For the last few years, the Saudi kingdom’s insistence on pumping oil at high capacity has dramatically depressed oil prices. The result has undermined Saudi’s major oil rivals in OPEC – like Iran and Venezuela.
It has also hit Russia, hard.
Rating agency Standard & Poor forecasts that Russia’s budget deficit is set to swell to 4.4 per cent of GDP this year. Russia’s own finance ministry concedes that if expenditures continue at this rate, within sixteen months – by around the end of next year – its oil reserve funds will be exhausted.
Meanwhile, over the last year real incomes have dropped by 9.8 per cent, and food prices have spiked by 17 per cent, heightening the risk of civil unrest.
Rumbling along beneath the surface of such financial woes are deeper systemic issues.
A report from the Swedish Defence Research Agency notes that “prolonged dry periods in southern Russia are having the effect of reducing the level of food production”.
Most of Russia’s wheat imports come from Kazakhstan, “where climate change is expected to exacerbate droughts. These impacts would make farming harder and food more expensive,” observe Dr. Marina Sharmina and Dr. Christopher Jones of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Russia’s looming energy crisis is the other elephant in the room. In 2013, HSBC forecasted that Russia would hit peak oil between 2018 and 2019, experiencing a brief plateau before declining by 30 per cent from 2020 to 2025.
That year, Fitch Ratings came to pretty much the same conclusion. And last year, Leonid Fedun, vice-president of Russia’s second largest oil producer, Lukoil, predicted that the production could peak earlier due to falling oil prices and US-EU sanctions.
Faced with overlapping economic, food and energy crises, Russia is well and truly on the brink. More
Furthermore, According to a recent report from the IMF, Saudi Arabia’s public debt is estimated to rise from below 2 percent of its GDP in 2014 up to 33 percent by the end of 2020. The report also shows that in the past three years, Saudi Arabia’s budget surplus was turned into a deficit reaching 21.6 percent of GDP in 2015. More