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Using satellite data to gauge terrorist incomes

Quy-Toan Do's picture

The growing availability of satellite imagery and analysis means that all kinds of things we used to think were hard to quantify, especially in conflict zones, can now be measured systematically.
 
For example, estimating ISIS oil production. Soon after it proclaimed itself the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (a.k.a. ISIL/ISIS, the Islamic State, or Daesh, its Arabic acronym), the group was quickly branded the richest terrorist organization in history and oil was believed to be its major revenue source. A typical headline in Foreign Policy proclaimed “The Islamic State is the Newest Petrostate.”

Energy prices rose almost 3 percent in April: Pink Sheet

John Baffes's picture

Energy commodity prices rose 2.7 percent in April as the crude oil average rose 2.5 percent, according to the World Bank’s Pink Sheet.

Non-energy prices declined 2.4 percent as agriculture fell 1.4 percent, food and beverages prices dipped by 2.1 percent and 1 percent, respectively, and raw materials rose 0.3 percent. Fertilizer prices declined 6 percent.

Metals and minerals prices slid 4.3 percent, led by an almost 20 percent tumble in iron ore. Precious metals eased 2.7 percent.

The Pink Sheet is a monthly report that monitors commodity price movements.

Energy, metals commodity prices seen strengthening

John Baffes's picture

Prices for most industrial commodities, notably energy and metals, are projected to rise in 2017 while agricultural prices are expected to remain stable, the World Bank says in its April 2017 Commodity Markets Outlook.

Closely watched crude oil prices are forecast to rise to an average of $55 per barrel (bbl) over 2017 from $43/bbl in 2016, climbing to $60/bbl next year. The forecast is unchanged since October and reflects the balancing effects of production cuts agreed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and other producers on one side and a faster-than-expected rebound in the U.S. shale oil industry on the other. World oil demand is growing strongly, although at a slower pace than the 2015 spike triggered by lower oil prices.

How to manage revenues from extractives? There’s a book for that!

Rolando Ossowski's picture
 
Offshore oil and rig platform. Photo: © curraheeshutter / Shutterstock.


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 how can you strengthen the fiscal management of your country’s oil and mineral revenues? 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.

Cash for peace? How sharing natural resource revenues can prevent conflicts

Tito Cordella's picture

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?

OPEC’S grip on oil prices may be slipping: A historical perspective

John Baffes's picture

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.

Oil price impact is felt beyond borders

Donna Barne's picture

Oil pumps in southern Russia © Gennadiy Kolodkin/World Bank

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.

Kenya got oil: what next?

Apurva Sanghi's picture

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.

In response: the Dutch disease and market forces

Hans Timmer's picture
The following is a response to an earlier blog post by Ulrich Bartsch and Donato De Rosa
 


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.

Of the Dutch and other Diseases

Ulrich Bartsch's picture

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.
 

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