On February 6, 2013, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund concluded the 2012 Article IV consultation with Nigeria, identifying unemployment and poverty as the two key challenges facing the country.
In a report of the consultation released on Thursday, the Directors of the IMF also said they looked forward to the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.
The IMF said if the PIB is passed, there will be more transparency in the running of the oil industry, which still accounts for the larger chunk of the country’s income.
Here is the report:
Macroeconomic performance has been broadly positive over the past year. Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth is projected to have decelerated slightly to 6.3 percent, reflecting the effects of the nationwide strike in early 2012, floods in the fourth quarter of 2012, and continued security problems in the north. Annual inflation increased from 10.3 percent (end-of-period) in 2011 to 12.3 percent in 2012, owing mainly to the adjustment of administrative prices of fuel and electricity; large increases in import tariffs on rice and wheat; and the impact of floods in Q3. The external position has strengthened and international reserves rose from US$32.6 billion at end-2011 to US$44 billion at end-2012 (5½ months of prospective imports), driven by sustained high oil prices, stricter administration of the gasoline subsidy regime, and strong portfolio inflows.
The fiscal policy stance was tightened in 2012 and fiscal buffers are being rebuilt. The non-oil primary deficit of the consolidated government is estimated to have narrowed from about 36 percent of non-oil GDP in 2011 to 30.5 percent in 2012, mainly due to expenditure restraint. Monetary policy remained tight in 2012 in response to inflationary pressures. The central bank kept its policy rate unchanged during the year but raised the cash reserve requirement for banks from 8 percent to 12 percent and lowered allowable open foreign exchange position for banks. Financial soundness indicators point to continued improvements in the health of the banking system.
In 2013, growth is expected to recover to above 7 percent. Inflation is projected to decline below 10 percent, supported by the tight monetary policy stance and ongoing fiscal consolidation. The key downside risks are a large drop in world oil prices; and slow progress in building consensus around key fiscal reforms.
Executive Board Assessment
Executive Directors commended the authorities for prudent macroeconomic policies that have underpinned a strong economic performance in recent years. Looking ahead, Directors agreed that widespread unemployment and poverty remain key challenges for policymakers, and called for renewed efforts to make economic growth more broad-based and inclusive.
Directors supported the authorities’ strategy of consolidating the fiscal position while opening up policy space for needed investment in infrastructure and human capital. To this end, they underscored the need to improve tax administration, better prioritize public expenditure, strengthen public financial management, and improve the fiscal framework. In particular, they encouraged the authorities to reduce poorly-targeted fuel subsidies, adopt a rule to set the reference oil price in the budget, and fully operationalize the Sovereign Wealth Fund as soon as possible. Efforts to mobilize public support for these reforms should be intensified.
Directors considered the current tight monetary stance to be consistent with the authorities’ objective of reducing inflation to single digits. They also took note of the staff’s assessment that the exchange rate in real effective terms is broadly in line with fundamentals.
Directors commended the authorities’ success in restoring financial stability after the 2009 banking crisis. In light of this achievement, they recommended winding down the operations of the asset management company to curb moral hazard and fiscal risks. Directors welcomed the central bank’s commitment to address supervisory and regulatory gaps identified in the Financial Stability Assessment Update, particularly the need to strengthen cross-border supervision and the regime against money laundering and terrorism financing.
Directors concurred that wide-ranging reforms are key to make growth more inclusive. They agreed on the importance of supporting sectors with high employment potential, not through protectionist measures or tax incentives but rather with initiatives to improve governance, the investment climate, and competitiveness. Directors welcomed reforms underway in the energy sector, and looked forward to an early passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill which would boost investment, government revenue, and fiscal transparency. They also encouraged the authorities to promote market-based access to credit for small- and medium-sized enterprises.