Countries with large nonrenewable resources can benefit significantly from them, but reliance on revenues from these sources poses major challenges for policy makers. If you are a senior ministry of finance official in a resource-rich country, what are the challenges that you would face and Consider some of the issues that you would likely encounter:
For many resource abundant countries, large and unpredictable fluctuations in fiscal revenues are a fact of life. Resource revenues are highly volatile and subject to uncertainty. Fiscal policies will need to be framed to support macroeconomic stability and sustainable growth, while sensibly managing fiscal risks. Also, there is a question of how to decouple public spending (which should be relatively stable) from the short-run volatility of resource prices.
Some countries are blessed with natural resources, others are cursed. It’s been said that all the blessed ones are alike, they put the resources to good use, improving the people’s welfare in a sustainable manner. And for the cursed? More often than not, they struggle with political violence, especially when ethnic or religious fragmentation and weak institutions are a concern. Not surprisingly, it was Venezuela’s former Development Minister and OPEC Founder Perez Alfonso who christened oil the “Devil’s excrement.”
If natural resources could be the source of such evil, are there ways of “exorcising” them? Perhaps policymakers could try to prevent or resolve resource-related conflicts by sharing natural resource wealth with opposition groups or directly with the people. Would such a counter spell work?
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) unsettled oil markets in September when it announced it would resume placing limits on oil production among its members, effectively reversing two years of unrestrained production.
But how much control can OPEC really exert over prices? History suggests that formal agreements to influence the price of a particular commodity eventually fall apart. OPEC’s own history also shows that the short term benefits of managing supplies become long term liabilities. In addition, the oil producing landscape has changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of nonconventional producers, notably the U.S. shale oil industry. These factors will test the oil exporting organization’s power to influence markets.
Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Back in 2012, the news of Kenya’s oil discovery spread fast. Stock markets roared, politicians gushed and the Twitterati tweeted. Fast forward to today: with $70 off oil prices and at least another four to five years to go until the first commercial production, one cannot help but ask, has Kenyan oil been overrated?
With a tip of the hat to Clint Eastwood, the prospects for Kenya’s oil wealth can be characterised as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Although there exists plenty of analysis of the Dutch disease, the resource curse, and Hotelling’s rule to fill several large libraries, there is nonetheless still ample room for debate about optimal policies in resource-rich countries. What is the optimal pace of extraction? Should they diversify? If so, how should they diversify and when should they diversify? What role should sovereign wealth funds play? Can the destabilizing adjustment process in the wake of an oil price collapse be avoided?
In a recent blog, Ulrich Bartsch and Donato De Rosa revisit the issue of resource revenue management. There are many good elements in this analysis, but there is one big problem: The same rigor that is used to analyze the goods markets is not used to analyze the accumulation of assets. While market forces are declared essential in the goods markets, little is said about the role of market forces in the accumulation of assets.
Let’s explore a bit more the relation between market forces, asset accumulation, and comparative advantages.
The recent collapse in oil prices is a good time to revisit the issues of resource revenue management. A good crisis should not go to waste, and it is in times like these that policy makers clearly realize their failures in the past and bemoan the lack of economic diversification away from oil.
The World Bank's forecast for the average oil price in 2016 is $37 per barrel. Commodity Markets Outlook provides a quarterly analysis of international commodity markets, and the oil forecast reflects factors including a slowing global economy, high oil inventories and unchanged OPEC policy prioritizing market share.
Kazakh scientists navigate this winding, unpredictable road for years and generally come to the realization that great scientific research is not enough in itself. Too often, they face a lack of support when it comes to applying the results of their scientific research in a useful, practical way.
Fortunately, a team of Kazakh scientists at the Private Entity Institute of Polymer Materials and Technology in Almaty has had a somewhat more positive experience. This team has been working on a truly innovative project: developing a solution to improving the recovery of oil from old oil wells in Kazakhstan.
But why, you might ask?