Increasing instability in already-fragile oil producing countries such as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Russia, and Venezuela fueled by low oil prices tops a British insurer’s list of the political risks facing emerging market investors.
This year will be particularly challenging for oil producing-countries in the Middle East and Africa, Aon Plc says in its annual survey of political risk in emerging markets. Several of those countries already have “very high” or “high” risk ratings, according to the survey.
Even countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco that should see a boost from the oil price drop face countervailing security risks from power vacuums in Iraq, Libya, and Syria, Aon predicts.
“The last 12 months have just been catastrophic country-risk-wise,” Curtis Ingram, vice president of Aon’s political-risk practice, told Bloomberg. It’s almost like “a vacuum has opened up and a lot of bad actors have moved in,” in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, Nigeria, Iraq, and elsewhere.
Aon assesses risks in developing countries associated with exchange transfer, sovereign non-payment, political interference, supply chain disruption, legal and regulatory regimes, political violence, ease of doing business, banking sector vulnerability, and governments’ capability to provide fiscal stimulus.
Only seven countries were upgraded this year — Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Georgia, Lao PDR, Panama, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Twelve countries were downgraded, including Libya, Haiti, Pakistan, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, and Uganda.
According to Aon, Russia’s instability will continue to cast an economic shadow over the countries of the former Soviet Union, particularly for Russia’s larger regional trading partners such as Belarus and Kazakhstan. Researchers see “a possible frozen conflict and continued sanctions” in Ukraine that is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.
Aon also warns that the effectiveness of extremist groups in the Middle East and Africa will be amplified in afflicted countries that lack the resilience to absorb economic shocks. Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in Nigeria, are top threats to regional stability, the insurer said.