“Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the National Debt” – Herbert Hoover
The MPC met yesterday to decide on the monetary policy stance of Nigeria. With a sense of candour and humour, they hiked the monetary policy rate by 100 basis points to 17.5% p.a. The committee was divided on the extent of tightening but was generally hawkish.
It is unusual for interest rates to be altered 30 days before a general election in most countries. But these are interesting and unusual times in Nigeria. The major problem is that whilst the policy rate—a signaling rate to anchor investor expectations—is increasing, effective treasury bill rates have declined by over 1000 basis points. This is a major contradiction of direction and expectations.
In 10 months, the MPR has increased cumulatively by 6% p.a. and inflation has declined marginally by 0.13% to 21.34%. This confirms the limitation of relying on a disconnected policy rate as the main tool for curbing spiraling inflation.
The impact of the policy rate change on ordinary people is at best marginal. Nigerians will still buy beans at ₦32,000 per bag in February, a loaf of bread at ₦900, take a bus ride from Obalende to Oworonshoki for ₦400 and a return flight from Lagos to Abuja (economy) for ₦200,000. So, whilst the rate of inflation may taper, the burden on the pocket will remain daunting. Meanwhile, the external debt per head in Nigeria has jumped by 339% to $215.
“A change is as good as a rest” – Winston Churchill
No matter what happens, come February 25, 2023 “a new Sheriff will be in town”. Even before the handover date of May 29, Nigerians will gravitate towards the new leadership.
Fair-weather oligarchs and policy-making sycophants will change their chorus in favour of a new swan song. Most policies will be on hold as people reposition themselves for the new dispensation.
While we enter the 6th administration since the return to democracy in 1999 with skepticism and fear of the unknown, we are certain that there will be new currency notes, new leaders and new policies. With this cautious optimism, most Nigerians will be guided by Winston Churchill’s works, that no matter what happens a change is as good as a rest.