Nigeria’s economy, as coronavirus corrodes global GDP growth
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting economic activities in China and beyond. In this report, CHIMA NWOKOJI examines its effect on Nigeria’s economy.
GLOBAL economic and financial markets are shaking. The impact of Coronavirus that started in China at the beginning of 2020 is hitting economies hard. Global equity markets have seen Indexes fall into negative regions.
There are fears of supply chain disruptions and cutbacks in demand and supply paint an ugly picture of manufacturing sector revenue decline as well as profit reductions in the first quarter (Q1) 2020 and even beyond.
Yet, some sceptics still wonder how a virus could be linked to economic growth.
More so, the World Health Organization (WHO) has pushed out sufficient information about the COVID-19, except that the virus can lead to a global economic meltdown.
But experts are aware that the economics of the deadly virus is gradually corroding global demand and supply as a growing number of businesses “catch” the bug.
Indeed, demand is falling off as buyers of goods in China and the rest of Asia hold off new orders, production cycles are scaling downwards as manufacturers hold back from increasing inventories and fresh spending on inputs.
Health performance and economic performance are interlinked. The former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, supported this view when he noted that globally, the health sector is an important driver of economic growth.
He said studies suggest that there is a correlation between improved health and economic growth, with improvement in health outcomes typically preceding any meaningful gains in economic growth. Growth, income, investment and employment are a function of the performance and quality of the economic system, its regulatory frameworks, trade policies, social capital and labour markets, among others. As it stands, China hardly pays serious attention to performance and quality of economic system as its health system suffers.
So, it is a lesson to Nigeria and its peers that economic conditions depend not just on standards of living, but on the actual performance of health systems themselves. Just as wealthier countries have healthier populations for a start, poorer countries have poorer population.
As the global health sector suffers so are global wealth being corroded. The national income has a direct effect on the development of health systems, so also does health systems have direct effect on national income.
As demonstrated in 1997 by the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health for a panel of 167 countries, while health expenditures are determined mainly by national income, they increase faster than income.This means that most countries and individuals at the moment could actually be spending more than their incomes on health.
Any recessionary impact on Nigeria?
Ratings agency Moody’s said a pandemic is usually taken to mean a disease spreading quickly in different places – would trigger global and U.S. recessions in the first half of the year.
Three months after Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria’s sovereign ratings outlook to negative, S&P Global finally took the same action last week
The rating agency cited risks from further foreign exchange (FX) pressures amid declining FX reserves, weak economic growth and rising government debt.
This is expected to worsen in 2020, in part due to slowing global demand for commodities in the wake of the outbreak of ‘Coronavirus’ (COVID-19). External reserves at $36.2bn only provides 7.8 months of goods import cover from 8.8 months a year ago while Brent crude price has sharply moderated to $49.9/bbl., the lowest since 2017.
Managing Director, Afrinvest (West) Africa Limited, Mr. Ike Chioke said weaker oil prices and the flight of foreign capital to safer havens means there is poor prospect for reserves accretion.
The fiscal position of the FG is also expected to worsen, considering a budget benchmark of $57.0/bbl.
According him, the implication of lower oil prices would be an expansion in fiscal deficit beyond the projected ?4.0trillion which is 1.8x the FG’s forecast of ?2.2trillion. In the face of these challenges, the minister of finance, Zainab Ahmed, has hinted at a mid-term review of the budget.
Another analyst, Mr. Victor Aluyi, the Assistant Vice President/Head, Portfolio Management, Comercio Partners Assets Management Limited was more optimistic.
He stated that the proportion of the CONVID-19 crisis is having enormous impact on the global GDP growth projections but the magnitude may not be much for Nigeria.
According to him, as long as the fiscal and monetary authorities remain proactive on what will be the potential crisis, Nigeria will weather the storm and forge ahead.
The financial expert further explained in a TV interview monitored in Lagos that though there are challenges in the Nigerian economy, “I don’t see those challenges degenarating into a recession.”
The markets according to him may be down, but the year on year GDP growth is encouraging and “ I believe we will continue to consolidate on that growth part. If we do, I don’t think we are going to see recession,” Aluyi assured.
He further sounded hopeful that there is nothing much to fear about in the financial system, stressing that for the fact that the banking sector has experienced a lot of regulatory measures in the past 18 months, the sector is in good standing, adding that the worst of “the crisis is behind us and the top tier banks are still delivering value.”
However, analysts at Pro share have a different view about recession. According to them, the impact of the new so-called “novel” virus on global economic activities could trigger a recession that would slow growth below the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) outlook for 2020 earlier estimated at +3.3 per cent while emerging markets were forecast to grow at +4.4per cent (+2.13% higher than Nigeria’s recent +2.27% for 2019). Revised IMF forecast for 2020 may place global economic growth closer to +3.0 per cent and emerging market growth closer to +4.1 per cent.
However, there is a general consensus that a reduction in international oil prices and a fall in oil export volume (as global demand tilts downwards) would lead to a contractionary fiscal and restrictive monetary policy regime in Nigeria.
To combat the rise in domestic prices, the CBN would likely increase the cash reserves ratio (CRR) of banks further (currently 27.5%) and raise the monetary policy rate (MPR) back to 14per cent from 13.5per cent. And to cover the growing fiscal gap, the government would probably increase its domestic borrowings by issuing fresh treasury bills (T-bills) and bonds as it chases new tax revenues.
The effect of government policy would be to raise domestic interest rates and pull loans away from domestic private-sector borrowers. A reduction in loans to the private sector would decrease domestic production and reduce local employment. The CBN and the fiscal authorities may likely find themselves by the end of Q1 2020 in the worse of an alternate world; one in which high domestic prices chase low domestic production.
The consequence of the government policy would be to adjust 2020 economic growth projections down from the last GDP rate of +2.55% for Q4 2019.
The world counts economic losses
The number of reported cases has increased 15.8per cent to 95,333 (as at Thursday March 5) across 87 countries and territories from 47 the previous week (WHO Situation Report).
As a result of the Increasing spread, the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) estimated that global shipping industry was losing $350 million in weekly revenue. Another estimate puts cost of the Coronavirus to the Chinese economy at $60 billion in this first quarter of 2020. Already, China’s Purchasing Manager’s Index for the services sector plummeted to 26.5 per cent last month. A reading below 50 indicates contraction.
In Europe, France’s reported cases doubled, Germany warned of an impending epidemic and Greece, a gateway for refugees from the Middle East, announced tighter border controls.
Information provided by the Strategic Intelligence of the World Economic Forum showed that COVID-19 has potentially serious implications for the global economy.
The spreading coronavirus is taking a toll on economic players around the world, from farmers and ranchers in the Americas to manufacturers of solar panels in India to tourism workers across Asia, the story is no longer the same.
A US-based company Apple, revised its revenue guidance, due to a slowdown at manufacturing sites in China as well as reduced demand by Chinese consumers.
While much of the world’s attention is rightly focused on the human toll of COVID-19, the economic toll of the outbreak also has potentially disastrous implications.
China, home to 99per cent of confirmed cases so far, has been dubbed the “world’s factory” due to the significant portion of global manufacturing that now typically takes place there. An estimated 5 million jobs in China rely on Apple manufacturing alone, and the company partly blamed slower-than-anticipated activity at its China-based iPhone manufacturing sites for the revenue warning.
From South American ranchers to Vietnamese rice exporters and American farmers, a broad range of global economic players are starting to feel related effects. Thailand, where more than one-quarter of all visiting vacationers last year were Chinese, has seen its tourism industry suffer, for example.
India’s aiming for 100 gigawatts of operational solar power capacity by 2022. However, China accounts for nearly 80 per cent of the solar cells and modules imported to the country – and COVID-19 means that many of those imports have now been put on hold. (CleanTechnica)
Singapore may view itself as an oasis of calm prosperity in a turbulent region, but all it took was one viral image of a local woman in a face mask hoarding noodle packets to kick off a storm of coronavirus-related anger and recrimination in the city state. (Australian Strategic Policy Institute)
Indonesia once aimed to attract 10 million Chinese tourists per year. Now, it’s poised to lose about $4 billion in tourism related revenue as a result of COVID-19. Already, thousands of Chinese-speaking tour guides have lost their jobs, and tensions between the country and China are running high. (The Diplomat)
The death toll in Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, rose to 17 and the number tested positive increased by more than 200 to 655.
Germany has about 45 cases, France about 38 and Spain 23, according to a Reuters count.
Effect on capital markets
The unrelenting spread of Coronavirus continued to rattle global markets last week, with the number of reported cases increasing 15.8per cent to 95,333 (as at Thursday) across 87 countries and territories from 47 the previous week (WHO Situation Report).
The stock market is an excellent indicator to the health of every economy. It reflects how well all listed companies are doing. If investors are confident on the economy, they will buy stocks, stock mutual funds, or stock options. If there is panic, investors take their money elsewhere and the stock market heads downward.
Just last week, the United State-based New York Times observed that markets have traded wildly as investors have tried to come to grips with threat to the economy posed by measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
The Oil prices fall as OPEC and Russia fail to agree on supply cut.
Wall Street was gripped by another wave of worry over the spreading coronavirus on Friday. Stocks tumbled, investors rushed into the safety of government bonds.
Global equity markets have dipped into the red from one continent to another, starting from America’s Dow Industrial Average which slipped by -9.71 per cent to China’s SSE Index which tumbled by -7.24per cent, and South Korea’s KS11 Index which skidded by -8.71per cent. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index dipped by -10.65per cent as Italy’s S&P/MIB Index dropped by -7.73per cent at the end of the trading week before last.
Fast forward to Friday February 6, 2020 global markets continued to slip as they saw Corona red.
Meanwhile, the UK’s FTSE All Share index dipped 1.8per cent when co.pared week by week (w/w) as the number of coronavirus cases increased to 115 and the first death was recorded. Similarly, Germany’s XETRA DAX and France’s CAC 40 indices declined 3.1per cent and 3.0 per xent w/w respectively as the number of coronavirus victims rose while Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed 1.9per cent lower.
In the BRICS market, dealers from Lagos-based Afrinvest securities said there was a mixed performance as 3 of 5 indices under coverage trended southwards. Brazil’s Ibovespa index led laggards, down 6.2per cent while Russia’s RTS and India’s BSE Sens indices also lost 3.3per cent and 1.9 per cent w/w respectively.
On the flip side, China’s Shanghai Composite gained 5.4per xwnt w/w, supported by government’s stimulus and strategies to curtail the epidemic. In South-Africa, FTSE/JSE All Share rose 1.7 per cent w/w despite the recession recorded in Q4:2019.
In other African Africa countries, the bearish performance continued as 4 of 6 markets under coverage recorded losses.
Mauritius’ SEMDEX emerged the top laggard, down 5.9per cent w/w while Egypt’s EGX30 trailed, falling 5.1per cent w/w. Likewise, Morocco’s Casablanca MASI and Ghana’s GSE Composite indices fell 4.1 per cent and 1.1per xent w/w respectively. On the flip side, Kenya’s NSE 20 and Nigeria’s All Share Index gained 2.7per xent and 0.2 per cent respectively.
In Asia and the Middle East, performance was mixed albeit negatively skewed as 3 of 5 indices closed in the red w/w. UAE’s ADX General Index led laggards, down 5.3per cent, followed by Qatar’s DSM 20 and Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul ASI which declined 2.5per cent and 2.1per xent w/w respectively.
On the flip side, Turkey’s BIST 100 index advanced 3.4per cent due to a cease fire in Northern Syria as a deal was struck by the presidents of Russia and Turkey. Finally, Thailand’s SET Index closed the week 1.8% higher.
Central banks are reacting too
The realization that global GDP will probably shrink for part of this year, and the looming risk of a financial panic and credit-crunch, has led central banks to slash interest rates at a pace last seen in the financial crisis of 2007-09.
In response to the growing risk to global economies, the Federal Reserve cut interest rate by 50 basis points (bps) two weeks before its scheduled monetary-policy meeting
to a range of 1 per cent- 1.25per cent, the deepest cut since 2008.
Central banks in Australia, Canada and Indonesia have also cut rates. The European Central Bank and the Bank of England are expected to follow.
These actions are in line with the views of Aluyi, that global central banks are prepared to provide whatever support that is needed to combat the diseases.
Foreign banks and businesses shake
The New York Times on Friday reported that
Banks in New York and London are beginning to re-assign small parts of their trading desks so that if there is an outbreak of coronavirus at their headquarters, there will at least be a small contingent of traders located elsewhere who can keep business running.
For instance, Bank of America assigned about 100 people to an office outside of Stamford, Conn., on Friday.
JPMorgan’s backup crews are going from New York to New Jersey. In London, the bank is splitting its traders and sales representatives between its offices in Canary Wharf and two other disaster-recovery offices.
Morgan Stanley is testing plans that would have some employees in sales and trading, as well as in capital markets, work out of a disaster-recovery facility near Heathrow Airport in West London. In New York, Morgan Stanley is also sending some employees to backup locations in Westchester.
This is just as Citigroup is experimenting with various options for dividing groups of employees among different locations.
In the aviation sector, The New York Times also reported that Lufthansa Group, one of the world’s largest airline companies, said on Friday that it planned to cut flights by up to 50 per cent in the coming weeks because of a rapid decline in demand.
Apple sent a memo to its Silicon Valley employees on Friday saying its offices would remain open, but it was encouraging them to work from home to minimize health risks. Facebook said on Friday that it had closed its London offices until Monday because of coronavirus concerns.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).” The new virus wreaking havoc across the globe is considered a novel coronavirus (nCoV) which is a new strain that was not previously identifiable in humans.
The WHO notes that common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, an infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
A seminal 1963 article by Kenneth Arrow is often credited with giving rise to health economics as a discipline. His theory drew conceptual distinctions between health and other goods
From an economics point of view, health economics is simply one of many topics to which economic principles and methods can be applied. So, the principles of health economics sets out the principles of economics itself and how they might be interpreted in the context of health and health care.
For instance, in analysing how society decides what, how and for whom to produce goods and services, health economics attempts to apply the same analytical methods that would be applied to any good or service that the economy produces.
Murphy’s law states that what could go wrong could get exponentially worse. Meaning that there are no automatic backstops to a viral epidemiological phenomenon such as the Coronavirus. Indeed, recent reports by epidemiologists at Harvard University, USA, supports the notion that the virus could become more pervasive than earlier thought. The scientists believe that the virus may not be containable because many of the people infected will not leave symptoms that will make them easily identifiable, which is the case for some people identified as positive. The ability of people to carry the virus without symptoms reduces the ability for early detection and isolation and increases the risk of spread.
The fact that the novel virus code-named COVID-19 can go undetected with only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, unlike MERS and SARS, reduces the speed and likelihood of containment.
The consequence is that the world, at least for now, will be in a state of mental siege with governments across the globe scrambling to protect their citizens from the virus by locking out people (and products) from other countries.
The consequence would be a slowdown in global economic growth, and a fall in employment (as factories see higher inventories and lower sales), lower consumer income and spending, and a drop in new investments in plant and equipment.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all nations should prepare.
“This virus has pandemic potential,” Tedros said in Geneva on Thursday. “This is not a time for fear. This is a time for taking action to prevent infection and save lives now.”
Whatever is ugly could get uglier (murphy’s law) and so Nigeria’s fiscal and monetary authorities must brace up for a tough and dirty fight to keep the economy stable. A Coronavirus-inspired global economic meltdown will hurt Nigeria’s economy badly (international oil prices are already below the 2020 budget’s benchmark oil price of US$57 per barrel), while global economic outlook does not look like reversing any time soon. The true test of Nigeria’s heterodox fiscal and monetary management in 2020 appears prepped for a real match.
The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, at a media update on COVID-19 in Abuja on Friday, assured Nigerians that the government was working to prevent the spread of the virus through the activities of the multi-sectoral Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) led by Nigeria Centre for Desease Control (NCDC).
Opinions of Nigerian economic and finance experts
Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Cowry Assets Management Limited, Mr. Johnson Chukwu and his team of analysts said the further slower expansions in composite PMIs in the second month of the year 2020 suggest a relatively slower Q1 2020 real GDP growth.
“We note that the slower PMI trend should continue in the month of March especially via trade sector where imported goods needed in the domestic supply chain appear to have slowed amid the battle against COVID-19 which poses risk of reduced production volume.
“More so, the slower new orders despite the reduction in selling prices reflects lower disposable income of Nigerian workers (notwithstanding the recent implementation of the minimum wage) and could further hamper economic growth. Hence, we expect, the public sector to pull out all stops to emplace policies that will stimulate private-sector-driven economic activities.”
Corporate response in Nigeria and China
Because it is called COVID-19, some suppliers and retailers are now selling hand sanitizers and other protective materials for N19,000.
This group of suppliers should seek for better ways to grow their money without exploiting people.
??The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) is not happy with such arbitrary increase in the prices of protective face masks and latex gloves by suppliers and retailers of the products.
A statement by Mr Babatunde Irukera, the Chief Executive Officer of the commission, in Abuja described the practice as a violation of both moral codes and extant laws.
Irukera explained that suppliers and retailers were exploiting the national public health concern caused by the coronavirus outbreak to make gains.
He regretted that some reputable pharmacies and department stores were engaged in the unwholesome practice to distort the market, or temporarily restricts availability in order to unreasonably increase prices.
“It has come to the attention of the FCCPC that certain suppliers and retailers are taking undue advantage of citizens and engaging in unconscionable trade practices with respect to basic safety and protective apparel.
“They include face masks and latex gloves, as well as personal hygiene products like sanitisers and anti-bacterial wipes, because these products are relevant and necessary in preventing infection or spread of corona virus (COVID-19).
“Specifically, section 17(s) of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Act (FCCPA) prohibits “obnoxious trade practices”, or the “unscrupulous exploitation of consumers”.
“Any exercise or exploitation of undue pressure in selling or the sale of goods or services, or price manipulation between displayed, and selling price are also serious violations of the FCCPA under sections 115(3) and 124(1).
Irukera advised consumers to be vigilant and report such unreasonable or arbitrary exploitative price increase or trade practices to the commission by telephone on 08056002020 or 08056003030, or by email at email@example.com.
The chief executive officer also advised consumers to proceed in abundance of caution and follow all respiratory and hand-washing hygiene practices that had been published by the World Health organisation (WHO) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), among others.
Nigerian companies should learn from these five ways Chinese companies are taking action to combat coronavirus and help those most affected.
According to information supplied by World Economic Forum (WEC) they’re working to keep supply chains running because it is critical in a crisis to ensure there is enough supply of materials including surgical masks, disinfectant, protective suits and safety goggles for the front-line medical workers.
For example, corporations including Alibaba, Baidu, Bank of China, ByteDance, China Construction Bank, China COSCO Shipping Corporation, China Merchants Group, Envision Energy, Fosun Group, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, JD.com, Mengniu, Ping An, SinoChem, Sinopec, Tai Kang Insurance, Tencent, Xiaomi, Yili and others have donated large volumes of healthcare, food and other supplies to the affected areas. Manufacturers including BYD, Foxconn, Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. and SAIC-GM-Wuling are setting up makeshift assembly lines to produce additional masks and disinfectants.
Some are committed to a policy of remaining open for business, not raising prices and remaining stocked with necessary supplies. The company’s logistics arm, the Cainiao Smart Logistics Network, teamed up with a dozen logistics partners to launch a “Green Channel” initiative that expedites fast and safe delivery of medical supplies from around the world to the affected areas.
They’re providing necessary infrastructure updates. Two notable examples of speed and efficiency include the construction of the 1000-bed Huoshenshan Hospital and the 1600-bed Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan, both built in under10 days.
State Grid Corporation of China made significant efforts to guarantee the power supply to key facilitates, and Far East Smarter Energy Co. Ltd worked to lay network cables for the newly built hospitals. Huawei and China Telecom jointly set up a 5G-enabled remote video diagnostic centre, which enables medical staff to conduct remote online consultations with potential patients.
The third aspect is that they are fighting misinformation.
In today’s hyper-connected online world, fake news, rumour and misinformation can travel faster than any pathogen. Many companies are offering new tools to share reliable information and counteract myths.
For example, Baidu created a map layer on top of the standard Baidu Map App that shows real-time locations of confirmed and suspected cases of the virus so that people can avoid more-affected areas. Qihoo 360 launched a platform where travellers can check if anyone on their recent train or plane trips has since tested positive so that they can take appropriate self-quarantine measures or visit the hospital if symptoms appear.
To provide reliable medical information, Tencent “Medipedia,” a healthcare encyclopaedia, has included new entries on the relevant symptoms, medical treatment and preventive measures, which are edited and reviewed by renown medical experts. Tencent also launched out-patient clinic map to allow users to look for the nearest clinics and “JiaoZhen” a myth-busting platform that helps users discern fact from myth.
The fourth corporate response is that they are helping people get back to work and school – virtually.
The outbreak has turned China into a testbed for remote work and education.
Millions of workers are now using tools including Alibaba’s “DingTalk,” Tencent’s “WeChat Work” and “Meeting,” ByteDance’s “Feishu” and Huawei’s “WeLink” for online workplace collaboration. These tools have added new features in the past weeks, including increased quota of video conference participants and call times, online health check-ins and industry-specific solutions. In addition, ByteDance has offered free use of the commercial version of “Feishu” for three years for all SMEs, street communities, NGOs, hospitals, and medical institutions.
For the time being, schools and universities in China remain closed indefinitely to avoid the spread of the virus. To minimise the impact of school postponements, online education platforms such as Liulishuo, Onion Academy and Zuoyebang are offering free online classes to school students nationwide. Both Alibaba’s DingTalk and Tencent Education have launched online classrooms, enabling teachers and professors to conduct online courses from home.
At the same time, to minimize the impact on unemployment, both Alibaba and JD.com launched a talent-sharing plan to hire short-term staff from temporarily affected sectors, including restaurants, bars and small shops that are closed by law or have simply shut due to lack of customers, for flexible job openings in e-commerce and supermarkets. To support small and medium-size businesses, Alibaba, Meituan-Dianping and Pinduoduo are offering merchants and couriers subsidies and low-interest loans to mitigate short-term risks and damage.
The fifth way Chinese companies are responding to CONVID-19 is that they are sharing tech solutions to accelerate medical responses.
Some companies are developing or sharing their technological tools to support preparedness and response for this outbreak and future epidemics.
For example, to expand the supply capacity of virus detection products and accelerate the testing processes, the National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) of China has significantly simplified procedures for the approval of testing kits and gene-sequencing systems. BGI has also scaled up the production of its testing kits and donated them to Wuhan and established the Huoyan Laboratory, an emergency test laboratory that aims to speed up the testing of cases.
Alibaba Cloud has offered AI computing capabilities to public research institutions for free to support virus gene sequencing, new drug R&D and protein screenings. Baidu has opened up LinearFold, its RNA prediction algorithm, to genetic testing agencies, epidemic prevention centres and research institutes around the world. Neusoft Medical donated high-end CT scanners, AI medical imaging, cloud platform and remote advanced post-processing software to hospitals in Wuhan. Infervision launched a “Coronavirus AI solution,” an AI software for front-line clinicians to detect and monitor the disease on CT scans.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2020, the interconnectedness of our global business supply chains has made the world more vulnerable to societal and economic disruption from local infectious-disease outbreaks.
This epidemic will not be the last. Even as we fight this “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” (PHEIC), we must build on these examples to prepare for the risk and impact of a global pandemic.