Does The Rise In Dollar To Naira Make Us Individually Poorer?

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First, the answer: technically, NO.


Now let's talk the technical part of what is currently happening to us in Nigeria. About this time in 2014, I bought my iPhone 5 64GB on Amazon for $409.95 and in Naira it was N68,553.85

With shipping it came to $414.94, and in Naira, N69,388.30

Yesterday, I tried buying the iPhone 6 64GB on same Amazon. Interestingly, it is cheaper in dollar value than the iPhone 5 I bought in 2014.

More than $20 cheaper and I should be happy. Well, that was looking at it dollar-wise. The moment I got out my calculator and converted it to Naira, I gave up. Using the exchange rate GTBank used for last purchase I made two days ago (N395/$), the price came to N152,055.25

I remember in 2011, when I joined a subsidiary of Bharti Airtel and my salary was in dollars. $700/month and I used to complain bitterly as it was less than what I used to get at my previous job (I fell victim to mass retrenchment). At today's exchange rate that would be a good N276,500. Not bad if you've got just 6 months work experience and finished NYSC that same year.

So back to the original question: are we individually worse off?

Here is the hard truth: NO. It might be hard to accept and even my previous illustration of reality seem to point otherwise but it's the plain truth.

When a country devalues its currency, imports become expensive (e.g. iPhone) and people are forced to look inward for cost saving and entrepreneurial opportunities. The initial period of adjustment will be, no doubt, tough. You first get burned before adjusting in most cases. And it is like that with all economic decisions, there is always a time lag. A period of stickiness. Everyone gets caught unaware and then slowly adjust.

Price of goods rise, especially those that are fully or partly imported. Salaries don't initially rise. And in our depressed economy people are actually taking pay-cut, either with consent or by force (salary delay/cut). But if you look at history, all the while Naira has been falling against the dollar since we got independence. First it was due to the civil war, then, succession of coups, then, Buhari and Oil, then Abacha, then, some unknowns, then Buhari and Oil again. But are people still collecting salaries of N60/month like my mum did at her first job? Even in the recent past, there was a time N50,000/month was a good starting salary for recent graduates. Now they are all expecting N150,000/month. In fact, my friend in far back 2010 got N250,000/month as his first salary. Imagine someone getting that in 1995, fresh out of school and NYSC.

So how did salary and our living standards increase over the years that dollar has been rising? The answer lies in our GDP. As long as our GDP is rising (over time) it means there is higher consumption (money in circulation for all) and production (more companies and businesses) and gains are passed to individuals (households) as higher income (salaries and all).

So the dollar-naira exchange rate is not what we should bother about but the economy. The GDP. Once that keeps rising, we will keep prospering.


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