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Nigerian govt ‘may open border for importation of cement’

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The Nigerian government has issued a warning to cement producers, stating that if they continue to raise prices arbitrarily, it may decide to open the border to cement imports.

This warning was given by Arc Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, during an urgent meeting with cement and building material manufacturers on Tuesday in Abuja.

The government last week called for an urgent meeting with cement manufacturers following a recent surge in the price of the product, which has seen a bag of cement jump from N5,000 to as high as N15,000 in less than two weeks.

However, during his speech to the manufacturers on Tuesday, Dangiwa urged them to be more patriotic, pointing out that domestic sources, such as limestone, clay, silica sand, and gypsum, are used to produce cement rather than imports, and as such, they shouldn’t be valued in terms of dollars.

Dangiwa, who stated that the price of cement has increased and is unreasonable, also rejected the makers’ claim that the price increase was caused by petrol and the high cost of importing equipment.

This was in reaction to Salako James, the Association’s Executive Secretary, who had said that the association just heard of the  pricing from the market like every other Nigerian and did not discuss or decide the rates of specific enterprises.

“The challenges you speak of, many countries are facing the same challenges and some even worse than that but as patriotic citizens, we have to rally around whenever there is a crisis to change the situation.

“The gas price you spoke of, we know that we produce gas in the country the only thing you can say is that maybe it is not enough.

“Even if you say about 50 percent of your production cost is spent on gas prices, we still produce gas in Nigeria it’s just that some of the manufacturers take advantage of the situation. As for the mining equipment that you mentioned, you buy equipment and it takes years and you are still using it.

“The time you bought it maybe it was at a lower price but because now the dollar is high you are using it as an excuse. Honestly, we have to sit down and look at this critically. The demand and supply should be good for you because the government stopped the importation of cement, they stopped the importation in order to empower you to produce more.

“Otherwise if the government opens the border for mass importation of cement, the price would crash but you would have no business to do and at the same time the employment generation would go down. So these are the kinds of things you have to look at, the efforts of government in ensuring things go well.”

Following the elimination of fuel subsidies, the depreciation of the national currency, and low agricultural output, Nigeria is currently facing its worst cost of living crisis. These factors have all contributed to Nigeria’s highest headline inflation rate of 27% year over year and food inflation of 32%. The massive housing shortage facing the nation seems to have a new facet as a result of the recent increase in cement prices.

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IMF says South Africa needs to do more to cut spending, lower debt-to-GDP ratio

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A top official from the International Monetary Fund has revealed that South Africa needs to do more to cut spending and lower its debt-to-gross domestic product ratio. The multilateral body stressed that the ratio is expected to rise from 74% in 2022 to almost 86% by 2029.

Era Dabla-Norris, deputy head of Fiscal Affairs, said that the government could cut back on transfers to state-owned businesses, make cuts to subsidies that don’t help specific companies, and make big changes to the way the economy works to boost growth.

She told a news conference that South Africa’s energy and logistics problems had to be fixed right away.

A Statista study shows that between 2023 and 2028, the South African national debt was expected to keep going up by a total of 163.3 billion U.S. dollars, or 59.99%.

The national debt is expected to hit a new high point of 435.46 billion U.S. dollars in 2028, after going up for ten years in a row. Notably, the national debt has steadily risen over the past few years.

The IMF says that the general government’s gross debt is made up of all its debts that need to be paid back with interest and/or capital at some point in the future.

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Nigeria’s central bank insists depleting external reserves not due to Naira defence

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According to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the big drop in the country’s foreign exchange reserves was not due to the defence of the Naira. Instead, it was done to partly pay off debts owed to creditors.

Furthermore, the bank said it wanted to stay out of the market as much as possible, hoping to create an environment where costs are set by willing buyers and sellers.

The CBN governor, Olayemi Cardoso, clarified on Wednesday while the International Monetary Fund and World Bank held their Spring Meetings in Washington, D.C., USA following curiosity around the big drop in the country’s foreign exchange reserves—about $2.16bn in just 29 days—even though the government was working hard to keep the naira stable, underlying important it is to let the market decide prices instead of depending too much on the bank to step in.

The CBN website showed that as of April 15, 2024, the foreign exchange stocks had dropped to $32.29bn, a big drop from March 18, 2024, when they were $34.45bn. Also, the funds grew by $1.28bn over 43 days, from February 5, 2024, to March 18, 2024.

The apex had earlier stated that the rise was due to more money being sent back to Nigeria by Nigerians living abroad and more interest from foreign buyers in local assets, such as government debt securities. The top bank also said that the rise was caused by changes in the foreign exchange market and more oil being produced, among other things.

Cardoso maintained that the bank would not get involved in the exchange unless unusual circumstances arose. He also made it clear that the recent small change in reserves had nothing to do with protecting the naira. He said that there will be an increase soon because the country is getting an extra $600 million into its funds.

He said, “I want to make this as clear as possible, it is not in our intention to defend the naira. and as much I have read in the recent few days, some opinions concerning what is happening with our reserves and if the central bank is defending the naira. If you think about what our overall policy and philosophy has been here, you can see it is counterintuitive.

“What we are encouraging is for the market to be a willing-buyer and willing-seller price discovery system, and ultimately I perceive a future where the central bank would not intervene except in very unusual circumstances. What is important to us is that there is sufficient liquidity in the market. We recorded trading of $1bn, sometimes it is $600m or $700m as the case may be and that will continue. So as long as we have a vibrant currency market, why do we need to intervene? There has been little amount given to the Bureau de Change to get that segment going and a small amount of money has gone into that to catalyse because individuals must have access to funds for school fees, health and the rest.”

Foreign currency shortages in the country have been a problem for a long time for the CBN. That governments, commercial banks, merchant banks, other financial institutions (OFIs), or public officials cannot directly or indirectly own Bureaux de Change (BDCs) was ruled in February.

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