On Monday, 20th February 2017, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) released a press statement on a new Forex policy which it titled “New Policy Actions in the Foreign Exchange Market.” This development comes a week after the National Economic Council had requested for a review of the current Forex policy due to the disparity between the parallel and official rates.
“In continuation of efforts to increase the availability of Foreign Exchange in order to ease the difficulties encountered by Nigerians in obtaining funds for Foreign Exchange transactions, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is providing direct additional funding to banks to meet the needs of Nigerians for Personal and Business Travel, Medical needs, and School fees, effective immediately,” CBN said in the statement.
This shows that the CBN is ready or committed to supplying the necessary Forex needed for transactions such as PTA, BTA, School fees and medical bills. However, the CBN failed to mention the exchange rate at which this Forex would be sold but said that banks should sell not more than 20 percent above the interbank market rate. In other words, if the interbank is trading at N320, banks will sell for as high as N384.
What does the new Forex policy state?
BTA and PTA
“ The CBN would immediately begin to provide foreign exchange to all commercial banks to meet the needs of both personal travel allowances (PTA) and business travel allowances (BTA) for onward sale to customers. All banks would receive amounts commensurate with their demand per week, which would be sold to customers who meet usual basic documentary requirements.”
What this means is that commercial banks will sell to customers who wish to travel for business or personal trips when they present the necessary document, which includes their passport, visa, and tickets. However, the CBN failed to mention how much these travellers are entitled to for their trips.
“In order to further ease the burden of travellers and ensure that transactions are settled at much more competitive exchange rates, the CBN hereby directs all banks to open FX retail outlets at major airports as soon as logistics permit,” CBN said.
With this new policy, all banks that do not have an outlet in the airport may not sell to customers at the airport.
School and Medical fees
“The CBN would meet the needs of parents, guardians and sponsors who are seeking to make payments of school and educational fees for their children and wards. Such payments must be made by commercial banks directly to the institution specified by the customer,”
“The CBN would ensure that this process is as smooth as possible and that as many customers as possible get the foreign exchange they genuinely demand. This would also apply to customers seeking to make payments, or purchase foreign exchange, for medical bills and paid directly to hospitals.”
This means that by just being a sponsor you can have access to Forex to pay for school fees. However, you won’t be given cash to make the payments. The bank will make the payments directly to the bank account of the school or hospital.
“Given our plan to meet all unfilled orders, and while provision of FX to the manufacturing sector would remain the CBN’s strong priority, we will no longer impose allocation/utilisation rules on commercial bank.”
This means that the CBN will still give the manufacturing sector a strong priority during allocation of Forex but the rule on 60:40 allocation of Forex has been removed.
The gainers of the new policy
From all indications the gainers of this policy are going to be the commercial banks and travellers, which includes those going on both business and personal trips. Travellers will have access to the Forex easily and will not have to queue, lobby or wait for the money needed for their trips.
Commercial banks in Nigeria will likely become royalty. This is because they have been given the power to have access to as much Forex as they want. If all things go well, there will be an increase in the volume of trade and customers may not have to complain about the lack of Forex. The only setback with this decision is that the banks may be tempted to start round tripping or hoarding Forex thereby manipulating the market.
The losers of the new policy
It appears the Abokis and the Bureau de Change could be the biggest losers from this new policy. The only customers for the Abokis and Bureaux de Change will be the users of the 41 items banned from getting access to Forex. On the other hand, since the Bureaux de Change were not mentioned in the adjustments to the policy, they will have to continue sourcing for funds in the autonomous market as they have done in the past.