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Oil prices fall below govt’s 2016 budget benchmark


oil-pricesBrent crude, against which Nigeria’s oil is priced, fell below the country’s crude oil benchmark of $38 per barrel to $36.68 a barrel yesterday. U.S. crude’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI) also fell far further to $34.71 a barrel.

Crude oil prices have been on the decline since last week after the decision by Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)’s to maintain crude oil production.

The price of OPEC basket of 12 crudes stood at $34.69 a barrel on Thursday last week and was $34.80 a barrel the previous day.

Brent crude futures fell below $38 a barrel for the first time since December 2008 on Friday last week. WTI also settled at $35.62 a barrel, down by 3.1 percent, or $1.14.

The U.S Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its December oil market report released at the weekend, forecasts that Brent crude oil prices will average $53 per barrel in 2015 and $56 per barrel in 2016.

It stated: “EIA’s crude oil price forecast remains subject to significant uncertainties as the oil market moves toward balance.

“During this period of price discovery, oil prices could continue to experience periods of heightened volatility. The oil market faces many uncertainties heading into 2016, including the pace and volume at which Iranian oil reenters the market, the strength of oil consumption growth, and the responsiveness of non-OPEC production to low oil prices”.

Speaking on the latest development, Director, Centre for Petroleum Energy Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, said that the $38 per barrel is a realistic, though conservative approach by the government.

According to him, in view of the volatile oil market, it is the right approach by the Federal Government.
Adenikinju stated: “It will encourage the government to cut its coat according to its cloth. However, if the government experiences an upside in the global price of oil, then the government can always submit a supplementary appropriation bill to the National Assembly”.

He noted that the implication of this is that the current budget must contain the priorities of the government. “It also supports the zero budgeting as only capital expenditures that are in sync with government overall objectives will be provided for in the budget.

Hence, the government must prioritise its expenditures and cut down on areas of wastages. Presently, the cost of governance is on the high side and it is good that the government, through the Federal Ministry of Finance, has set up a committee to check this. Next year, I expect the government to diversify its revenue base to non-oil sectors and wealthy Nigerians. If the services and agricultural sectors are now the leading sectors in terms of contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it is only normal that they contribute their fair share to government revenue and foreign exchange earnings.

“There is also prospect for introducing property tax especially in cities like Abuja, Port-Harcourt, Lagos, Kano and Kaduna to boost the income of state governments. There is no doubt that the lower oil price benchmark will impact negatively on government capacity to perform its statutory responsibilities”.

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