With Wall Street shops like Goldman Sachs (GS) and government officials in Venezuela signaling oil could go to the mid-$20 per barrel range next year, analysts at places like RBC Capital Markets have been warning that chronically low oil prices plunging towards seven-year lows means increasing social chaos in countries on the edge—including those battling ISIS.
Five countries are high on the radar screen for societal risks from low oil prices, which RBC Capital Markets has labeled the “Fragile Five.” They are Algeria, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria, and Venezuela. ISIS operatives are believed to be in most of these countries.
The wealthier Gulf State governments can adapt to low oil prices by borrowing in the bond market or raising taxes and cutting government spending, though the latter risks more social unrest. Already, the United Arab Emirates pulled fuel subsidies and is mulling corporate and sales taxes. Still, OPEC member countries have seen their group’s revenues drop by nearly $500 billion in the past year, as oil has plunged more than 40%.