Saudi GDP II : Productivity & Capital Stock

In my last post I discussed Saudi’s simple GDP dynamics. Yet we did not discuss anything other than oil fluctuations and its relationship with growth rate of GDP and the importance of looking at growth rather than levels of GDP. Nor did we consider the important distinction between nominal and real GDP. Where real GDP is adjusted for inflation. In this post we do. We also make some adjustments to our GDP variable, looking closely at GDP per person to give us a clearer picture about the well-being of individuals. Below is the inflation adjusted gross domestic product for Saudi Arabia from 1970-2014.Rplot05.png

Factors of production

Playing around with more R and some data I provide some interesting visuals that asks important questions.  Before we do that, we need to refresh our memory about a certain element that constitutes the production process in a country. When talking about an economy’s output of goods and services, it is agreed that it depends on its quantity of inputs. These inputs are called the factors of production. An economy’s ability to turn these factors/inputs into output is represented by a production function.

The two most important inputs in production are capital and labor. Capital refers to the set of tools/machines/equipment that workers use, and Labor is the time people spend working. Another important element exists in the production process is the Total Factor Productivity (TFP). TFP is the portion of output that is not explained by the amount of input used in production. It determines how efficient inputs are utilized in production. The graphic below illustrates the process of converting inputs into outputs.

prod

Consider three economies, that have the same level of inputs 100 Labor and 100 Capital, but they differ in productivity. The table below shows how TFP plays a role on output. Country A has a TFP of 1 and correspondingly its output is 10,000. Country B has a TFP of 1.2, suggesting it can convert its inputs more effectively and can produce 2,000 more output than country A. Country C has a TFP of 1.6 and therefore is the most efficient country that yields the highest output.

prod2

Total Factor Productivity (TFP)

Now that we have a solid introduction to these factors let us consider again the Saudi case. Using the Federal Reserve data of St. Louis that acquired the TFP data on Saudi Arabia from the “Next generation of the Penn World tables” .(TFP is indexed to USA =1). We plot the Productivity level on the left, and Productivity change on the right, of Saudi Arabia against time (1970-2014).TFP

Now, let’s plot the productivity change on top of Real GDP change. Consider the graph below, we can see below that Real GDP moves close with productivity. The rough estimated correlation is 0.6.Rplot03

Plotting the GDP per person against TFP (Below). We see that as productivity goes up we expect to see higher GDP per person. In other words, the more productive Saudis are, the more incomes they will earn.RGDP Per capita with TFP

Capital Stock 

Let us shift our focus to another aspect of the production function, Capital stock for Saudi Arabia. The capital stock is simply the amount of capital stock in Saudi Arabia across time. Consider the left graph that depicts capital stock levels and right graph capital stock change.

Capital stockCapital stock has been increasing since the 70s with the similar story of the dip in the 80’s, that followed a continuous rise. Now let us examine how changes in capital stock goes with output or Real GDP. Below we plot real GDP per person against change in capital stock. We see a somewhat linear relationship; the estimated correlation coefficient is 0.62.new

These visuals tells us that our production function story is relatively true, that is increases in capital and productivity are associated with higher incomes for people. We will refrain from discussing the labor input for another post.

To conclude

Let us see how it all adds up together. Below we plot real GDP per person on top of TFP (left graph).We see that there has been a close association from 1971-2000: the correlation between TFP and Real GDP per person is 0.95 (1971-2000).

lastone

This association departs in 2000, we see that after 2000 productivity did not catch up with the rise in GDP. This tells us something about the structure of Saudi’s economy, which is a natural resource dependent country. We also plot to the right the change in capital stock on top of TFP, we see that up to 90’s there was a close association between changes in capital stock and TFP: from (1971-1990) the correlation coefficient  is 0.95. The departure of the associations entails an interesting story. Despite the rapid increase in capital stock, Saudi’s productivity has remained within [1.0-1.5] range. Whether that is normal standards or not we can clearly see that dynamics of production have changed.

 

 

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Understanding the Oil and Saudi Dilemma

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The Black Gold

Oil is undoubtedly the most important natural resource of the industrialized world, due to its vast functions for most technological, and manufacturing processes for many different sectors. Thus, its price plays a major role for most economies. Saudi Arabia, being blessed with such vast oil rich lands, accounted for 18.5% of total crude oil exports worldwide in 2014. It has been the most dominant player in the oil production market since the 1960’s; back then it co-created the organization of petroleum exporting countries (OPEC), a monopolistic cartel that united the five top oil producing countries –Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Venezuela. OPEC exploited its power to control the market and gain supernormal profits by limiting overall supply. By 1973, OPEC has become a 12 country band accounting for two-thirds of the world’s oil production; and by 2010, 79.6% of the world’s oil reserves was under OPEC member nations. In 2014, oil came crashing down, (as figure above shows), from an overall increase in supply, with weak demand especially from the Asian markets. These  realities wreaked the oil market causing it to fall from a peak of $115 in mid 2014 to a mere $30 in 2016. This has led to financial turmoil for OPEC countries. Not only are less affluent OPEC members such as Venezuela hurt by the lower oil prices, but even rich Gulf States, including Saudi Arabia.

 

An Oil Party

Shale oil, oil found within rock fragments, was discovered in the 20th century and was seen as a gold mine of oil. However, the technologies needed to extract it was not available and was too costly when it was. In 2009, horizontal drilling, a drilling process in which the well is turned horizontally at depth, bundled with hydraulic fracturing, using pressurized water and liquids to break rock fragments to extract oil and gas, have become cost and operationally efficient to be used assuming oil levels remain above $45. This led to an ocean of investment into shale oil fields and created a new key and major player in the oil market.

 

EXCEL
Saudi(Orange-line) increased production, while oil prices(Blue-line) was plummeting.

Saudi fights back

For Saudi Arabia, oil accounted for roughly 80% of its exports and thus, the so called “Black Gold” source of revenue for the country, has turned from being its greatest feat to its greatest threat. Moreover, Saudi Arabia’s strategy towards declining oil prices have been surprising. Referring to the graph above, unlike most of the other countries, Saudi Arabia, extracts oil at a price of $8 in comparison to the world average of $40.This cost-advantage has allowed Saudi to boost production levels to further drive prices down to drive out competitors while maintaining minimal profits, however not enough to maintain a balanced budget. We can observe a simple decision tree in the chart below to better understand the decision behind the strategy.

Decision Tree Saudi
The best decision was  Saudi to not cut its production to yield                                              [Increase Price and Gain Market Share]

Is the Oil party over?

The amount of Shale Oil Rigs have decreased by 70% since 2014 but production of existing rigs have increased and thus overall, production capacity has not fallen significantly. However, R&D into oil fields have ceased to exist with many firms selling exploration lands at huge discounts. Moreover, Blackrock, the world’s largest asset management firm, has announced that if prices remain low in 2016, over 400 companies will declare bankruptcy and all other firms will have to take loans and lay off a large chunk of their workforce.  If oil companies default on their loans, banks get affected,  causing a domino effect throughout the economies of the world.

Competitors and the world have been enduring much more than Saudi and OPEC have expected. This has caused oil economies (OPEC) to use their foreign assets (figure below for Saudi’s NFA) to fund their budget deficits which for Saudi was at 15% in 2015. Other examples of large downfalls is the Russian Rubble depreciating by 70% since 2014 and Venezuela’s inflation reaching 140% in 2015.

SAUDI net foriegn assets

 

Time to diversify?

Oil-rich countries are battling to reform their countries, lowering oil dependency. Saudi Arabia is implementing policies under the new King to diversify the economy, and promote growth of the private sector. The Finance Minister Ibrahim Al Assaf stated on national television during an interview, that the ministry is willing to guarantee bank loans on small and mid-sized businesses, also known as SME’s. In response to a fearful market where banks might be hesitant to lend. By easing credit, young Saudi entrepreneurs will be able to start new businesses and grow current businesses at a faster rate than it normally would.

Furthermore, another initiative that Saudi is considering to implement is to privatize some of the government-owned entities, such as electric companies, airlines, and others. The most controversial privatization proposition, that created a thrill in markets, is the possibility that Saudi might initiate an IPO for Aramco, considered to be the most valuable company in the world, it aims to generate an excessive amount capital.

Saudi Arabia’s oil reign will definitely be marked in history as one of the major and most successful players in the oil market. However, times have changed as technological advances in clean, and renewable energy  develops, along with breakthrough in innovative oil extraction methods. Saudi Arabia must break the dependency on oil, and diversify its economy. To make it less susceptible to volatile oil prices, so it can preserve safety and stability for generations to come.