Sunday, November 30, 2014

Falling Oil Prices – A Blessing in Disguise, but will the trend Sustain?

OPEC, a group of 12 Oil producing nation did not budge to reduce the production of crude oil touching the mark of 30 million Barrels a day. Making it difficult for the fracking industry in the US to remain relevant economically. This tussle between the two major oil producers of the world is proving to be fiscally healthy for a country like India, which imports 80% of its oil requirement.

Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate basket humming at around $70 and $66/barrel, makes it really “Acche Din” sort of days for huge importers like us. It would ease our inflation, Wholesale and Consumer inflation, will have positive impacts on our deficits (as reported in ET, dated 29th November, 2014, Deficit hits 90% of Budget in 7 months) and will give some leg room for the government in restricting the total deficit to 4.1% of GDP in FY15. But is it sustainable? Will this Oil bonanza sustain?

Inflation, both WPI and CPI are easing for past 3-4 months and touched multi years’ lows. With almost an average monsoon and drop in oil prices in this calendar year, the first three quarters of the FY15 has been nothing short of spectacular. Also, increasing pressure on RBI governor to reduce the rates. But will Dr. Rajan blink? Surveys conducted in the fraternity clearly highlights that Dr. Rajan is focusing on culling this inflation for once and all. Urjit Patel’s committee’s recommendation of keeping the CPI tamed at the range of 2-6% till H1, 2016, is being considered by the governor as the long term target. So bowing down at this aberration of lower prices is something which is not expected by the fraternity in the next Bi-monthly monetary policy meet, scheduled on 2nd Dec, 2014.

 On the other hand, for the majority driven ruling party, BJP, the oil slack could not be better timed. With just 3 months left for the fiscal report to be presented for FY15 and target setting for FY16, north block should consider to make the maximum of the plummeting oil prices (promote renewable sources of energy, this sector needs dire attention of the government). At a time when the prices reflected at the fuelling pumps are market driven, the retail consumers would reap benefits of the slack. Automobile and ancillary units would also make the most of the situation as it is expected that the demand would soar and would bolster their top line.

All in all, drop in oil basket is a huge positive for the country but in order to have a sustained impact, it is important for the government to bolster policies for renewable sources of energy. Reliance on non-renewable energy should be reduced (atleast a committee formation with recommendation on reliance should be reduced to 70-75% of our total requirement is desirable). A 5-year course for reduction in reliance is imperative. Use the drastic deduction in the fuel imports for giving incentives to the public for using constant source of energy.

Look at the positives and contribute in low carbon emission efforts. Tap this time and take some swift action PM Modi. It can’t get better for energy reforms.