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africa oil

Who benefits from fuel price subsidies?

Punam Chuhan-Pole's picture

Over half the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa subsidize fuel to protect consumers from high and volatile prices. But fuel subsidies are neither cheap nor likely to be sustainable (see the full analysis in the new Africa's Pulse). 

Data for 2010-11 show that fuel price subsidies consumed, on average, 1.4 percent of GDP in public resources: The fiscal cost in oil exporters was almost two-and-a-half times that in oil importers. In the face of high (and rising) world fuel prices, a number of countries have raised domestic prices to stem fiscal costs.  

For example, Ghana raised fuel prices by about 30 percent in January 2011. The Nigerian government removed the subsidy on gasoline this January, although a portion of the subsidy was subsequently reinstated.  With oil prices likely to remain elevated, fuel subsidies will continue to weigh on government budgets in Africa.

But who benefits from fuel price subsidies?  

Expenditure data for seven African countries show that the distribution of these subsidies is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of the rich.  Richer households spend a larger amount on fuel products, and, consequently, benefit more than poorer households from any universal subsidy on these products. On average the richest 20% receive over six times more in subsidy benefits than the poorest 20%. 

Transfer mineral revenues directly to citizens—and avoid the resource curse

Shanta Devarajan's picture

My colleague Marcelo Giugale and I have an Op-Ed in today’s Guardian online advocating the direct transfer of mineral revenues to citizens. 

Mineral revenues typically go from the extracting company to the government without passing through the hands of citizens.  As a result, citizens do not scrutinize the expenditure out of these revenues as much as they would if it were financed by tax revenues.  The net result is misallocation of public spending, slower growth and even slower poverty reduction in many of these mineral-rich countries, such as Cameroon or Nigeria. 

Is Africa more vulnerable to oil price increases?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

As world oil prices rise to near the levels of 2008, and growth on the continent resumes to pre-crisis levels (as reported on Africa’s Pulse), a natural question to ask is whether Africa’s oil importers are becoming more vulnerable to oil price increases. 

A partial answer is given by a recent briefing note by my colleague Masami Kojima.

Vulnerability is determined by how much of a country's income is spent on oil imports. Looking at the period 2003-2008 (the latest for which comparable data are available), the study found that vulnerability rose in all oil importers (except Mauritania) and even in some oil exporters such as Equatorial Guinea and Republic of Congo. Also, 15% of the income of Seychelles, Liberia and Sierra Leone is used to import oil. This is among the highest in the world.

Interestingly, despite a significant increase in the price of oil during that period, the rise in vulnerability happened because energy became more oil-driven in 24 out of 42 countries.