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Irina Slav

Irina Slav

Irina is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing on the oil and gas industry.

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Saudi Arabia Sees Oil At $50 Until 2023

Saudi Arabia appears to be more upbeat about the immediate future of oil prices than fundamentals warrant, according to Goldman Sachs analysts. These have calculated that the Saudi budget plan is based on a Brent average of $50 a barrel between 2020 and 2023, according to Bloomberg.

“Using our own estimates for the breakdown of government revenues, we calculate that the numbers presented in the budget statement are based on an average oil price of around $50 a barrel between 2020 and 2023,” one UK-based Goldman analyst told Bloomberg.

However, even at $50 a barrel, which is far from certain, Brent would be cheaper than Saudi Arabia needs it to be to shrink its deficit. Even the Saudis themselves have acknowledged the effect the pandemic has had on their finances. In a recent update, the governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority said the financial outlook for the year remained uncertain. Related: Venezuela’s Oil industry May Never Recover

In July, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the price plunge and the oil production cuts would hit oil exporters in the Middle East and North Africa hard, with the combined oil income for those countries expected to plummet by US$270 billion this year compared to 2019.

Saudi Arabia is the biggest oil economy in the Gulf and while it will not be the hardest hit, it is already being affected adversely by the combination of oil’s fundamentals and the pandemic. The Kingdom booked a deficit of $29 billion for the second quarter and effected some austerity measures although Riyadh insists this is not austerity. A tripling of VAT, a cancellation of so-called cost-of-living allowances, and the delay of some public spending decisions and the cancellation of others were among the measures.

Even so, the largest OPEC oil producer appears to believe oil prices will start improving soon, if Goldman’s calculations are right. The bank is among the oil bulls that expect prices to recover beginning next year as the supply and demand situation rebalances. However, fresh tightenings of movement restrictions in Europe last week hinted this may not come to pass. Brent closed below $40 a barrel at the end of the week and with Libya ramping up oil production with lightning speed, it may be a while before the benchmark recovers.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on October 05 2020 said:
    I beg to differ with Saudi Arabia on prices. The fundamentals of the global oil market are sound despite the recent fall in oil prices from $45 to $40 a barrel.

    There were two reasons for the recent decline. One was OPEC+ extra crude oil exports of 1.68 million barrels a day (mbd) in September. The other reason is growing fears of a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Based on the current fundamentals, oil prices could still be expected to hit $45-$50 during the remaining months of 2020 and rise to $60 in early 2021. And with the decline in the global oil industry’s investment in oil exploration and production, there could be a wide supply deficit estimated at 10-15 mbd during 2022-2023 which could propel oil prices above $80.

    Still, Saudi Arabia needs an oil price higher than $80 to balance its budget. It is possible that a cut in investment and expenditure this year along with other fiscal measures might have reduced the Saudi budget breakeven price to $71-$75.

    At current prices, Saudi Arabia is expected to book a $116 bn budget deficit in 2020 with the Saudi oil and non-oil sectors contracting by 5.3% and 8.2% respectively.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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