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Monetary Policy in Nigeria 1980- 2008

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    Over the years, the objectives of monetary policy have remained the attainment of internal and external balance of payments. However, emphasis on techniques/instruments to achieve those objectives have changed over the years. There have been two major phases in the pursuit of monetary policy, namely, before and after 1986. The first phase placed emphasis on direct monetary controls, while the second relies on market mechanisms.

    Overall, the socio-economic and political milieu, including the legal framework under which the Central Bank of Nigeria has operated, was found to be the critical factor that influenced the outcome of monetary policy. Specifically, the existence of fiscal dominance, a persistent liquidity overhang, an oligopolistic banking system and dualistic financial markets are major systemic factors that have undermined the efficacy of monetary policy in Nigeria. Generally, both fiscal and monetary policies seek at achieving relative macroeconomic stability.

    Over the year, two issues have been subjects of debate in this regard. First is the superiority of each of these policies in the achievement of macroeconomic stability. While the Keynesians argued that fiscal policy is more potent than monetary policy, the monetarists led by Milton Friedman on the other hand believed the other way round.

    Monetary policy is the process by which the central bank or monetary authority of a country controls the supply of money, often targeting a rate of interest. Monetary policy is usually used to attain a set of objectives oriented towards the growth and stability of the economy. These goals usually include stable prices and low unemployment. Monetary theory provides insight into how to craft optimal monetary policy. Monetary policy is referred to as either being an expansionary policy, or a contractionary policy, where an expansionary policy increases the total supply of money in the economy rapidly, and a contractionary policy decreases the total money supply or increases it only slowly.

    Expansionary policy is traditionally sed to combat unemployment in a recession by lowering interest rates, while contractionary policy involves raising interest rates to combat inflation. Monetary policy is contrasted with fiscal policy, which refers to government borrowing, spending and taxation. Monetary policy rests on the relationship between the rates of interest in an economy, that is the price at which money can be borrowed, and the total supply of money. Monetary policy uses a variety of tools to control one or both of these, to influence outcomes like economic growth, inflation, exchange rates with other currencies and unemployment.

    Where currency is under a monopoly of issuance, or where there is a regulated system of issuing currency through banks which are tied to a central bank, the monetary authority has the ability to alter the money supply and thus influence the interest rate (to achieve policy goals). The beginning of monetary policy as such comes from the late 19th century, where it was used to maintain the gold standard.

    The economic environment that guided monetary policy before 1986 was characterized by the dominance of the oil sector, the expanding role of the public sector in the economy and over-dependence on the external sector. In order to maintain price stability and a healthy balance of payments position, monetary management depended on the use of direct monetary instruments such as credit ceilings, selective credit controls, administered interest and exchange rates, as well as the prescription of cash reserve requirements and special deposits.

    The use of market-based instruments was not feasible at that point because of the underdeveloped nature of the financial markets and the deliberate restraint on interest rates. The most popular instrument of monetary policy was the issuance of credit rationing guidelines, which primarily set the rates of change for the components and aggregate commercial bank loans and advances to the private sector. The sectoral allocation of bank credit in CBN guidelines was to stimulate the productive sectors and thereby stem inflationary pressures.

    The fixing of interest rates at relatively low levels was done mainly to promote investment and growth. Occasionally, special deposits were imposed to reduce the amount of free reserves and credit-creating capacity of the banks. Minimum cash ratios were stipulated for the banks in the mid-1970s on the basis of their total deposit liabilities, but since such cash ratios were usually lower than those voluntarily maintained by the banks, they proved less effective as a restraint on their credit operations. From the mid-1970s, it became increasingly difficult to achieve the aims of monetary policy.

    Generally, monetary aggregates, government fiscal deficit, GDP growth rate, inflation rate and the balance of payments position moved in undesirable directions. Compliance by banks with credit guidelines was less than satisfactory. The major source of problems in monetary management were the nature of the monetary control framework, the interest rate regime and the non-harmonization of fiscal and monetary policies. The monetary control framework, which relied heavily on credit ceilings and selective credit controls, increasingly failed to achieve the set monetary targets as their implementation became less effective with time.

    The rigidly controlled interest rate regime, especially the low levels of the various rates, encouraged monetary expansion without promoting the rapid growth of the money and capital markets. The low interest rates on government debt instruments did not sufficiently attract private sector savers and since the CBN was required by law to absorb the unsubscribed portion of government debt instruments, large amounts of high-powered money were usually injected into the economy.

    In the oil boom era, the rapid monetization of foreign exchange earnings resulted in large increases in government expenditure which substantially contributed to monetary instability. In the early 1980s, oil receipts were not adequate to meet increasing levels of demands and since expenditures were not rationalised, government resorted to borrowing from the Central Bank to finance huge deficits. This had adverse implications for monetary management. Monetary Policy Decisions – 1986

    Analysis of the institutional growth and structure indicates that the financial system grew rapidly in the mid 1980s to 1990s. The number of commercial banks rose from 29 in 1986 to 64 in 1995 and declined to 51 in 1998, while the number of merchant banks rose from only 12 in 1986 to 54 in 1991 and subsequently declined to 38 in 1998. In terms of branch network, the combined commercial and merchant bank branches rose from 1,323 in 1985 to 2,549 in 1996. There was also substantial growth in the number of non-bank financial institutions, especially insurance companies.

    Monetary Policy Since 1986 The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) was adopted in July, 1986 following the crash in the international oil market and the resultant deteriorating economic conditions in the country. It was designed to achieve fiscal balance and balance of payments viability by altering and restructuring the production and consumption patterns of the economy. These would be achieved by eliminating price distortions, reducing heavy dependence on crude oil exports and consumer goods imports, enhancing the non-oil export base and achieving sustainable growth.

    Other aims were to rationalise the role of the public sector and accelerate the growth potentials of the private sector. The main strategies of the programme were the deregulation of external trade and payments arrangements, the adoption of a market-determined exchange rate for the Naira, substantial reduction in complex price and administrative controls and more reliance on market forces as a major determinant of economic activity. The objectives of monetary policy since 1986 remained the same as in the earlier period, namely: the stimulation of output and employment, and the promotion of domestic and external stability.

    In line with the general philosophy of economic management under SAP, monetary policy was aimed at inducing the emergence of a market-oriented financial system for effective mobilization of financial savings and efficient resource allocation. The main instrument of the market-based framework is the open market operations. This is complemented by reserve requirements and discount window operations. The adoption of a market-based framework such as OMO in an economy that had been under direct control for long, required substantial improvement in the macroeconomic, legal and regulatory environment.

    In order to improve macroeconomic stability, efforts were directed at the management of excess liquidity; thus a number of measures were introduced to reduce liquity in the system. These included the reduction in the maximum ceiling on credit growth allowed for banks; the recall of the special deposits requirements against outstanding external payment arrears to CBN from banks, abolition of the use of foreign guarantees/currency deposits as collaterals for Naira loans and the withdrawal of public sector deposits from banks to the CBN.

    Also effective August, 1990, the use of stabilization securities for purposes of reducing the bulging size of excess liquidity in banks was re-introduced. Commercial banks’ cash reserve requirements were increased in 1989, 1990, 1992, 1996 and 1999. The rising level of fiscal deficits was identified as a major source of macroeconomic instability. Consequently, government agreed not only to reduce the size of its deficits but also to synchronize fiscal and monetary policies.

    By way of inducing efficiency and encouraging a good measure of flexibility in banks’ credit operations, the regulatory environment has improved. Consequently, the sector-specific credit allocation targets were compressed into four sectors in 1986, and to only two in 1987. From October, 1996, all mandatory credit allocation mechanisms were abolished. The commercial and merchant banks were subjected to equal treatment since their operations were found to produce similar effects on the monetary process.

    Areas of perceived disadvantages to merchant banks were harmonized in line with the need to create a conducive environment for their operations. The liquidity effect of large deficits financed mainly by the Bank led to an acceleration of monetary and credit aggregate in 1998, relative to stipulated targets and the performance in the preceding year. Outflow of funds through the CBN weekly foreign exchange transaction at the Autonomous Foreign Exchange Market (AFEM) and, to a lesser extent, at Open Market Operation (OMO) exerted some moderating effect.

    The reintroduction of the Dutch Auction system (DAS) of foreign exchange management in July, 2002 engendered relative stability, and stemmed further depletion of reserves during the second half of 2002. However, the financial system was typically marked by rapid expansion in monetary aggregates, particularly during the second half of 2000, influenced by the monetization of enhanced oil receipts. Consequently, monetary growth accelerated significantly, exceeding policy targets by substantial margins.

    Reiterated the commitment of the CBN to meet its target growth of money supply for 2005 (that is, 15 per cent). Consequently, the MPC resolved to take the following additional measures to bring money supply in line with the target:

    • Complete the sale of N60 billion of CBN instrument, and sell more if need be;
    • Sale of Treasury Bills which will be sterilized for liquidity management;
    • Sale of additional foreign exchange to mop up liquidity;
    • Move all NNPC deposits with commercial banks to the CBN and sterilize much of it with effect from October 31, 2005.

    All banks that collect revenues on behalf of the NNPC are expected to remit all such funds to the CBN within 48 hours of the collection. Failure to remit such funds will attract a penal interest charge of MRR plus 5. Any MD of a bank who misreports NNPC deposits with it or falsifies any returns to the CBN will be suspended for three months in the first instance.  To ensure effective monitoring and implementation of liquidity management programme, the MPC set up a Monetary Policy Implementation Committee which shall meet every two days to review developments and take necessary actions.

    The ultimate goal of the new framework was to achieve a stable value of the domestic currency through stability in short- term interest rates around an Operating Target the CBN Monetary Policy Rate (MPR). The MPR serves as an indicative rate for transactions in the inter-bank money market as well as other interest rates in the money market transactions. The MPR which replaced the MRR was set at 10 per cent with spread of 600 basis points around the rate, i. e. 300 basis points above and 300 basis points below.

    This translates into an upper limit of 13 per cent and a lower limit of 7 per cent. The Whole Sale Dutch Auction System (WDAS) replaced the Dutch Auction System (DAS) in the first quarter of the year under review. In pursuant of further liberalization of the foreign exchange market the bureaux de change was admitted into the WDAS window during the second quarter of 2006 . The admittance of the BDC’s to the WDAS window led to the unification of the exchange rate between official and parallel market.

    The objective of monetary policy in 2006 was sustaining price stability and non inflationary growth, as enunciated in the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS). The target for single digit inflation was, however, achieved as at December 2006 the inflation stood at 8. 5 per cent. The GDP growth rate for 2006 declined to 5. 63 per cent compared with what obtained in 2005 when it stood at 6. 51 per cent, but the external reserves rose rapidly from US$28. 3 billion to US$41. 9 billion, representing an increase of US$ 13. billion.

    At the end of 2006, the overall performance indicated that the broad money supply (M2) target was overshot as it grew by 30. 6 per cent compared with the target of 27. 8 per cent. The Reserve money target for December 2006 was missed. The actual Reserve money (RM) at end December stood at N974. 9 billion, compared with the target of N 820 Billion. The non attainment of RM target at end December was largely due to the rapid growth in currency in circulation. Monetary Policy Decisions 195th MPC Meeting of 28th November, 2006.

    Adoption of a new monetary policy framework to be effective from Monday December 11 th 2006. The new monetary policy framework would be launched on Monday December 4,2006. The new Monetary policy framework would introduce a new Monetary Policy Rate ( MPR ) to replace the Minimum Rediscount Rate ( MRR ) The MPR would be the main instrument of the new monetary policy framework and will determine the lower and upper band of the CBN standing facility and is expected to have the capability of acting as the nominal anchor for other rates.

    Discontinue outright rediscounting of bills in the CBN to encourage trading among the market operators. Ensure the full deployment of Information Technology (IT) infrastructure (RTGS, T24, and eFASS) for the effective implementation of the new monetary policy framework; and Convene meeting of the MPC every other month to review developments in the economy.

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