FG’s plan to secure foreign loans stalls

FG’s plan to secure foreign loans stalls
Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun

 The Federal Government’s efforts to secure funds from international lenders to help haul the country out of recession have stalled because it has not submitted the required economic reform plans, according to one of the banks and sources close to the matter.

The Federal Government has been in loan talks with the World Bank for a year. It had told the lender it would present its proposed reforms to make the economy more resilient and attractive to investment by the end of December, according to Western diplomats and a Nigerian official who declined to be named as they are not authorised to speak publicly, Reutersreported.

But this has not happened and as a result of the delay, which the government has not explained, the Washington-based bank has not been able to consider a loan yet, according to the sources.

The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, and the World Bank declined to comment, Reutersreported.

The Director of Press, Ministry of Finance, Mr. Salis Nai-nna, said he could not comment immediately on the matter when our correspondent contacted him on Tuesday night.

He asked our correspondent to put the questions into writing and that comments would be available today (Wednesday).

The Director-General, Debt Management Office, Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, did not pick calls or respond to a text message sent to his mobile telephone line.

Similarly, the President, African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, told Reuters on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Tuesday that the AfDB was holding back the second tranche of $1bn loan for Nigeria because the country had yet to submit its economic recovery plan to the lender.

“We are waiting for the economic policy recovery programme and the policy framework for that,” Adesina said, without specifying when the AfDB had expected to receive the reform plans.

The Federal Government is seeking to borrow $4bn in total from the World Bank and other foreign institutions, and $1bn through Eurobonds to plug a yawning budget deficit and fund badly needed infrastructure projects.

The country, which relies on oil revenue for most of its income, has been hit hard by the sharp fall in crude prices since 2014 and is struggling to drag itself out of its first recession in 25 years.

It is unclear why the government has not submitted reform plans to the international lenders.

The funding deadlock could throw into doubt badly needed infrastructure projects planned for this year, including new roads and improvements to power infrastructure.

The failure to secure the funds, and to present a reform programme, could also deter some investors from Nigeria’s planned $1bn Eurobonds sale in March.

A financial source said the government was working with a consultancy firm on putting together a package of proposed reforms.

The source, who declined to be named as the matter is confidential, did not elaborate.

The Federal Government needs money to help plug a budget deficit of N2.2tn ($7bn) for 2016 and to help fund a record budget of N7.3tn for 2017, which is aimed at stimulating the economy.

It has been holding talks with various institutions and China over the last year to borrow funds but apart from a $1bn loan from the AfDB, at a rate of 1.2 per cent, nothing has been made public.

The AfDB paid out an initial $600m in November but is awaiting the economic reform proposals before it disburses the rest of the money.

It is unclear how much money Nigeria is seeking from the World Bank, or whether the lender was pushing for any specific economic reforms from the government.

The diplomatic sources, however, said the bank wanted to see how Nigeria planned to lower its dependence on oil revenues and boost investment, which has been hit by a high official exchange rate for the naira currency.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, backed by President Muhammadu Buhari, has kept the naira rate to the dollar at 40 per cent above the unofficial or parallel market rate, which has dried up dollar supplies on official channels.

The policy has also made investors reluctant to commit to new projects as they expect the central bank will have to devalue the naira eventually as oil production has been hit by an insurgency in the Niger Delta oil hub.

The central bank has also imposed hard currency curbs, making impossible the import of almost 700 goods, which has forced dozens of plants to close running out of spare parts.

Adesina told Reuters on Tuesday that the currency rate problem needed to be addressed by the government in its reform programme, which he said the AfDB was coordinating with the World Bank.

“We are being clear that the quantitative restriction in terms of access to FX is what’s creating huge gap between parallel market rates and official rates,” he added.

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