Kazakh growth seen falling rapidly at oil price below $80/b in 2015

By bne IntelliNews November 28, 2014

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Oil-dependent Kazakhstan will see a "fairly rapid" fall in GDP growth in 2015 should the price of crude fall below $80 per barrel in 2015, according to Moscow-based investment bank Renaissance Capital.

In Kazakhstan, the share of energy in total exports is very high, standing at more than four-fifths of total exports in 2013 ($64.6bn out of a total $84.7bn), the bank said in a research note. As a result, the country's economic growth prospects depend heavily on the global price of oil, which in turn has a significant impact on the movements of the national currency, the tenge.

"We would expect to see a fairly rapid decline in GDP growth at each price point down to $80/bl," the bank said. "We assume that, close to this point, the National Bank of Kazakhstan would be likely to devalue the currency by 15.5% (to KZT220/$), which we believe would alleviate the negative external shock, supporting the profitability of export industries, constraining imports and providing a boost to some domestic-oriented industries."

The bank forecasts that with oil at $80/b Kazakhstan's GDP would grow by 2.9%, slightly lower than the 3.3% growth if the average price of oil stays at $90/b. In the worser-case scenarios of oil at $60/b and $50/b, the country's GDP growth is expected at 0% and -1.4% respectively.

At the same time, Renaissance Capital admits it is hard to foresee development scenarios for the Kazakh economy, because the government has a "good track record" in its responses to similar shocks in the past and the central bank's tight control of the exchange rate. In response to the financial crisis that hit the country in 2008, the Kazakh government adopted proactive anti-crisis measures, spending the equivalent of 10% GDP from the National Oil Fund on these measures and devaluing the currency by a quarter in February 2009.

Anticipating lower oil-price scenarios after the price of Brent neared the $80/b mark, in October the government redrafted the 2014 budget and cut its GDP growth forecast from 5-6% to 4.3% in 2014 due to lower demand for its exports in Russia and China. However, it kept the forecasted oil price at $95 per barrel in the 2014 budget. On November 28, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev adopted the central budget for 2015-2017 based on the oil price of $80/b in 2015 and $90/b in 2016 and 2017. The budget envisages economic growth of 4.5% in 2015, 5.3% in 2016 and 6.7% in 2017.

Earlier in November, in a state-of-the-nation address the president announced that up to $3bn would be withdrawn additionally from the National Fund annually in 2015-2017 in order to "ensure stable socioeconomic development and protect the economy from external troubles," because the situation in the global economy had prevented the country from "achieving set goals without additional financial resources."

The 2015-2017 budget guarantees a transfer of KZT1.702tn ($9.4bn) annually over the next three years. According to law, the government can dip into the National Fund for additional money as long as the fund's assets do not fall below 30% of GDP. According to the finance ministry's report on the fund's performance, the fund stood at KZT16.634tn ($91.9bn) as of November 1, including $76.8bn in hard currency. Kazakhstan's GDP is expected to total KZT41tn ($226.5bn) in 2014 and KZT43.7tn ($241.4bn) in 2015. The hard-currency assets of the National Fund, which accumulates money raised from the extractive sectors, privatisation of state-owned assets and sale of farmland, are forecast to grow from $97.7bn in 2015 to $115.6bn in 2017 (34.2% of forecast GDP).

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