening, underwriting and eventual disbursement.
The customer is now able to get a transparent step-by-step update throughout the whole process.

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