According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), yesterday, the supply of crude oil crested 15.189 million barrels rounding the first week of December, bringing it ever closer to the 19.25 million barrel inventory that kickstarted an oil price crash in the height of the Coronavirus pandemic (OilPrice.com, 2020). Why is this significant to the global financial system? Stocks, in themselves, are a financial phenomenon and oil—at least at this point in time—fuels global transportation and production at nearly every level, which makes this commodity a prime example to witness politico-economics in action.
The dramatic fall of crude oil stocks in April 2020 presented one the most dramatic drops in any commodity in an exceptionally long time:“…the front month WTI [West Texas Intermediate] contract was sitting at minus $38.45/barrel, down an eye-watering 310.45% on the day” (The Balance, 2020). While it had serious impacts on the oil-exporting countries, the most notable aspect of these effects can actually be seen in the ‘on the spot’ prices (Oil Market Report April 2020) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 2020). In other words, the prices that turned negative during this time were actually future prices bought on the Crude Oil Futures Exchange, that is the contracts for the delivery of a specific quantity of crude oil (in terms of barrels) (TheOptionsGuide.com, 2020). Because all of the products were nearly full (particularly with people unable to travel in the height of the pandemic fewer cars, flights, ships needed fuel), the producers then did not know where to store it and found themselves with an egregious surplus and negligible demand.
In this scenario, those who suffered the most from the negative oil prices were not the oil consumers, but those investors who had previously bought futures for April 2020 (Hamilton, 2020). Typically, they can sell these futures for other investors, always in the hope that the price for oil will rise; however, this is precisely what did not happen in April. Instead, the price of oil was very high, but the demand was very low.
Ultimately, the supply surplus due to Coronavirus conditions effectively took millions of barrels out of local demand—and on top of this, a price-war ensued between Saudi Arabia and Russia further exacerbating the phenomenon (CNBC, 2020).Up until this point, both Saudi Arabia and Russia had been dampening production as a means of maintaining a higher price and therefore maximising profits on the basis of high demand. When this tenuous arrangement unraveled in the absence of demand, Saudi Arabia reversed their position (and decided to release supply controls)to become cheaper than Russia which culminated in “the release of another million barrels per day on the global market… causing the price to sink to 18-year lows” (Fortune, 2020).
Although futures bounced back within the month of April, the scenario stirs previously unthinkable hypothetical questions (ETAuto.com, 2020): Would long-term negative futures become an incentive to diversity economies dominated by oil, gas, and petroleum? Or would the surplus of oil on the market lessen incentives to ‘go green’? Although either of these scenarios is unlikely given that that the timeframe was too short for any structural changes such as these to occur, the example illustrates the unique way in which instruments of the finance sector such as “futures” or “options” ricochet into politics – such as we see between major oil producers (like the United States, Saudi Arabia, Canada, and Russia) and major oil consumers (such as the United States, China, India, Japan, and the European Union) (EIA, 2020). Does December’s crude oil build herald a softer price crash? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: the greater the fluctuation in oil prices, the more politics will rattle between oil-producing countries (with and without commodity diversification) as well as with the countries that predominantly consume it.
- CNBC. 2020. Charts that Explain the Saudi Arabia-Russia Oil Price War So Far. [online] Available at: <https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/01/5-charts-that-explain-the-saudi-arabia-russia-oil-price-war-so-far.html> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- DNA India. 2020. In Historic First, US Crude Oil Price Plunges Below Zero As COVID-19 Pandemic Hits Demands. [online] Available at: <https://www.dnaindia.com/business/report-in-historic-first-us-crude-oil-price-plunges-below-zero-as-covid-19-pandemic-hits-demands-2821871> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Eia.gov. 2020. Frequently Asked Questions (Faqs) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). [online] Available at: <https://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.php?id=709&t=6> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Eia.gov. 2020. Oil Market Report (April 2020) – U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). [online] Available at: <https://www.iea.org/reports/oil-market-report-april-2020> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- ETAuto.com. 2020. Oil Prices Bounce Back, After Ending Negative for The First Time In History – ET Auto. [online] Available at: <https://auto.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/oil-and-lubes/oil-prices-bounce-back-u-s-crude-futures-trade-above-zero/75262811> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Fortune. 2020. ‘Unreal’: Oil Prices Go Negative for The First Time In History. [online] Available at: <https://fortune.com/2020/04/20/oil-prices-negative-crash-price-crude-market/> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Hamilton, J., 2020. Oil Prices, Exhaustible Resources, and Economic Growth. National Bureau of Economic Research. [online] pp.1-32. Available at: <https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w17759/w17759.pdf> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- The Balance. 2020. Crude Oil Impacts Everything You Buy. [online] Available at: <https://www.thebalance.com/crude-oil-prices-trends-and-impact-on-the-economy-and-you-3305738> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Theoptionsguide.com. 2020. Crude Oil Futures Trading Basics | The Options & Futures Guide. [online] Available at: <https://www.theoptionsguide.com/crude-oil-futures.aspx> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Oil, C., 2020. Oil Plunges After EIA Reports Huge Crude Build | Oilprice.Com. [online] OilPrice.com. Available at: <https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Oil-Crashes-After-EIA-Reports-Largest-Crude-Build-Ever.html> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
- Sek, S., Teo, X. and Wong, Y., 2015. A Comparative Study on the Effects of Oil Price Changes on Inflation. Procedia Economics and Finance, 26, pp.630-636.
- Worldoil.com. 2020. Saudi Arabia And Russia End Their Oil-Price War with Output Cut Agreement. [online] Available at: <https://www.worldoil.com/news/2020/4/9/saudi-arabia-and-russia-end-their-oil-price-war-with-output-cut-agreement> [Accessed 10 December 2020].
Central Asia: Potential and Opportunities of Investment
Central Asia is a heart of the world and in order to control the world, the region should be under the control of a power. Historically, it is tied with its nomadic and silk route. It is a crossroad for the movement of people, goods, and ideas between Muslims land and Europe, China and India. In the 19thcentury, there was a competition between Britain and Imperial Russia to establish influence in the region and it might have been an effort for global balancing. The influence of British gradually rose while Russia declined with the humiliating defeat by Japan in1905. After the World War I, Imperial Russia collapsed ironically and was able to re-infuse itself as USSR with Central Asia as five provinces. From the World War II, USSR controlled Caucuses and Central Asia and was able to preserve its dominance in the region until 1991.Post disintegration of USSR, Central Asia appeared in to five autonomous states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan that are land-locked and require the cooperation of neighboring countries for accessing world markets. The region, which is located in Eurasia and heartland, increased its geopolitical importance. The Region is volatile in nature with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan only having relative stability. Although they have shown some economic growth, the other Central Asian economies are slim and petite.
Governance in the regional states has been continuously showing elitist pattern with being less responsive to popular aspirations. There is a constant factor in their foreign policies, which is the quest for security and for economic advantage. At the social level, the influential criminal groups have grown across the region, with rampant corruption, narcotics, poverty, and terrorism threatens all five states in Central Asia. Much of the state apparatuses are inherited from socialism- literacy, workers, infrastructure etc. The force structures and military thinking, inherited from soviet, is not compatible with modern Western systems. Contemporary Central Asian leadership has three primary concerns: maintaining power, fighting internal resistance and of development of autonomous economy..From the strategic prospect, the region is significant for geopolitical interest to China, Russia and United States. The region of estimated proven natural gas reserves are 232 trillion cubic feet comparable to Saudi Arabia. Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan possess about 100 trillion cubic feet and Uzbekistan 65 trillion cubic feet, Region’s oil reserves are 17.49 billion barrels. Kazakhstan has regions ‘largest proven oil reserves.
Central Asia states are seeking investment but the international community is more focusing on geopolitics than investment. The regional sates are pursuing cooperation and opportunities among themselves. The improved political cooperation and stability among Central Asian states also has opened opportunities of investment growing economies particularly for China and India. The region has two trump cards of educated youth and abundance of natural resources with stale and secure environment for foreign investors. The two rapid growing markets China and India are interested in the regional energy and mineral resources. Both the countries have developed close relationship with Central Asian states. Post reforms era, China has made progress in investment driven model for the manufacturing and investment beyond the border. Therefore, China has vast scope of investment in Central Asia. ‘OBOR’ project is a game changer investment of China in the region has introduced the region as a transit corridor for the Asia, Europe and Russia.
The region has promising investment potential in the fields of petrochemical, agriculture and tourism. These three sectors have low-level of foreign direct investment but with the great determination and priority of governments, it may be boasted. The region has a verity of petrochemical and agriculture commodities and raw material for processing to value the regional economy. The region also has potential to serve in both domestic and international meat market. Italy has invested in beef industry of Kazakhstan and has been earning much from several years. Another area of investment is a textile industry, which has immense opportunities of cotton and wool production. The Central Asian states have the same Soviet past but follow different directions for development aspirations.
Tajikistan is a more attractive country for the cross border investors due to its favorable environment for investment. The government is directing foreign investment to install new industries and modernize old industries. Aluminum, cotton, energy and tourism reveal potential of investment and attract foreign investors toward Tajikistan. The foreign direct investment in Tajikistan has increased from $270 to 317 million in 2018. According to the report of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Foreign Direct Investment stock in the country was 42.7 billion in 2018.The major investors are China, Russia United Kingdome and America have invested in energy and banking sectors. Chinese companies are investing in agro, tourism, hydropower and steel production sectors of Tajikistan. From the last two years, it has invested more than $3 billion in the country. According to the report of Chamber of Commerce of Tajikistan, China wants to create industrial enterprise with progressive technology and equipment.
Kazakhstan is the largest economy of Central Asia, which shares 70% of total investment in the region. According to National Bank of Kazakhstan, the foreign direct investment has increased by 9.8% with the amount of $4.1billion in 2018. The main areas of investment are transport, mining, trade finance, information technology, communication and insurance. Last year, 17.2% investment in fixed asset has increased. A significant growth in industry 27.1%, construction 20.6%, real estate 20.1% and agriculture 14.2% is also calculated. The government has arranged a list of $10.6 billion projects and has made legislation in permit system, taxation and custom system to attract investment in the country. The migration and visa process has been relaxed and the citizens of 62 countries can and travel Kazakhstan easily.
Uzbekistan has introduced visa for three years sin march 2019 for the participant of foreign investment companies. Furthermore, the foreign investors who invest more than $3billion can get residence permit for ten years. Within a one day, a certificate of origin of goods will be issued to foreign traders. With the participant of international financial institutions, 89 projects were launched in 2019. Then 31 project of more than $3billion are also planned with the help of World Bank and Asian Development Bank. Banks are able to open account for those who are Uzbek residents and businessperson with the requirement of FATF.
Turkmenistan is isolated country of six million people with rich natural gas reservoirs. The government tightly controls any foreign activities monitoring very closely. Visa system is very complicated but the businesspersons and investors are frequent. The business environment does not support foreigners because Turkmen language has long been in isolation. Therefore, businesspersons have to rely on English language for the business activities in Turkmenistan. However, international investors have shown their interest in investment and trade with Turkmenistan. The country has potential of investment in the sectors of agriculture, energy, construction and transport. The Foreign Direct Investment stock was $36 billion in 2018 of 81.6% of GDP. China, Russia, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are the main investors in Turkmenistan. Due to development of market economy, Turkmenistan has planned to raise investment in fixed assets $65.72 billion by 2025, which will facilitate manufacturing sector and will create many jobs in the country.
Kyrgyzstan is the landlocked, mountainous with an economy of agriculture, minerals and reliance on workforce abroad. Cotton, wool and meat are main agricultural products. Other sources of income are gold, mercury, uranium and natural gas. The country attracts foreign investment in construction of dames, mining, gas production and agriculture sectors but most of the investment goes to mining industry but due to conflicts between local population and investors in few districts of Kyrgyzstan the flow of investment decreased. The country is facing few challenges to the Foreign Direct Investment, the economy minister Oleg Pankartov has stated, “main problem is the lack of land plots to implement investment project due to limited resources”. He further added, “there are difficulties of land transformation and limited energy capacity and poor infrastructure”. That is why; the Foreign Direct Investment flow decreased 31.5% in 2018. The main investors in Kyrgyzstan are Britain, China, Canada, Kazakhstan and Russia. In 2019, the World Bank reported the rank of the country is 70th out of 190 countries. Kyrgyzstan is among those who have made progress in terms of investment and protection. The trade with neighbor countries has boasted. However, the country has wide potential in investment, to make contract and of payments.
In short, Central Asia is a top investment destination in the world. The most investment is in the natural gas, hydrocarbon and metal sector to extraction, processing to transportation. The other destinations for Foreign Direct Investment in the region are service sectors real estate development, agriculture, trade, communications, labor, expertise, technology, manufacturing and infrastructure development. China, European Union and Russia are major investors in the regional countries. Chinese investment is growing quickly in all economies of the region. Other key factor of investment inflow is the rate of return on investment that seems positive. In other words, to get long-term benefit from the investment, Central Asian countries must allow investors to benefit too.
Pandemic Recovery Creates a 50-50 Future
Suddenly, the world changed; 50% in one-way and 50% the other way. It makes no difference where you stand or sit, because the changes are right across the world. It makes no difference if they are good or bad, because some are laden with heavy losses and some flying high with extraordinary opportunities. What is most critical is to recognize their hidden patterns and acquire special skills to respond quickly to avoid any serious fall or optimize a real potential in real time. As many times before, during centuries past, the world is morphing into something astonishing that we may not be able to recognize from where we stand today. Hyper-accelerated-future forcing change; 50% up and 50% down, therefore, we have to select your own paths. It is sink or swim time, again. One-hour study of cataloging major shifts during the last few centuries drastically transforming human behavior for good will do the trick.
The political offices: there are some 100 new national elections across the world within the next 500 days. In most cases, the economy will be the deciding factors over pandemic recovery. Outside the developed nations, death is a common place amongst struggling nations. Nevertheless, indices on suffering and pain are very high, the voice of the public highly audible, damages to the economy highly noticeable and the level of incompetence of leadership increasingly highly visible. The new visible challenges are the lack of speed on upskilling and transformation to manage mobilization of entrepreneurialism at grassroots level. Bureaucracies will not turn economies around. Most of the leaderships are ‘campaign’ trained and not ‘pandemic’ trained. The new races may topple 50% of incumbent leaderships in serious upsets.
The voting: Despite all the technological advances, there is no room in the world for some Social Media or Tik-Tok to decide a national election. The millennia old voting systems stand in line; make a cross by hand and drop it in a voting box will remain as most desired by the populace. The challenges are not to fall over technology and human-programmed-AI to decide a winning team, stay credible, and follow safe procedures. Any deviation from these traditional models may result in outright rejections of 50% of the coming elections.
The workforces: There are billion displaced workers, due to pandemic, an additional billion already replaced due to technological advances and a billion further misplaced where their real talents never recognized, considered as out of the box thinking and now working in miss-matched jobs. Challenges are to create globally accepted “Remote-Working-Protocols’ a Charter of Rights for Remote Workforce and make such ideas respectable and rewarding. The restless citizens are ready to march, 50% of the regions of the world are neither prepared nor have any solid solutions for such calamites.
The offices: The world has moved to remote, the vaccine-waiting years will carve permanence to new remote protocols and routines. This is a new tsunami but it has far too many positive sides embedded. Books on ‘rise and fall’ of downtown are not published yet; hidden fears of massive downtown real estate collapse preclude any serious dialogue on global podiums. Challenges are to create intense citywide live and open debates on city planning based on new realities and not real estate. Nevertheless, Remote Work will have the most dramatic life altering impact on the global workforce and may force 50% of office towers empty and downtowns go dim.
The travelling: The silence of tourism is a global calamity impacting small medium and big businesses servicing such sectors. The global public will not be ready until vaccination reaches in many billions, a multi-year task. This will create vacuums and major shifts will occur. The challenges are to create a new post vaccine, sanitized, destination travel-world. Overall 50% locations, routes, and services may not survive.
The trade-events: The local-national-global conferences and trade shows were always the bloodstreams of commerce now replaced by live streaming the old-event-industry gasping for oxygen. The high cost of travel and lack of bold contents were always the lingering challenges, unless there are new discussion formats and real value offerings the event industry is sinking. Despite the new powers of virtualization, real content management will decide the winners and create new trends before some 50% may give up entirely.
The education: While the new generations need free education, the post vaccination worldneeds lesser education and more special skills; pragmatic, productive and profitable. The digital platforms ensure instant access to maxi-mini-micro-upskilling and reskilling and eliminating multi-year of memorizing irrelevancy needs lingering since last century. The brand new models of ‘education-delivery’ with direct and measured return on value are where the future parked. The challenges are to bring real and proven entrepreneurialism into colleges and universities and unless taught by decade plus hard-core raw business experiences, business education is becoming an expensive liability. The colleges and universities of the past could further stay in denials, but going forward new paths 50% may not survive.
The economies: The future of the world is digital; therefore, digitized economies of the post vaccination world will thrive; paper-based economies will end up in waste-paper-baskets. Tragically, paper-pushing economies had all options, often at little or no cost but bureaucracies strongholds kept them in the darkness. The challenges are to convert denials into positive mobilization of small medium business economies across a nation. Maybe, the only way left for them to start on a new page. The global rate of accelerated performance after full vaccination will crush 50% of the paper-based economies.
The groups and societies: Across the world, for the first time in 100 years the big and small societies of the world are forced into isolation, long enough to think hard, ponder and posture, altering lifestyle mode and testing their psyche about their immediate and far-away surroundings. Extreme boredom took each one many times over to their private caves of silent spaces where like finishing a forty-day and forty-night minimum requirement for deeper thinking of sorts became a valuable gift of global age understanding, provided under forced isolation by Covid-19.
Historians will recognize this as a global mind shift era of this century, affecting the five billion connected alpha dreamers who will change the world because they a little bit more connected to diversity, tolerance, and see global issues clearly. The cruelty of Covid measured in millions of body bags and treacherous loss of life remembered in eternity; the survivors from trenches, drenched in waist-high filth for years during the First World War crawled out as philosophers of time on peace and harmonious living. There will be dramatic and noticeable changes in all big and small societies and cultural groups around the world and 50% may completely change their thinking but more in a humankind way and for common good.
A new dawn emerges, discovering hidden and untapped entrepreneurialism of some 500 million small medium enterprises of the world and a billion new entrepreneurs on the march. Where are you standing, on what fronts, with what abundance and voids, what options and what possible moves and most importantly, what you need? Economic revolution demands revolutionary action on productive-performances.
Relentless in pursuit and authoritative with action, Expothon is tabling a very special and bold agenda and starting a high-level global series of virtual events starting early 2021. Going forward, the virtualization of the national economies will boost vertical sectors to new heights, globalization creates new links to global exportability, therefore, grassroots prosperity and upskilled performance must adjust to absorb the new loads.
The big change, the new reset, these are not easy tasks, but a good dialogue will start the wheels in the right direction. Open your hidden talents, help mobilize local midsize business economies, identify the missing links and raise collaborative awareness, the rest is easy.
The Economy Against the Tide
The world evidently grappled with the effects of the Covid pandemic in 2020 and continues to wedge forward against the odds to survive and stay afloat. The major economies contracted as the global boards pinned records after records in economic depreciation, monetary devaluation and corporate deterioration. However, whilst the pandemic pushed the metaphorical brake over the developed and developing economies alike, and simultaneously nudged the least developed into desperation, China posted surprisingly positive growth figures as it bid adios to the yesteryear. While anything remotely lucrative seems like a farce nowadays and although the relatively booming Chinese economy seems superficial at the first glance, a detailed analysis dissects the tenets of the trade that have set the People’s Republic apart from the struggling world.
China stands as the figurative ‘Ground Zero’ of the Coronavirus pandemic; reporting the earliest emergence of the virus in the ultimate month of 2019. China later went on to have a gloomy start to the new year; struggling to deal with the strange occurrences, rising death toll and having no answer to the surging uncertainty. The new year celebrations were cancelled, holidays extended and even corporate giants like Toyota and Apple were resorted to immediate closure across the Mainland. The year expected to be of expansion turned polar as the world started to isolate the country to contain the virus; turning exports to the lowest levels over decades of preceding economic flourish.
However, while many global experts predicted the downfall of China; extrapolated by the dismal figures of the first few months of 2020, China quickly recovered and surpassed expectations in both containing the virus within the country and stabilising the tattering economy. The main contender and outright rival of China, however, faced the music in the most ironic way possible. Whilst the United States pillared on the trade war between the two since before the Covid pandemic, Mr. Trump left no stones unturned in maligning China for spreading the virus around the globe; deliberately and in an attempt to exponentiate its accession to power over US. The US economy faced the brunt of the pandemic rather expectantly since the time was wasted on hurling accusations instead of proactively adopting protective measures beforehand. While US is currently the worst affected country around the globe, its economy is no different than the mounding death toll on charts each day.
The US economy contracted on record levels and even itsworld-renowned indexes like DJI and S&P500 posted negative rallies; first since the Great Depression of 1929. Although the economic damage to the US has been cushioned, now twice, by heavily strategized monitory polices of the FED and colossal fiscal stimulus, the world superpower is showing signs of weakness as it deals with over 250,000 fresh cases each day yet can’t function to facilitate the 14 million and counting Americans facing unemployment for months and seeking benefits, taking the national bill to unprecedented heights.
Even compared to the regional counterparts, China stands out in much more than just the economic stability. Europe currently deals with a detrimental surge of the virus-variants while simultaneously accommodating the challenging deals across the borders in the wake of Brexit. The United Kingdom faces contradictions over new trade policies and procedures; not just with EU but with its very own states like Northern Ireland. The monetary rates now touch zero with a possibility of further plunge into the negative territory as London shivers with fatal blows of the highly infectious variant of Covid and the nation facing the second country-wide lockdown as hospitals run at full capacity.
Meanwhile, EU falters with the economic fiasco even under the improving financial conditions and finally grabbing an agreement on the year-in-year-out negotiations of the Silk Road Initiative. The distinction, however, is clear as while Germany, Europe’s most powerful economy, wrestles with a catastrophic recession, China completely avoided recession throughout the year 2020. While Germany looms into negative growth rates, China posted a steep 6.5% growth in the last quarter (Oct-Dec); a cumulative growth of 2.3% in 2020. A stark opposite of the slump caused by Covid restrictions that initially pulled China’s economy down by 6.8% in the first quarter compared to 2019.
While China has been gauged as “The only major economy to quickly recover from the pandemic and find the normal course of business operation”, the recovery has been uneven over multiple sectors of the domestic industry. The boom in the economy has been celebrated and attributed to the growing optimism of Chinese investors in the relentless recovery of the economy. The Shanghai stock market was recently pulled up by 1% even under the rippling conditions of the global economy. However, while the consumer electronics sector has enjoyed the waves pushed by the ‘stay at home’ mottos under the lockdown, service businesses like hotels and restaurants have faced a crunch which has eventually carried forward to the blue-collar workers in China. While the factories in the Mainland have turned into an overdrive to fill in the boom of exports since many countries face a manufacturing break, the exporters to the poor countries are dealing with the devastation alike to their clients. While magnates like Jack Ma have made a fortune, the recent graduates are struggling to find new jobs.
Now, with the resurgence of the virus, the fear in lacing the country again. The recent tally has jumped up to 769 new cases whilst reporting first death in over six months. However, the health officials have deemed the sporadic spread as ‘very, very small’. Ultimately, China came about to be a tough nut to crack, analytically due to its effective centralised strategies in dealing with the pandemic followed by aggressive policy making; focusing on the advanced manufacturing industries to stay proximate to core competencies whilst simultaneously maintaining a free market structure in other areas of the economy, setting a path for a predicted average 5.7% growth until 2025. Thus, paving China’s way to attain the coveted title of ‘World Superpower’ and surpassing US by 2028.
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