BAGHDAD – Iraq’s Oil Ministry said Tuesday that crude exports averaged 3.225 million barrels a day in February, far below levels planned to provide the nation with badly needed cash for ongoing military operations against Islamic State extremists.
Last month exports grossed about $2.2 billion, based on an average price of about $23 per barrel, ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said in a statement. Iraq’s 2016 budget is based on an expected price of $45 per barrel with a daily export capacity of 3.6 million.
January’s daily exports averaged 3.283 million barrels, bringing that month’s revenues to $2.261 billion.
The figures do not include oil being independently exported from Iraq’s self-ruled northern Kurdish region since mid-2015, preventing the government from reaping revenues of nearly 600,000 barrels a day.
Iraq holds the world’s fourth largest oil reserves, some 143.1 billion barrels, and oil revenues make up nearly 95 per cent of its budget. But like other oil-reliant countries, Iraq’s economy has been severely hit by plummeting oil prices since 2014.
This year’s budget stands at nearly 106 trillion Iraqi dinars, or about $89.7 billion. It runs with a deficit of over 24 trillion dinars (about $20.5 billion) that are planned to be relieved through loans from local and international lenders.
In the summer of 2014, Iraq was plunged into its worst crisis in the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. troops at the end of 2011. The Islamic State group — which emerged out of al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq — blitzed across vast swaths of Iraqi territory, including the country’s second largest city, Mosul, and captured nearly a third of Iraq.
Iraq introduced austerity measures earlier this year — eliminating government posts, merging some ministries, halting spending on construction projects and imposing new taxes to pay for civil servants and fund its military.