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The “Oil Curse” and Splashy PR Announcements of Oil Production Cuts

The “Oil Curse” and Splashy PR Announcements of Oil Production Cuts

It’s not just the price of oil that matters: how much disposable income consumers have left to buy more goods and services matters, too.

The Oil Curse (a.k.a. The Resource Curse) refers to the compelling ease of those blessed with an abundance of oil/resources to depend on that gift for the majority of state/national revenues. The risks and demands of developing a diverse, globally competitive economy don’t seem worth the effort when the single-source wealth of oil offers such a low-risk bounty of revenues.

This dependence becomes a curse when the market value of the oil/resources plummets. Having come to depend on that seemingly inexhaustible source of massive revenues, even states that have set aside prudent reserves soon find their expenses cannot align down to diminished oil revenues without unbearable political/social pain.

The ideal solution to this problem is to jawbone oil prices higher by splashily announcing major cuts in oil production and then ignoring the proposed cuts to pump as much oil as possible to restore spending to politically viable levels.

The problem is every other oil producer is pursuing the same game plan and so production doesn’t actually decline. As global demand continues sagging in a global recession, oil supply remains at high levels. Since oil and other commodities are priced on the margin, even modest misalignments of supply and demand can generate huge swings in price.

There is no real enforcement of heavily promoted production cuts. The pressure on every oil producer is to assure the world they’re complying to cover the reality that they’re not actually cutting production because they can’t afford to lose any more revenues.

The price of oil appears to be reflecting the global recession that’s baked into receding stimulus and liquidity and higher inflation

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