EDITORIAL: How can the public profit from lower repo rates?

The National Bank of Rwanda has again cut its repo rate from 5.5 per cent to a flat five. It had last revised the rate in December 2017 when it stood at 6 per cent.

This constant revision downwards is an indication that the economy is healthy and can withstand any market shock. The outlook seems positive with inflation lying at just 1 per cent and commercial banks posting bumper profits.

But that economic windfall is not translated into ease of access to financing, especially for farmers who in the past have been locked out of the lending equation because of the high risks associated with agriculture.

Unpredictable weather patterns and disease could wipe out an entire season’s production. But now that nightmare is about to be history with the announcement last month of the introduction of agriculture insurance.

That must have sounded like music to the farmers’ ears as their fortunes would no longer be pegged to uncertainties.

Central banks usually reduce the repo rate to stimulate lending on a larger scale but it seems the commercial banks are not biting. While many banking products have been introduced, especially with the advent of mobile and online banking, the interest charged makes borrowing a no-go area for many.

Commercial banks have failed to fall in the central bank’s logic despite their high profit margins and healthy investment climate that is continuing to attract foreign direct investment and acquisitions.

The recent announcement that Equity Bank has made its intentions known to acquire a controlling stake in BPR Atlas Mara is an indication of the trust the banking sector exudes. So, the central bank’s goodwill should not go to waste but the common man should also partake in the feast by enjoying lower interest rates.

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