As the country gradually recovers from the shocks of economic recession, the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, yesterday said the apex bank deployed various import-substitution strategies since 2014 to save the economy from total collapse.
The CBN boss, while delivering his keynote address entitled, “The Dilemma of Monetary Policy During a Recession: Potential Options for Nigeria”, at the 57th Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), yesterday, also expressed satisfaction that the measures are still working.
Defending CBN’s policy on denial of official forex to some imported items that could be produced locally, the CBN Governor took the audience through recent economic history in which some countries, both in the Western hemisphere and Asia, had to apply similar measures to solve peculiar economic challenges.
According to him, countries such as South Korea used excessive stiff tariffs, quantitative restrictions and in the case of Taiwan, the government applied some non-tariff barriers to curtail imports into their domains.
The CBN Governor, in a similar vein, said the United States of America (USA) banned the importation of more cost-effective generic drugs from Canada, just as taxi drivers in continental Europe have been fighting against use of more affordable Uber taxis from the USA.
Emefiele stated that given the challenges confronting the country such as falling GDP growth rate, rising inflation, persistently high interest rates, falling foreign reserves and depreciating exchange rate, the CBN had to make the hard choice of introducing some ingenious measures by way of 41 items in which importers could not access forex from the interbank market.
He said the essence of the policy was to achieve the goal of restructuring the economy away from the present import-dependence and to create jobs for the teeming unemployed youths.
Emefiele noted that these challenges were what motivated the CBN to take decisions considered then as unpopular policy aimed at jumpstarting agriculture and agribusiness, supporting the rebuilding of infrastructure and pursuing non-oil exports. The ability to make such hard choices, according to him, is the hallmark of leadership, which he said is not a popularity contest.
He called on all Nigerians, especially the members of the legal profession, to forge a close relationship with regulators in the financial sector to design a legislative advocacy to ensure stability of the financial system.