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Governance

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%. 

Will oil be a blessing or a curse for Kenya? – Lessons from Indonesia and the rest of the world

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

This piece was co-authored with Günther Schulze1.

Kenya may have found oil in Turkana that could change the development trajectory for the country. In 2011, Kenya spent US$ 4.1 billion on oil imports, equivalent to approximately 100,000 barrels per day. For Kenya to become a net oil exporter, the resources in Turkana would need to be substantial and similar to those of Sudan or Chad. 

If indeed Kenya has substantial oil reserves, will they benefit the country in the long-term?

Some observers are predicting similar problems as in Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea and many other resource-rich African countries where corruption has been amplified.

Others argue that this need not be the case. Countries as diverse as Botswana, Chile and Norway have shown that natural resources can be a blessing. If managed well, they can even support the fight against poverty by providing the resources needed to scale up the delivery of public services. In the last ten years, many of the world’s fastest growing economies, including in Africa, have benefitted from exporting natural resources.

So who should we believe?

Zambia: Decisions with unintended consequences?

Asumani Guloba's picture

Since the start of 2012, expectations in Zambia have been running high: stable economy; a newly elected government; recently crowned African football champions.  Everything seems possible.  For the new government, fulfilling election promises will require well thought through development decisions. Are the decisions taken so far having the intended consequences?

The Zambian economy has been remarkably resilient, with growth averaging 6.6% in the past five years, supported by strong macroeconomic policies, high copper production and favorable prices. End-year inflation has been in single digits for four of the last five years, the debt and fiscal positions well within sustainable levels. In addition, since independence, the country has witnessed five peaceful elections leading to four changes in government. These factors auger well for the future economic prospects of the country. Or do they?

When are macroeconomic stability and exceptionally high returns not enough for private investors?

Sandeep Mahajan's picture

South Africa appears to be mired in a cycle of modest growth, high inequality and record unemployment. This, despite an exemplary record on macroeconomic management and deepening integration with the global economy. 

Inflation remains nestled within the target range of 3-6 percent and fiscal and debt management outcomes have been impressive.

Remarkably, there is broad political consensus on the issue of macroeconomic stability, recent calls for a looser stance by the labor unions notwithstanding. 

A sustained pattern of high, broad-based and inclusive growth is yet to emerge, however.  Despite a pick-up in per capita GDP growth from negative rates to an average of 1.6 percent per year during 1994-2011, per capita GDP is currently only 10 percent higher than in 1980: a period over which other developing countries have seen much more meaningful increases in their income levels.

Tanzania can benefit from natural gas by empowering people

Jacques Morisset's picture

If you are looking for a house in Dar es Salaam, hurry up. With the recent discovery of massive natural gas reserves, affordable houses will soon become a rarity. The cost of living in African countries with abundant natural resources (Angola, Gabon, etc) is among the highest in the world. Today Tanzania sits on about 15 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, equivalent to approximately US$150 billion at current prices, or 6 times Tanzania's current GDP.

These proved and potential reserves can be a game changer for Tanzania. Yet, extracting and producing is not a simple affair. Massive up-front investments (larger than the country’s current GDP of US$22 billion) and new technologies are necessary, while benefits will typically spread over 25 to 30 years. Short of cash and expertise, Tanzania will have to partner with global companies. Potential candidates (British Gas, Statoil) are already knocking on the door.

100% pass rate in South Africa’s township schools?

Sandeep Mahajan's picture

Residents of the pukka houses (formerly temporary shacks) in front of the apartment complex where my family lives in New Delhi have decided to send their kids to private, English-medium schools, cutting corners to save enough to be able to afford it.

Stabilizing Somalia - the development moment

Aurelien Kruse's picture

The gathering of world leaders in London last week to consider the fate of Somalia may be heralding a new development moment for the war-torn country. But we are in unchartered waters: we know very little about Somalia’s economy.

First, from a development viewpoint, there is no such thing as one Somalia. Ironically, the unrecognized Somaliland entity [see the Somaliland success story in “Yes Africa Can” ] has enjoyed stability and democratic governance, pursuing classic development interventions (service delivery through the state, infrastructure investment, capacity building …). [In addition, Somaliland appears to have very good statistics.]

By contrast, South Central Somalia, where the capital city and official -albeit transition- government of Somalia are located, is a quintessential failed state plagued by conflict and public mismanagement. Puntland lies somewhere in between, with some stability but an embryonic state under growing influence of piracy networks.

Tanzania’s Steep Learning Curve

Stevan Lee's picture

Tanzania has shown massive achievements in education – well known progress in primary enrolment plus less well known, but in some ways even more spectacular, growth in post-primary education. 

Yet, Tanzania needs to improve learning outcomes if a virtuous cycle of growth and human capital investment is to be sustained. This is “The Steep Learning Curve” which Tanzania needs to get onto with modest fiscal resources but a rapidly growing number of new students, and therefore with a keen eye for value. This should be possible.

The East African ride to Middle Income

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

You have embarked on a long train ride in Africa. The train is in bad shape, the ride is bumpy and breakdowns frequent. You wonder when you will arrive at destination or if you ever will. But after a tortuous first half of the trip, the train is starting to gain speed. There are still a number of unnecessary stops but the destination is now in sight and passengers are becoming upbeat. Just as the train is about to enter the station you are overtaken by three trains, which had been accelerating even faster.

This train could be Kenya in East Africa’s race to Middle Income. The country remains the richest in East Africa and with almost US$800 income per capita is the closest to meeting the international Middle Income threshold of US$1000.  But its EAC partners Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania are catching up fast.

Tanzania: Building bridges through education and small businesses

Jacques Morisset's picture

Attracted by the prospects of large unexploited natural gas reserves in the south of Tanzania, big players are in town. The British Gas Group has publicly announced that it may invest over US$35 billion in the next 25 years – 1.5 times Tanzania’s current GDP. Policymakers and donors are jockeying to position themselves and understand what is at stake.

The excitement is well founded but perhaps a little bit premature. According to the most optimistic projections, revenues from natural gas will not materialize for 5-7 years. Moreover, international experience shows that commodity-driven growth does not guarantee success. The Tanzanian authorities are therefore right to prepare for the future by setting up the fiscal and financial rules required for future transparent and rational use of these funds now. They should not forget also to focus on the coming 5-7 years because the economy is facing a number of challenges.

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