Crashing oil prices: Nigeria to review benchmark

Crashing oil prices: Nigeria to review benchmark

Sunday, November 16, 2014 5:50 pm

Nigeria’s minister of finance and coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala said today the government will be sending a proposal to the National Assembly to review the crude oil benchmark in the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, MTEF, submitted recently for the 2015 budget.

She said the falling oil prices would impact Africa’s largest economy and top oil producer, requiring the government to cut non-essential spending and raise more revenues. Nigeria will also immediately dip hands into its Excess Crude account to meet pending expenditure. One of them is expected to be the subsidy debt owed oil importers, about N280 billion. Half of the reserve of 44,1 billion may be used, Okonjo said.

At a special media briefing in Abuja on Sunday, Okonjo said a proposal of $73 per barrel, instead of the $78 agreed earlier, would be sent for consideration as guide in approving the 2015 budget proposal.

“The benchmark we proposed before now was not realistic,” Okonjo-Iweala told journalists in Abuja.

“We think that for now, let us bring the benchmark price down to $73 then have a series of additional measures so that at each price it falls to, we would be able to kick in appropriate measures to keep this economy going,” she said.

Brent crude prices, the index against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, has fallen more than 30 percent since July, dropping to $78 on Friday. Nigeria depends on crude exports for over 70 percent of government revenues.

The fall has triggered a selloff in Nigeria bond and stock markets, hurting the local naira currency which is down almost 8 percent this year despite the central bank spending billion of dollars of reserves to defend it.

With the IMF chief, Christine Lagarde approving the development as a good augury for the recovery of the world economy and the supply glut in the market not to about to abate, analysts believe that Nigeria may even be setting a too optimistic price target at $73.

Nigeria will also certainly not be comforted by the bleak forecast by the International Energy Agency that Oil prices are expected to keep sliding well into 2015, held down by weak demand and increased shale production.

The IEA said Friday, that it would maintain its full-year forecast for slow global consumption growth.

The 12-nation OPEC cartel, will meet on November 27 in Vienna. But oil dealers are not expecting the organisation to cut output and thereby help shore up prices.

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