IMF presses Nigeria to devalue naira currency

AP News
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Posted: Oct 21, 2015 6:03 PM

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — The IMF is pressing Nigeria to further devalue its naira currency amid uncertainty over the political and economic outlook for Africa's biggest oil producer and economy.

Analysts said there's disappointment that President Muhammadu Buhari's long-awaited Cabinet list — five months in the making and still not finalized — includes no economic stars to guide much-needed reform.

"There's no economist on the (Cabinet) list that can suggest to the government ways to improve revenue generation and how to run the economy," said Garba Kurfi, managing director of APT Securities and Funds.

The naira has lost 25 percent of its value in the past year and the stock market plummeted by 20 percent last year and 14 percent this year because of political uncertainty and halved prices for oil that provides most government revenue.

Nigeria's Central Bank devalued the naira by 8 percent in November and then fixed the official exchange rate at an even lower 198 to the dollar, though it sells at 222 at exchange bureaus.

Unable to stem the slide, the Central Bank has defended the naira by restricting access to foreign currency and banning a long list of imports.

"It's like digging a hole to fill up another hole," said an editorial in Nigeria's huhuonline news website.

The restrictions are "quite detrimental," said the International Monetary Fund's Africa director, Antoinette Sayeh.

They "are already making it harder for the average person to buy milk," she said at the IMF annual meeting that ended in Peru this week, according to the organization's website.

She called for a review of the restrictions and for officials to "permit the exchange rate to continue to adjust."