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FAQ's On The New Naira Policy Especially the Naira Re-denomination

The new ‘Strategic Agenda for the Naira’ announced by the Central Bank of Nigeria on August 14, 2007 is generating a healthy national debate. Before we undertake a nation-wide enlightenment programme, (beginning September 2007) to educate the public on the new policy, it is important to clarify some of the issues/questions that are emerging.

The CBN announced a 4- point agenda designed to make the Naira the “Reference Currency in Africa”, as part of the Financial System Strategy 2020 (FSS2020) and the elements of the agenda are:

  • Currency Re-Denomination
  • Adoption of Inflation-Targeting Framework for the conduct of monetary policy
  • Sharing part of the Federation Account funds in US Dollars to Deepen the Forex Market and for Liquidity Management
  • Current Account liberalization/convertibility and accession to Article VIII of the IMF

Needless to emphasize that to appreciate the full impact of the new policy on the Naira/national economy, we need to take the 4-point agenda as a package. As a package, the new agenda will:

  • better anchor inflation expectations,
  • strengthen public confidence in the Naira,
  • make for easier conversion to other major currencies,
  • reverse tendency for currency substitution,
  • eliminate higher denomination notes with lower purchasing power,
  • reduce the cost of production, distribution and processing of currency,
  • promote the usage of coins and thus a more efficient pricing and payments system,
  • promote the availability of cleaner notes,
  • deepen the Forex market,
  • ensure more effective liquidity management and monetary policy,
  • convertibility of the Naira and hence greater confidence in the national economy and lead to greater inflow of foreign investment
  • position the Naira to become the ‘Reference currency’ in Africa.

However, most of the questions so far pertain to only one aspect of the agenda i.e. Currency Re-denomination. We have monitored the reactions so far, and note that the concerns/questions raised so far are similar to the ones raised in all the countries that have undertaken re-denomination, including Ghana that is still implementing it now. We clarify some of the concerns as follows:

What is currency redenomination?

Currency redenomination is the process where a new unit of money replaces the old unit with a certain ratio. It is achieved by removing zeros from a currency or moving some decimal points to the left, with the aim of correcting perceived misalignment in the currency and pricing structure, and enhancing the credibility of the local currency.

How will the Naira be redenominated?

It is by dropping two zeros from the currency or moving two decimal places to the left. The name of the national currency will still be the Naira. However, during the transition period, the existing Naira will be referred to as the “Old Naira”, and the new one to be called the “New Naira”. After the transition period, the word “New” may be dropped. For example, the following equivalents will obtain as we re-denominate:

Old Naira
(i.e, Existing Naira as at today)
New Naira
(as from August 1, 2008)
50 kobo Half kobo**
N 1 1 kobo coin
N 2 2 kobo coin
N 5 5 kobo coin
N 10 10 kobo coin
N 20 20 kobo coin
N 50 50 kobo coin or note***
N 100 N 1 note
N 200 N 2 note**
N 500 N 5 note
N 1000 N 10 note
N 2000* N 20 note

* Not issued
** Will not be issued
*** Some commentators have come up with a suggestion that we should keep all the Kobo in coins and all the Naira in Notes. We will consider the suggestion.

Is the redenomination policy a re-valuation
or resort to a fixed exchange rate regime?

  • No. Redenomination is not the same as revaluation. A revaluation entails an official adjustment of the exchange value of a country’s currency (usually an upward change in value) relative to other currencies by fiat under a fixed exchange rate regime. CBN will continue to maintain a market determined exchange rate regime. In his August 14, 2007, speech the CBN Governor used N1.25 to US$1 as an illustrative figure. It does not mean that the exchange rate will be fixed at that figure. The exchange rate may appreciate or depreciate depending on market forces.

Is the Currency redenomination
the same as currency decimalization?

  • No. In the management of currencies, decimalization is the process of converting from traditional denominations to a “decimal” system, usually with two units differing by a factor of 100. For example, Nigeria adopted the decimal system on 1st January 1973, changing from Pound, Shillings and Pence to Naira and Kobo. We also changed our system of weights and measures into the decimal system (i.e. from Ounce and Pounds to grams kilograms; or miles to kilometres; Inches and Feet to centimetres and Metres). More specifically, the CBN Act (Section 15) prescribes a decimal system by stating that “The unit of currency in Nigeria shall be the Naira which shall be divided into one hundred kobo”. The currency is already structured in decimal system. The policy thrust is a re-denomination. The fact that we are removing two zeroes does not make it a ‘decimalization policy’. It could have been one, two, or three zeros.

When will the re-denomination take effect?

  • August 1, 2008. There will be a ‘transition period’ of five months (August 1 – December 31, 2008) during which both the ‘old Naira’ and ‘new Naira’ will be legal tender. During the period, prices, salaries, etc can be quoted in both the new and the old Naira. Thus, the current Naira will still be legal tender until December 31, 2008.
  • After December 31, 2008, the ‘old Naira’ will cease to be legal tender, but can still be exchanged at the commercial banks.

How will it work?

  • The ‘new Naira’ coins and notes will be different from the existing ones i.e. in design, appearance, security features, etc.
  • All Naira assets and liabilities (including bank deposits), prices, fees, rents, and contracts (including salaries and wages) will be re-denominated by dropping two zeroes or moving two decimal points to the left.
  • During the ‘transition period’ prices will be quoted in both the ‘new Naira’ and the ‘Old Naira’ and everyone will choose whether to pay in the new or old Naira. These five months will be allowed so that everyone will get familiar with the conversion, and it will become self-evident to everyone why he/she would prefer to transact in the ‘new Naira’ rather than the ‘old Naira’. For example, if a bag of garri sells for N2,000 (old Naira), the price in ‘new Naira’ will automatically be N20. The customer will choose to pay either N2000 in old Naira or N20 in the ‘new Naira’. In the supermarkets and formal markets, prices will be displayed in both ‘old’ and ‘new’ Naira. In the informal markets where prices are negotiated, the negotiation could be done in the ‘old Naira’ as usual and converted into the ‘new Naira’ if the customer wishes to pay with the ‘new Naira’. This will ensure that prices do not rise due to rounding-up. The five months are also needed for everyone (formal and informal sectors) to become fully familiar with the conversion. It will become obvious to everyone that N50,000 of the ‘old Naira’ has the same purchasing power as N500 of the ‘new Naira’. The question then would be: why carry N50,000 of old Naira when N500 of the new Naira will buy you the same thing? Consequently, if you have N50,000 in your bank account, it will automatically become N500 in the ‘new Naira’ i.e. if you want to withdraw in the ‘new Naira’ or you can still withdraw N50,000 in ‘old Naira’ during the transition period (August- December 2008). Similarly, someone whose monthly salary is N50,000 can choose (during the transition period) whether to withdraw and spend the N50,000 in ‘old Naira’ or N500 in the ‘new Naira’. Both would buy him/her the same value of goods and services.
  • Examples of price equivalents in the new and old Naira could be:
     
  Commodity/Service Price in “Old Naira” Price in “New Naira”
  Fuel price per litre N70 70 kobo
  Price of one bag of garri N2,000 N20
  Price of a bus drop N20 20 kobo
  House rent (e.g. a flat in some parts of Nigeria) N5000 per month N50 per month
  Stock price of a company Assume it is, say:
N20 or N80

20 kobo or 80 kobo
  Airline ticket for domestic flight N12,500 N125
  Exchange rate: N to US$ Assume it is say:
N125
Or N130
Or N100 to US$1.

N
1.25 = US$1
Or N1.30 = US$1
Or N1 = US$1
  • Therefore, nobody will lose any value in terms of his or her money.

What are the Benefits of the Re-denomination?

The medium and long-term benefits can only be appreciated when redenomination is seen in the context of the other three policy initiatives. The specific benefits of re-denomination include:

  • Making pricing more efficient. Given the level of prices and low purchasing power of the coins, prices generally adjust in discrete jumps of five or ten Naira, rather than in Kobo. Under the new regime, one kobo will have relative value. We can see the price of fuel go up from say, 70kobo to say, 71 or 72 kobo instead of the current jumps of N65 to N70 to N75, etc. Correcting this distortion in pricing structure can have enormous impact on the national economy, especially as we commit to low inflation.
  • cultivating the habit of using coins and reinforcing the on-going currency reforms.
  • Promoting a more efficient payments system e.g. making ATMs part of our payment culture and de-congesting banking halls. Instead of withdrawing N50,000 from an ATM machine, N500 of the ‘new Naira’ will command exactly the same value.
  • As we aspire for an international financial status and to become Africa’s financial hub by 2020, re-denomination will make for easy conversion to other currencies. As a ‘Reference Currency’, it will be easy for citizens of West Africa and other countries to convert to their national currencies and other currencies
  • Reducing the risks associated with carrying large physical cash as we eliminate large denominations with very little value
  • Discouraging currency substitution and addressing the perception that the domestic currency is weak despite its stability.
  • Reducing the cost of printing, distribution and processing of currency
  • Discouraging the abuse of the Naira as each Naira note under the ‘new Naira’ will have relatively high value, and coins will dominate transactions at the lower end of the market.

Will the new Naira Policy or the re-denomination solve all of Nigeria’s economic problems?

  • No. The new policy (as a package of 4-point agenda) will only deliver the things outlined at the beginning of this Note. Mr. President has outlined a 7- point agenda needed to create wealth and jobs, reduce poverty, and ensure security of lives and property. The new Naira policy will help to create the macroeconomic stability, efficient payments system and confidence, which constitute an important building block to enable Mr. President’s programme work well. All stakeholders in the Nigerian economy--- public and private sector institutions and individuals--- will have to do their respective parts under the able leadership of Mr. President for the Nigerian economy to boom and endure.

Does the CBN have adequate plans to enlighten/educate Nigerians, especially the villages/rural areas about the change?

  • Yes. This is why we have announced the policy one year in advance. Specifically: o We have designed a mass education/enlightenment programme. The programme will be translated into several of Nigerian languages. o We plan to collaborate with mass organizations including labour unions, religious organizations, NGOs and Civil Society organizations, schools, professional organizations and trade unions, market associations, transport unions, organized mass mobilization agencies such as the National Orientation Agency, state and local governments, military/paramilitary organizations, council of traditional rulers, the mass media, etc to reach and educate every Nigerian on the change. o We shall embark on two phases of enlightenment programme: first (September – December 2007--- a general nation-wide enlightenment on what the policy is all about; second (February- July 2008)—nation-wide education on the operations of the programme, especially on pricing/conversion from old to the new Naira.

What will be the level of involvement of other agencies/organizations in the implementation of the policies?

  • The support and involvement of everyone will be needed. • More specifically, we will set up a Steering Committee and an Advisory Technical Committee to drive the process. The goal is to ensure that there will be no unintended effects, and to minimize the adjustment costs (if any) of the exercise.

Is it true that currency re-denomination is usually done under conditions of hyper-inflation?

  • Not necessarily. Indeed, countries that did it under such circumstances without complementary reforms ended up re-doing it again and again. • Re-denomination is most successful when a country has achieved a measure of price stability and restored confidence in the national currency. It then proceeds to remove the ‘zeroes of shame’ to get the currency properly aligned. This is the condition now in Nigeria.

Which other countries like Nigeria have successfully undertaken such reforms?

  Country Year

1.

Ghana 2007
2. Croatia 1994
3. Finland 1963
4. Poland 1995
5. Uganda 1987

Several other countries have undertaken currency re-denomination including Israel, Turkey, Germany, South Korea, China, Brazil, etc.

  • Nigeria is not imitating any country. We are re-denominating because the fundamentals of our currency structure require the new direction. We would also implement it in a way that takes our peculiarities into account. • We have learnt from the experiences of those who did it before us and would strive to make ours the most successful (just as we did with the banking sector reforms).

New lower denomination currency notes
and coins have just been launched into circulation.
Why currency redenomination at this time?

  • The CBN has proceeded with reforms in measured steps. The first was to re-build the basic financial infrastructure that would facilitate effective implementation of monetary policy and improved payments system (ie, reforms of the banking system). It was followed by gradual liberalization of the Forex market. The third is the currency reforms which are proceeding in two stages: first, re-design of the lower denominations, re-introduction of coins, and experimentation with the polymer substrate. Typically, countries re-design their currencies after 6- 8 years but our lower denominations were re-designed about 23 years ago (1984). The essence was to streamline the security features to combat counterfeiting and safeguard the integrity of the currency, as well as achieve cost savings. We have learnt a lot from these reforms, including the fact that the effective cost of printing currency notes and minting coins has been reduced by an average of about 50 percent.

    Currency re-denomination and deeper currency reforms are most successful under conditions of price stability and confidence in the currency/economy. Single-digit inflation has only been sustained for a year now. The convergence of the official and bureaux de change exchange rates have only recently been achieved. These are some of the pre-conditions we needed before deeper reforms.

    With the demonstrated commitment of President Umaru Yar’Adua (GCFR) to maintaining macroeconomic stability and deepening the institutional and structural reforms, the time has become auspicious to take currency reforms to the next higher level. Aside from the fact that the economic fundamentals (as the CBN Governor listed in his speech) support deepening the reforms, the most important driver of the new focus is the President’s commitment to macroeconomic stability/reforms. The new Naira Policy is thus part of the larger agenda to achieve Mr. President’s vision of economic prosperity.

    Furthermore, the new policy is part of the Financial System Strategy 2020 (FSS2020) designed to make Nigeria an international financial centre and the hub of the Africa’s financial system by the year 2020.

Will currency redenomination
not entail enormous costs?

  • No. The new policy will not translate to high costs. Indeed, it will lead to much lower costs of printing, processing and management of currency over time. The following points are illustrative. First, most countries typically stock-pile 2-3 years of buffer stock of currency and when they embark upon currency re-design or re-denomination, such buffer stock is lost. In our case, we have no buffer stock. The ‘old Naira’ notes to be used in 2008 are just the ones currently under printing/minting. The life span of these notes is short, and there will be no waste. No new order will be placed for printing the ‘old Naira’ in 2008. Second, even without re-denomination, CBN would typically still incur costs in printing/minting the currency. Third, because the new currency structure will be dominated by coins (which last an average of 10 - 20 years) compared with currency notes which last a few months, the total cost of currency issuance and management will drastically be reduced over time. On cost considerations alone, the new policy is a winner.

Will the redenomination policy undermine
the proposed ECOWAS common currency?

  • No. It is consistent with the proposed ECOWAS common currency and Nigeria is committed to the sub-regional goal. Ghana has just embarked upon a re-denomination exercise (by dropping four zeroes) and it is also part of the common currency agenda. Our policy agenda will provide leadership in the process of monetary integration.

Read more the New Naira Policy Debate
See frequently Asked Questions on the New Naira Policy

Facts : 1/1/1900
Central Banking:The earliest known bank of issue is the Riksbank of Sweden (1656). Modern central banking started with Bank of England (1694). Central Bank of Nigeria began operations in 1959.
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