By Dan Burns
DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – Low crude oil production means Nigeria is barely able to cover the cost of imported petrol from its oil and gas revenue, Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed told Reuters on Thursday.
Ahmed added in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos that she hoped Nigerian oil production would average 1.6 million barrels per day (bpd) this year, up from around 1.5 million bpd in the first quarter.
The government had budgeted 1.8 million bpd of production, Ahmed said, blaming crude theft and attacks on oil infrastructure for the shortfall.
“We are not seeing the revenues that we had planned for,” Ahmed said. “When the production is low it means we’re … barely able to cover the volumes that are required for the (petrol) that we need to import.”
Nigeria exports crude oil and imports refined petrol, suffering intermittent fuel shortages. It faces double-digit inflation and low growth, amid a shrinking labour market and mounting insecurity.
A plan to abolish its petrol subsidy was scrapped ahead of national elections in February 2023 and $9.6 billion was added to planned spending to cover it, putting pressure on the budget.
Nigeria raised $1.25 billion via a Eurobond sale in March at a premium rate and had planned to issue another bond. But Ahmed said the government had “not seen a good opportunity to go in.”
The country’s deficit is set to rise to 4.5% of GDP this year due to the fuel subsidy, up from an original estimate of 3.42% in the budget.
Nigeria’s central bank surprised markets this week by raising its main lending rate by 150 basis points to 13%, after inflation rose to 16.82% in April, the highest in eight months.
Ahmed said the central bank move was necessary.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes, including a 50 basis-point rise earlier this month, alongside Russia’s war in Ukraine and coronavirus lockdowns in China have prompted a move from riskier emerging markets to safe havens.
“We are certainly very, very concerned,” Ahmed said of the Fed’s policy tightening. “The actions that the Fed or the central bank in Europe take will affect us.”
(Reporting by Dan Burns in Davos, Switzerland; Writing by Rachel Savage and Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alexander Winning, Diane Craft and Matthew Lewis)