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Thursday, May 19, 2022

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Economists want CBN to reappraise forex policy to eliminate arbitrage

By Oludare Mayowa

The decision of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend dollar sales to the Bureau de change operators has “disrupted one of the juiciest gravy trains in the Nigerian economic racket,” according to the a renowed economist, Bismack Rewane and his team.

In its economic note, Rewane and his team at the Financial Deravatives Company believed that though BDCs are licensed by the CBN, the point had been reached where the program was no longer tenable and surely not sustainable.

“A country whose total exports and receipts were approximately $59.8bn, was spending $5bn to subsidize supposed Nigerian tourists during a covid year.

“In other words, spending more on tourism rather than debt servicing. Therefore, the structure of the forex market needed sanitization,” the team of economists led by Rewane at the FDC said in the note.

The team, however disagreed with the CBN on its decision to divert dollar meant for the BDCs to banks, saying such amount to “handing over the yam barns to goats to secure.”

They said such interim solution of substituting BDCs with banks is hardly going to achieve much.

“The question that arises is what is the optimal solution? Administrative controls or market pricing? The interim solution of substituting BDCs with banks is hardly going to achieve much.

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“You are virtually handing over the yam barns to goats to secure. In the end, there will be no yams nor goats.

“One of the options is to simultaneously allow banks to retail dollars as they have done in the past and make BDCs engage in retailing same but at a buy rate different from today’s subsidized rate, i.e buy dollars from the CBN at the parallel market rate less a N10 premium.

For example, if the parallel market rate is N500/$, the purchase rate from the CBN will be N490/$. If the BDCs sell at N550/$, the CBN increases its rate for BDCs to N540/$.

“That will be the same retail rate at the banks. This eliminates the arbitrage corridor and abuse. It will certainly reduce the demand for dollars and it must coincide with an increase in dollar supply from the CBN.

“This way, the naira will appreciate towards the ever elusive fair value or the REER (Real Effective Exchange Rate), which today is anywhere between N470 and N490/$,” FDC team stated.

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