Updated 01 May 2017


• The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC producers that have agreed to cut production reached 98 percent “conformity” with their targets in March, versus 94 percent in February, the oil producers’ group said in a statement on its website on April 28. The next joint OPEC and non-OPEC monitoring committee is to meet in Vienna on May 24, a day before the OPEC ministerial meeting.

• Iraq’s oil production is nearing the plateau of 5 million barrels per day (bpd) and the country will not stop investing in its oil industry even if crude prices reach $10 a barrel, Oil Minister Jabbar Al-Luaibi said at a summit in Paris on April 27. Iraq’s oil reserves have grown recently by 10 billion barrels and the country could add 15 billion in future, he said. On extending the production cuts deal, he told reporters: “I see there is a tendency for extension.”

• Iran deserves to increase its oil production “significantly,” Deputy Petroleum Minister Rokneddin Javadi said at the oil summit in Paris on April 27. Iran’s oil-production capacity is at 4 million bpd and it is targeting 5.7 million bpd of oil and condensate capacity, he said. The country expects to award its first oil and natural gas deals to international oil companies within a month, he said.

• The French oil company, Total, may sign a contract with Iran to develop the South Pars gas field before summer if it is allowed by international laws, its CEO Patrick Pouyanne told journalists at the International Oil Summit in Paris. The final investment decision on the project would come six months after the contract is signed because it takes time to launch tenders for suppliers, he said.

• Angola, an OPEC member, has been implementing the oil-output cuts “scrupulously” and it has lowered its total production of crude by 78,000 bpd, its Oil Minister Jose Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos said at the summit. Current oil prices are unsatisfactory and the fair oil price should be around $60 a barrel, he said. The West African nation is still planning to increase its capacity to 1.8 million bpd by 2020 as it has many marginal fields whose reserves are above 4 billion barrels, he said.

• The oil market is moving toward rebalancing, with the OPEC cuts since the start of the year having accelerated this process, Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser said at the summit in Paris. Oil demand will continue to grow at healthy levels for the foreseeable future and the idea of peak oil demand is as misleading as theories about peak oil supply, he said.

Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

Updated 49 min 31 sec ago

Palestinians in financial crisis after Israel, US moves

  • A Ramallah-based economics professor said the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel
  • Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian Authority faces a suffocating financial crisis after deep US aid cuts and an Israeli move to withhold tax transfers, sparking fears for the stability of the West Bank.
The authority, headed by President Mahmud Abbas, announced a package of emergency measures on March 10, including halving the salaries of many civil servants.
The United States has cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid in the last year, though only a fraction of that went directly to the PA.
The PA has decided to refuse what little US aid remains on offer for fear of civil suits under new legislation passed by Congress.
Israel has also announced it intends to deduct around $10 million a month in taxes it collects for the PA in a dispute over payments to the families of prisoners in Israeli jails.
In response, Abbas has refused to receive any funds at all, labelling the Israeli reductions theft.
That will leave his government with a monthly shortfall of around $190 million for the length of the crisis.
The money makes up more than 50 percent of the PA’s monthly revenues, with other funds coming from local taxes and foreign aid.

While the impact of the cuts is still being assessed, analysts fear it could affect the stability of the occupied West Bank.
“If the economic situation remains so difficult and the PA is unable to pay salaries and provide services, in addition to continuing (Israeli) settlement expansion it will lead to an explosion,” political analyst Jihad Harb said.
Abbas cut off relations with the US administration after President Donald Trump declared the disputed city of Jerusalem Israel’s capital in December 2017.
The right-wing Israeli government, strongly backed by the US, has since sought to squeeze Abbas.
After a deadly anti-Israeli attack last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would withhold $138 million (123 million euros) in Palestinian revenues over the course of a year.
Israel collects around $190 million a month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through its ports, and then transfers the money to the PA.
Israel said the amount it intended to withhold was equal to what is paid by the PA to the families of prisoners, or prisoners themselves, jailed for attacks on Israelis last year.
Many Palestinians view prisoners and those killed while carrying out attacks as heroes of the fight against Israeli occupation.
Israel says the payments encourage further violence.
Abbas recently accused Netanyahu’s government of causing a “crippling economic crisis in the Palestinian Authority.”
The PA also said in January it would refuse all further US government aid for fear of lawsuits under new US legislation targeting alleged support for “terrorism.”

Finance Minister Shukri Bishara announced earlier this month he had been forced to “adopt an emergency budget that includes restricted austerity measures.”
Government employees paid over 2,000 shekels ($555) will receive only half their salaries until further notice.
Prisoner payments would continue in full, Bishara added.
Nasser Abdel Karim, a Ramallah-based economics professor, told AFP the PA, and the Palestinian economy more generally, remain totally controlled by and reliant on Israel.
The PA undertook similar financial measures in 2012 when Israel withheld taxes over Palestinian efforts to gain international recognition at the United Nations.
Abdel Karim said such crises are “repeated and disappear according to the development of the relationship between the Palestinian Authority and Israel or the countries that support (the PA).”
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including now annexed east Jerusalem in the Six-Day War of 1967 and Abbas’s government has only limited autonomy in West Bank towns and cities.
“The problem is the lack of cash,” economic journalist Jafar Sadaqa told AFP.
He said that while the PA had faced financial crises before, “this time is different because it comes as a cumulative result of political decisions taken by the United States.”
Abbas appointed longtime ally Mohammad Shtayyeh as prime minister on March 10 to head a new government to oversee the crisis.
Abdel Karim believes the crisis could worsen after an Israeli general election next month “if a more right-wing Israeli government wins.”
Netanyahu’s outgoing government is already regarded as the most right-wing in Israel’s history but on April 9 parties even further to the right have a realistic chance of winning seats in parliament for the first time.
Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts have been at a standstill since 2014, when a drive for a deal by the administration of President Barack Obama collapsed in the face of persistent Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank.