New Strain Of Covid-19 May Hamper Economic Recovery In 2021 – CBN

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has expressed fears that the ravaging effect of the new strain of Covid-19 may hamper the expected economic recovery in 2021. 

A new strain of the virus that first broke out in the United Kingdom has proved more deadly and was recently recorded in Nigeria. 

The CBN during its Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting in Abuja on Tuesday said the new Covid-19 strain would lead to a moderate  contraction of global output. 

According to the MPC, the much expected recovery in most economies towards the end of 2020, leading to a moderation in the contraction of global output. It, however, observed that the rapid spread of the new variant of the Coronavirus, seemingly associated spike in fatalities and the recent re-introduction of containment measures across several economies, may dampen the recovery in 2021.

“In the Advanced Economies, headwinds largely associated with the COVID-19 pandemic such as vaccination-related   challenges, weak aggregate demand associated with less than full employment in labour markets, partially functioning supply chain networks, the rapid spread of the new variant of the Coronavirus and a high infection rate dampened the initial rebound in economic recovery towards the end of 2020. 

“Output growth in the Emerging Market and Developing Economies (EMDEs) remained uneven across countries. In China, output slowed marginally in the third and fourth quarters of 2020, following a faster-than-expected rebound in the second quarter of 2020. Following the lull in the second quarter, India’s economy grew sharply in the third quarter, reflecting welcome adjustment to the stimulus measures. Accordingly, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated global growth in 2020 as a contraction of 4.4 per cent and forecast growth in 2021 to improve to 5.2 per cent. This forecast is however, hinged on the successful vaccination of a significant number of people to create the much-desired herd immunity. 

Speaking on price developments, the MPC stated that inflation, in most Advanced Economies, is likely to remain subdued in the short to medium term as the recent rise in COVID-19 infection and mortality rates have resulted in sub-optimal employment and weakened labour markets, which dampened aggregate demand across these economies. In the EMDEs, however, inflation remains relatively high compared with the Advanced Economies, with some economies confronted with stronger upside risks than others, as a result of weak accretion to reserves, persisting exchange rate pressures, poor inflow of capital as well as longstanding structural issues.  

According to the CBN, the steady build-up of systemic liquidity across the global economy, arising from the support by fiscal authorities and central banks to bolster the recovery and return confidence to the financial markets. It noted that the response to the pandemic has heightened the risk of debt accumulation, raising concerns of debt sustainability and vulnerability of the global economy to financial crisis once central banks commence normalization of monetary policy.

The CBN noted that the Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), contracted by 3.62 per cent in Q3 2020, compared with 6.10 per cent in Q2 2020 and a growth of 2.28 per cent in the corresponding period of 2019. The real GDP contraction in Q3 2020 was largely driven by the decline of 13.89 per cent in the oil sector from 6.63 per cent in Q2 2020. The non-oil sector also contracted by 2.51 per cent in Q3 2020, compared with 6.05 per cent in Q2 2020. 

It however, noted that the weak performance observed in both the oil and non-oil sectors was largely attributed to the lag effects of the lockdown, persisting weak global demand for crude oil and security challenges across the country. 

 The CBN however raised concern that the continuing sluggish recovery in the Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Indices (PMIs), which remained below the 50-index point benchmark in December 2020, at 49.6 and 45.7 index points, respectively, compared with 50.2 and 47.6 index points during the previous month. This weak performance was attributed to the resurgence of the pandemic, foreign exchange pressures, increased costs of production, general increase in prices and decline in economic activities.  Similar trend was also observed in the employment level index component of the manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs, which contracted for the ninth consecutive month in December 2020 to 46.3 and 45.1 index points, respectively, compared with 50.2 and 46.7 index points in the previous month. The Committee, however, noted that current growth headwinds would likely moderate in the short to medium term, as the containment measures and the sustained implementation of economic stimulus permeate the domestic economy.

 The MPC also expressed concerns on the persisting uptick in inflationary pressure for the sixteenth consecutive month, with headline year-on-year inflation moving further to 15.75 per cent in December 2020 from 14.89 per cent in November 2020. This uptick was attributed to the increase in both the food and core components of inflation, which rose to 19.56 and 11.37 per cent in December 2020, respectively, from 18.30 and 11.01 per cent in November 2020. This continued upsurge in food inflation was attributed to the logistical bottlenecks, spurred by the increasing security challenges in many parts of the country, which disrupted food production and supply to the market. Other factors driving the core inflation, include the recent deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry, which led to hikes in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and the upward adjustment in electricity tariff. 

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