A bill before Parliament proposes a dramatic increase in the Central Bank’s capital to 20 billion Br, nearly 40 times its existing amount. If passed, the bill mandates that the federal government ensures half of this capital remains consistently paid. The bill also caps the National Bank of Ethiopia’s (NBE) monetary liability at five percent of its reserve fund.

The move comes alongside a policy shift that places a greater emphasis on interest costs, reflecting the Central Bank's anticipated active role in open market operations and its leaders' preference for interest rates as the pillar of monetary policy.

Vice Governor Fikadu Digafe stated the importance of increased capital to ensure price stability, noting that reliance on open market operations introduces new expenditures.

"There needs to be safeguards in case of losses," Fikadu told Fortune. "A capital increase is timely."

According to the Vice Governor, the bill complements changes in banking law and cites historical modalities to limit government lending that existed in previous proclamations, which capped direct lending until the last proclamation passed in 2012.

Established in 1963 with a capital of 10 million Br, the NBE has seen its capital increase substantially, nearly 50 years later, fivefold. Now, experts believe the proposed capital enhancement is necessary due to the increased costs associated with the Bank's new policy direction. A pair of draft proclamations before Parliament grants the Central Bank enhanced powers to protect depositors and creditors from the fallout of collapsing financial institutions, signalling an ambition to become the chief authority on monetary policy issues.

Governor Mamo Mihretu, the ninth chief of the Central Bank in six decades, has been a vocal advocate for enhancing the NBE’s autonomy through new legislation to separate several of its functions from the executive branch. The proposed changes introduce regulatory sandboxes, establish staff independence from conflicts of interest, and assert control over foreign exchange directives away from the executive branch.

These measures also aspire to prioritise the NBE's lending activities on price stability targets over federal government fiscal priorities. The new rules stipulate that the Central Bank will extend an overdraft facility to the government limited to a year and capped at 15pc of the average annual domestic revenues of the previous three years.It will add further advances only in extreme emergencies, such as natural disasters or public health crises. The facility will be a noteworthy departure established in the existing proclamation Parliament ratified 16 years ago. It allowed a lot of latitude for the federal government to borrow in terms to be determined through consultations.

In August last year, Governor Mamo announced sweeping reforms to target inflation to around 20pc by year-end and achieve price stability. These reforms included credit caps on commercial banks, cutting direct government lending by two-thirds, and raising emergency lending interest rates for commercial banks. A few months later, the Central Bank released a three-year strategic plan with 21 action plans aligned with the proposed draft proclamation.

Abdulmenan Mohammed (PhD), a London-based financial analyst, applauded the limitation on direct lending to the federal government, viewing it as the primary driver of inflation. While he hopes to see parliamentarians eventually impose government borrowing limits, as seen in neighbouring Kenya, he recognised the proposed shift as significant.

"It's a step in the right direction," Abdulmenan told Fortune.

However, he observed that 'exchange rate stability' was removed from the preamble defining the Central Bank's functions in the proposed bill while retaining price stability and a sound financial system within its roles.

"This may signal a likely shift towards a market-based exchange rate policy," he said.

The Vice Governor gainsaid. According to Fekadu, the term 'price stability' includes commodities and currency, dismissing the suggestion that the Central Bank was relinquishing responsibility for exchange rate stability.

Governor Mamo's plans to reorient monetary policy towards open market operations and interest rates also include taking over the issuance of permits for Franco Valuta imports and mandating procurements from the Ministry of Finance. The Central Bank is repositioning itself as the steward in proposing regulations to the Council of Ministers.

Financial industry expert Eshetu Fantaye observed numerous tweaks and novel introductions in the bill, reshaping the country's monetary and financial space. He credited the Governor and his board, chaired by Girma Birru, the chief macroeconomic advisor to the Prime Minister, for proposing a bill that closely reflects international best practices.

"It's indicative of an ambitious effort to restore the central bank's trustworthiness," Eshetu told Fortune.

Central Bank board membership requirements exclude individuals who are part of financial institutions overseen by the NBE or any entity regulating financial institutions, except for the Governor and Vice Governors.

"There is a high consideration given to autonomy," Eshetu said.

Eshetu welcomed the introduction of regulatory sandboxes and the bold attempt to investigate central bank-issued digital currency as major steps toward reducing unpredictability in the pricing regime. He noted the importance of consumer protection provisions, potential five-day freezes on banks in times of crises threatening macroeconomic stability, and the limits on direct borrowing. While he hopes for even tighter government borrowing limits, he expects a marked change in government organisational structures when the unlimited borrowing tap is shut off.

"Some institutions count on endless borrowing as part of their capital," he said.


How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 4.5 / 5. Vote count: 2

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Put your comments here

N.B: A submit button will appear once you fill out all the required fields.

Editors' Pick