IMF: Economic backdrop in Nigeria remains challenging

The economic backdrop in Nigeria remains challenging, despite some signs of relief in the first half of 2017, International Monetary Fund (IMF), has said.

  At the end of a visit to Nigeria, IMT team led by Amine Mati, Senior Resident Representative and Mission to Nigeria, said:“Economic activity contracted in the first quarter of the year by 0.6 percent, mainly as maintenance stoppages reduced oil production. However, following four quarters of negative growth, the non-oil economy grew by 0.6 percent (year-on-year), on the back of a rebound in manufacturing and continued strong performance in agriculture”.

 The team added: “Various indicators suggest an uptick in activity in the second quarter of the year. Helped by favorable base effects, headline inflation decreased to 16.1 percent in June 2017, but remains high despite tight liquidity conditions.

  “Preliminary data for the first half of the year indicate significant revenue shortfalls, with the interest-payments to revenue ratio remaining high (40 percent at end-June) and projected to increase further under current policies. High domestic bond yields and tight liquidity continue to crowd out private sector credit. Given Nigeria’s low growth environment and the banking system’s exposure to the oil and gas sector, non-performing loans increased from 6 percent in 2015 to 15 percent in March 2017 (8 percent after excluding the four undercapitalized banks)”.

  Meanwhile, the team is of the opinion that the government has started implementing a number of important measures.

  The team said: “The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is driving the diversification strategy, and security in the Niger Delta improved through strengthened engagement. The new Investor and Exporter FX window has provided impetus to portfolio inflows, helped increase reserves above $30 billion, and contributed to reducing the parallel market premium. Important steps have also been taken in implementing the power sector recovery plan, introducing a voluntary income and asset declaration program and moving forward the 60-day national action plan to improve the business environment. Progress is also ongoing within the oil and energy sector through implementation of a new funding mechanism for cash calls.

  “However, near-term vulnerabilities and risks to economic recovery and macroeconomic and financial stability remain elevated. At 0.8 percent, growth in 2017 will not be sufficient to make a dent in reducing unemployment and poverty. Concerns about delays in policy implementation, a reversal of favorable external market conditions, possible shortfalls in agricultural and oil production, additional fiscal pressures, continued market segmentation in a foreign exchange market that remains dependent on central bank interventions, and banking system fragilities represent the main risks to the outlook”.