The crude oil prices have finally touched $100 per barrel – a psychological barrier and a statistical inanity. The composition of Indian crude basket represents average of Oman & Dubai for sour grades and Brent (dated) for sweet grade in the ratio of 59.8:40.2 since April 2006. The Indian crude basket has touched a high of over $92 in the new year, but is yet to hit the three-figure mark.
India imports about 76 per cent of its crude oil requirements which amounts to an oil import bill of around $50 billion every year. India’s crude oil import bill rose by 3.48% in rupee terms and 16.67% in dollar terms during the first half of the current fiscal year. The appreciation in rupee value by 12.3% this year, the most since at least 1974, has helped partially offset the sharp rise in global oil prices. As per the Government, every one rupee appreciation in the exchange rate of Indian rupee against US dollar will help reduction in the net oil import bill by around Rs 3950 crore. It should help that the rupee is forecast to advance 3.4 percent next year to 38 per dollar by the end of December, according to the median estimate of 22 strategists surveyed by Bloomberg News.
CNBC-TV18 believes that at current rates, petroleum has an under recovery of nearly Rs 9.5 per litre, diesel Rs 11.3 per litre, LPG Rs 380 per cylinder, and kerosene Rs 21 per litre. However, Indian Express estimates the loss to marketing companies for petrol at Rs 8.74 a litre, diesel at Rs 9.92 per litre, kerosene Rs 20.53 a litre and LPG at Rs 256.35 per cylinder.
As per the government policy of 2003, the subsidy component by the government has remained constant since 2004-05 at Rs 22.58 per per LPG cylinder and Rs 0.82 per litre of kerosene. The balance subsidy is provided by the marketing companies from their own pockets.
The gross under-recoveries in 2006-07 by the three oil marketing companies – IOC, BPC and HPC – were Rs 28584 crore for kerosene and LPG, and Rs 20803 crore for petrol and diesel. The estimated under recoveries by oil marketing companies during April- September 2007 have been Rs13814 crores on kerosene and LPG, and Rs 12549 crore on petrol and diesel. If current price trends hold, the under-recoveries to the marketing companies are estimated to be around Rs 70,000 crore this financial year — around o.75% of India’s GDP. This has to be shared between the three marketing companies, the upstream companies – ONGC, Oil India and GAIL – and the government. The upstream oil companies have already contributed Rs 8788 crore for the period April- September 2007 to partially compensate these under-recoveries by the oil marketing companies. The contribution by the upstream companies in 2006-07 was Rs 20507 crore and is likely to rise by another 5000 crore this year.
In 2006-07, the government issued oil bonds worth Rs 24,121 crore to marketing companies for the four products, while it had issued oil bonds worth Rs.11,500 crore in 2005-06 for losses in marketing LPG and kerosene. The government has decided to issue bonds worth Rs 23,457 crores this year, which is not likely to meet the estimated deficits of the marketing companies.
If additional bonds are not issued by the government this year, the deficit can only be met by increasing the domestic prices of the products. The last time the domestic prices of petrol and diesel were raised was in June 2006. The prices of petrol and diesel were revised downwards twice afterwards, in November 2006 and in February 2007.
Domestic pricing continues to be a politically sensitive topic, with a broad consensus across the political spectrum to stall any upward revision of prices. There is a Group of ministers, chaired by Pranab Mukherjee, to suggest an alternative model for pricing of domestic products. As with the Indo-US nuclear deal, the left and the right are both opposed to any hike in prices of domestic petroleum products. The government is also worried about the inflationary impact of higher domestic prices of petroleum products. A cut in the customs duty on the crude oil and in the excise duty in petrol and diesel by the government is likely to keep the prices suppressed for some more time.
The subsidies, whether direct and transparent by the government or indirect as in tax cuts, oil bonds and compensation by government owned upstream companies, are a drain on the resources of the government. The losses to the exchequer can only be reduced when the consumer pays the right price for the product.
Note – Reuters has an interesting factbox summarising the oil subsidies by various Asian countries, including India and China.