• Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria to wait till October for feedback on $1.5bn World Bank loan request

Expect developing economies to lag as Rich countries recover, says World Bank

A World Bank’s budget support loan of $1.5bn which Nigeria is seeking may not be approved before October, a huge blow to hopes of the country’s small businesses that are struggling under the weight of a severe dollar shortage.

BusinessDay reported on August 6 that the World Bank is unlikely to grant the approval in August as planned due to concerns over the slow pace of desired reforms.

Nigeria’s finance ministry directed queries from Reuters to the World Bank and in a statement, the lender said discussions were at an advanced stage, but confirmed that it had not presented the loan to its board.

“Of particular importance are the steps the government is taking to marshal the needed fiscal resources for a pro-poor response to the crisis and undertake the reforms that will help ensure a robust recovery,” the statement said.

A delay in financing from multilateral lenders could leave Africa’s biggest economy and top oil producer, battered by low crude prices, unable to fully finance a record 10.8 trillion naira ($28.35 billion) budget. The central bank has said Nigeria’s balance of payments gap this year will balloon to $14 billion.

The World Bank, which has said Nigeria could be heading toward its greatest fiscal crisis in 40 years, had aimed to bring the loan to its board for approval on August 6, but the sources said negotiations over what Nigeria will do to secure it were incomplete.

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“They are not convinced about the reforms,” a source close to the government told Reuters. All three sources declined to be named due to the sensitivity of the negotiations. The source added that the currency was the core issue.

World Bank loans are often contingent upon reforms. It has not outlined any demands, but said previously that it was “recommending” a more unified, flexible exchange rate. Fuel subsidies and electricity tariffs are also being discussed.

Nigeria’s policy of supporting the naira has become more costly since the oil price slide, as it relies on oil for 90% of its foreign exchange. It has devalued the naira twice this year, but the sources said that was not enough for the World Bank, which wanted fuller reform of the naira policy.

Nigeria also said it had eliminated fuel subsidies through a “floating” price cap, but two of the sources said the World Bank felt the mechanism was not sufficiently transparent.