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Saturday, 19 October 2019

IMF SUPPORTS FEDERAL GOVT'S CLOSURE OF BORDERS



International Monetary Fund (IMF) has backed Nigeria’s closure of its borders with some neighbouring countries over issues bordering on illegal trade.

Mr Abebe Selassie, the Director of the African Department at the IMF, gave the position at a media briefing on the sidelines of the World Bank/IMF Annual Meetings in Washington.

He was responding to a question on weather the closure negates the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Selassie said although free trade was critical to economic growth of the continent, it must be legal and in line with agreements.



`On the border closure in Nigeria which has been impacting Benin and Niger, our understanding is that the action reflects concerns about smuggling that has been taking place.

“It is about illegal trade, which is not what you want to facilitate,’’ Selassie said.

He said the IMF was hoping for a speedy resolution of the issues as the action was already taking a toll on the economies of the country’s neighbours.

“We are very hopeful that discussions will resolve the challenges that this illegal trade is posing.

“If the border closure is to be sustained for a long time, it will definitely have an impact on Benin and Niger which, of course, rely quite extensively on the big brother next door,’’ he said.

On Wednesday, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, said the borders were closed to curb illegal trading activities by Nigeria’s neighbours.

Ahmed said the closure would remain in force until the country secured the commitment of its neighbours to trade agreements and treaties signed with them.

Meanwhile, the IMF director said the AfCFTA was one of the most exciting policy developments in the region in recent months.

Selassie said analyses by the Fund showed that the initiative had a “tremendous potential to facilitate higher economic growth’’.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the IMF projected a region wide economic growth of 3.2 per cent in 2019.

Selassie said the “hard task’’ before African nations was making sure the AfCFTA was fully implemented “to facilitate the trade that we need to see between countries in the region’’.

The IMF director also commented on the continent’s high debt burden, especially from China, resulting largely from borrowing to balance budget deficits.

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