Sanusi's CBN and Waning of Monetary Policy as tool to control rising Inflation

Nigeria’s Inflation rate increased from 11.1 percent to 12.8 percent

The inflationary pressure is escalating and at 12.8 percent inflation rate recorded at the ending of first quarter of 2011 is not showing any sign of coming down. According to the data coming from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) the February inflation rate stood at 11.1 percent and since then has increased to 12.8 percent at the month of March.

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) maybe gradually losing its grip on the rising inflation with its primarily application of monetary policy and should sought the aid of the presidency to utilize trade and fiscal policies to solve the problem of the persistent double digit inflation.

The difference between months of February and March Composite Consumer Price Index (CPI), a tool to measure inflation rate stood at 1.37 percent. That is not a good development.

The deduction to be made is that the power of monetary policy that comes with the usage of interest rate to hold a grip on inflation is waning. A while ago the Central bank of Nigeria raised the monetary policy rate from the previously 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent but it did not necessarily have any effect on the surging inflationary trend. Instead of the interest rate to be de-escalating rather it is accelerating at 1.7 percent, giving the month of March a higher interest rate at a double digit of 12.8 percent.

The Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Sanusi Lamido attributed
the surging inflation to rising food prices and energy cost. There is no doubt that the chieftain of CBN understood quite well what the beef is all about. But the reasons he tendered for the rising inflation are secondary and insufficient. The fundamental problem that Nigeria has is its major reliance on importation for essential commodities needed in the country. These are the primary problems that are making the inflationary pressure to be going up. Nigeria imports food, textiles and refined petroleum from abroad. The domestic oil refineries are not producing at optimum levels and importation becomes necessary with the subsidy.

In the consumer price Index (CPI) food and energy products are quite significant because these are products needed by all the sectors of the population for surviving and for the economy to thrive. With these importations Nigeria is exposed to global changes in prices of food and
petroleum products. Therefore as the prices of oil and food increases due to global demand and anxiety in the market that subsequently has effect on economy of Nigeria and put untold pressure on inflation.

The lowering and control of inflation in Nigeria for sustainable growth must be strategically planned and implemented. Monetary policy with its Interest rate can be utilized as in tactical approach to limit the power of inflation at a short term but in long term more should be done. The idea is to maintain a sustainable inflation rate at a single digit for a long term economic growth and development.

The executive of the government has an important role to play in shaping the economic destiny of the nation and not abandoning the battle to defeat and tame inflation to the bureaucrats at Nigerian apex bank. To all and sundry it is becoming self-evident that the tightening of monetary policy has a limited effect in long term prospects waned and as the fundamental problems that plagues the economy persisted.

The Nigerian annual economic growth is cruising at a comfortable level of above 7 percent but the increasing inflationary pressure is about to do one or two to the economy. Inflation by discouraging of the investors and by severely weakening of the country’s currency naira can slow down economic growth and probably reverse the net gain effect.

This is not the time for government to fold their hands and become reluctant observer. But no one is asking the executive arm of the government to weaken the independence of the Central Bank by intervening in the affairs of the autonomous apex bank. The financial actors and the Economic gatekeepers in the government must be pro-active, strategic and pragmatic. The executive arm must be serious about cutting down on importation and fixing the oil refineries in the country to avoid refining of petroleum abroad.

This is time to be serious and not time for empty postulations, for we all can agree on what must be done. The government should work with textile and cement importers to find ways to slow down importation while increasing the usage of local materials for production. Nigeria has abundant raw materials for manufacturing cement and textile. The importers should be given tax breaks and other incentives that will compel them to look into local production with the home grown raw materials.

The rising price of food including corn and rice are contributing to the rising inflation. There is a global demand for some of Nigeria’s staple food that is imported. Nigerian government should be in partnership with large scale domestic farmers without being overbearing to them. Investment in research and development in the agricultural becomes necessary in order to find the solution to the problems of food storage and preservation. Food preservation will be needed to boost higher food production and sustainability therefore cutting down on food importation. Monetary policy as tool to control rising inflation is waning therefore CBN must look beyond its monetary policy tool to cool off inflationary rising temperature.

Written by
Emeka Chiakwelu
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