Much has happened while I was missing in action beating a couple of deadlines: the Thaksin problem in Thailand has been resolved; in the Philippines, local governments are pushing for Constitutional reforms, while the President suspends all executions; but the global development I'd like to flag for now is the recent uptick in oil prices. In the past month, prices have gone up by 16%, with Brent crude exceeding US$ 71 per barrel.
While many analysts (cited in the article) point to uncertainties with respect to Iran as a proximate cause, James Hamilton thinks it's still a prosaic supply-demand story: oil production in the US is down, as well as in Nigeria (due to their political problems). "And demand remains strong, with U.S. economic growth resuming at a faster pace than some of us had anticipated, and Chinese use of petroleum continuing to climb. If demand is up and supply is stagnant, small wonder if we see the price continue to rise."
For the Philippines, what is the impact of this? Suppose a high crude price is sustained yearlong, leading to an increase in prices of petroleum products, within the range of say 20%. In 2005 the country's total imports was US$ 44.9 billion, of which about US$ 6.1 billion was in the form of mineral fuels, lubricants, and related products (except coke and coal). This accounts for about 13.6%. Hence the average import price (assuming constant shares) would rise by about 13.5% x 0.2 = 2.72%. For good measure I raised this to a worse scenario of 5%, and ran this average price increase scenario into a macroeconomic forecasting model I am currently working on. Voila, what did I get? The price increase shaves off a little over a percentge point off our GDP growth in 2006. So if the forecast is 5.2% growth for the year, then with the shock, growth is only around 4.2% or so. Interestingly, even if the average import cost was permanently higher, growth would recover to its unshocked trend already by 2007!
So the bad news: higher energy costs are a serious drag on growth. Good news: the economy is not going into a tailspin.
More good news: notice that demand remains a key reason for fuel prices rising, and China and the US remain a major source of this demand boost. And how is that good news? But that's for another post.