Financial experts have issued a cautionary statement, warning against the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) potential move to raise the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) in an attempt to combat inflation. As the CBN’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) prepares for its July meeting, concerns have been raised about the impact such a decision could have on the already fragile state of the economy.

The impending meeting, which will be the first under President Bola Tinubu, faces a delicate balancing act as various factors may prompt the Committee to consider raising rates. However, experts believe that such a move could exacerbate the existing economic challenges.

Professor Uche Uwaleke, a Capital Market expert at Nasarawa State University, highlighted that rising inflation expectations, triggered by the abrupt removal of fuel subsidy, would likely influence the MPC’s decision. Additionally, pressure on the naira and exchange rate volatility, resulting from the recent Naira float, will also factor into the committee’s considerations.

Mr. Folashodun Shonubi, the acting CBN governor, who will chair the meeting, has been known for adopting a hawkish stance in previous MPC decisions. Experts speculate that another rates hike could be on the table, although they caution against such a move, fearing its potential adverse effects on the economy.

“Be that as it may, the MPC should equally recognize that the removal of fuel subsidy has slowed down economic activities considerably with an attendant drop in productivity. So, economic growth and jobs are already negatively impacted such that a further monetary policy tightening would only worsen the situation.

“Cost of capital will further increase and access to credit by small businesses will become more difficult,” he said.

He said that a further increase in the MPR was also likely to endanger the asset quality of banks through an increase in non-performing loans as Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) repriced their loans.

“This is against the backdrop of the fact that many of the factors driving inflation in Nigeria, such as insecurity affecting food output and high energy costs, are outside the control of the CBN,” he said.

Uwaleke urged the MPC to seize the opportunity of its forthcoming meeting to signal readiness to support output growth.

According to him, this can be done through policies geared towards fostering a low-interest rates environment while keeping an eye on inflation, using a mix of heterodox measures.

Also speaking, a past President of the Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Mr Okechukwu Unegbu, the MPC should lower the MPR to allow easy access to credit for the productive sector of the economy.

Unegbu said that since the lending rate in banks is dependent on the MPR, lowering it would be more beneficial for economic growth by allowing easier access to funds for the manufacturing sector and for small businesses.

He, however, said that the idea of DMBs using the MPR to decide their lending rates should also apply to interest rates on savings.

“The banks use the MPR to increase their lending rates, but savings interest rates are always very low. Interest rates on savings should guide the banks on their lending rates. They are supposed to look at the average interest rate on savings to consider their own lending rates.

“I expect the MPC to reduce the rates this time so that banks can reduce their lending rates in order to encourage lending to the productive sector of the economy,” he said.

According to the Partner and Chief Economist at KPMG Nigeria, Mr Yemi Kale, the MPC was facing a dicey meeting since the suspension of Emefiele.

He said the inability of the CBN to control inflation had been largely due to the fact that the main drivers of inflation were structural and supply-based, which could not be controlled effectively with the money supply tools available to it.

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