The international price of oil not only fell by 66% in the first quarter of this year, already under the shadow of the coronavirus, but in this month it continued to fall until this Monday when the barrel of US WTI crude oil reached below zero (-37.63 dollars), a figure never before recorded. The price of gas indexed to the cost of fuel, but the relationship between rates is not direct, although it is real. It is a weighted-average ratio, and we will only see this reduction in oil prices in three months with Argentina and six months with Brazil. A cushion was created so that both upward and downward fluctuations attenuated. Due to the decrease in volumes because of the emergency, the price will be lower in the second semester.
The WTI international oil price closed Monday at $-38 a barrel for the first time in its history. Analysts explain that these are contracts for delivery in May and that international prices for delivery in June will be better. The benchmark Brent oil price in Europe closed at $26.10 a barrel. The cost of oil will impact only at the end of the second quarter of 2020 in the income from Bolivian gas exports that indexed to WTI. The Government states that it is preparing a plan to face this challenge and that it will cover the gaps through regulations, credits and some measures that will allow, in the medium term, to balance the State General Budget issue.
Due to the situation, Banco Mercantil Santa Cruz carries out more than 95% of its banking operations digitally, generating an average of more than 100,000 transactions per day. The most common banking operations are balance enquiries, transfers between accounts and to other accounts and deposits at ATMs. The most used channel is the cell phone (Mobile Banking), to which customers can now subscribe with a simple call to the Bank's consultation centre. Transactions through the Mobile Application grew from 45% to 65% of total operations, generating a daily average of almost 70,000 transactions.
External notes maturing in 2028 dropped by nearly 1 cent to 80.9 cents per dollar on Monday, its biggest drop in two weeks, as oil plummeted to a negative $37.68 per barrel, something never before seen. The nation's credit rating was also reduced Friday by S&P Global Ratings, which offset any optimism about the approval of IMF aid funds. S&P expects lower energy prices to push the government deficit to more than 8% of GDP by 2020, compared to 6.9% in 2019, and downgraded Bolivia's credit rating from BB- to B+.
Credits of up to 300,000 dollars per restaurant, elimination of taxes for one year and flexibility in labour matters are some of the requests made by the National Chamber of Gastronomic Entrepreneurs of the country to the Government, as urgent measures to recover from the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. If we do not have government support, with actions in line with the reality of the sector and incentive policies, we will be witnessing a scenario where up to 40 per cent of the formal companies in our sector throughout Bolivia will be closed.