World Bank Silent on Conditions for Nigeria’s $1.5bn Loan Request

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By Modupe Gbadeyanka

The World Bank Group has remained silent on the conditions it plans to attach to the $1.5 billion loan request from Nigeria.

The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had announced its intention to approach the global lender for the financial assistance.

The reason was because of the drain in revenue caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which crashed the price of crude oil at the international market.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy by size, relies heavily on the sale of oil for foreign earnings and since the outbreak became very pronounced in early 2020, funding of the budget has been threatened.

When Mr Buhari signed the 2020 Appropriation Bill into law last December, the benchmark for crude oil was at $57 per barrel with an average daily production of over 2 million barrels per day.

However, the pandemic forced a downward review in March 2020 to $30 per barrel and later to $25 per barrel this month, with an average daily production of 1.7 million barrels per day.

In April 2020, Nigeria, alongside other oil producers in the world, especially from the Organisation for the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), agreed to cut global supply by 10 percent to 9.7 million barrels per day.

Under its own quota, the Africa’s largest producer of the of the commodity was asked to reduce its supply to 1.4 million barrels per day in May and June 2020.

This agreement has helped price of crude oil to jump to over $30 per barrel since the deal became effective on Friday, May 1, 2020.

When the coronavirus outbreak affected Nigeria’s economy, the federal government ran to the World Bank to seek for a $1.5 billion loan to help carry out its main duties in the country.

The World Bank has said this request would be considered in two months’ time and a decision announced.

In an interview with Reuters on Friday, the Director of the World Bank for Nigeria, Mr Shubham Chaudhuri, stated that, “We were hoping to present to our board by late July or latest early August, because the government will need the finance.”

Mr Chaudhuri said further that, “The immediate challenge is a fiscal one: How does the government marshal the fiscal resources to keep basic government functions going?”

However, he declined to comment on any conditions the bank hopes the country fulfils before granting the loan.

But the lead economist of World Bank on Nigeria, Mr Marco Hernandez, informed Reuters that, “We have been recommending a move towards a unified exchange rate and a more flexible exchange rate for some time,” emphasising that it would help the recovery and boost investor confidence.

Nigeria operates a multiple exchange rate system and this has been very confusing to investors.

While the official exchange rate is N361 to a Dollar, the exchange rate at the black market is over N450 per Dollar, while at the Investors and Exporters (I&E) window is over N380/$1.

Last Thursday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, warned that Nigeria’s economy could fall into a recession in 2020 with a 8.9 percent contraction.

The last time the country slipped into an economic crisis was in 2016, a year after Mr Buhari became President. If Nigeria falls into another recession, it would be the second under his administration and the first President to lead the country into recession two times in the same regime.

Business Post reports that last month, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved Nigeria’s $3.4 billion loan request. The money was withdrawn from the bank by the country and is expected to be repaid in five years, with two years moratorium.

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