Qatar’s exit from OPEC will have ‘no major impact’ on oil prices

A liquid natural gas tanker being loaded in northern Qatar. The Arab nation, which has been under a trade embargo by a group of Arab states, announced on Monday that it would switch its focus to gas production. (AP Photo)
Updated 04 December 2018
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Qatar’s exit from OPEC will have ‘no major impact’ on oil prices

  • Qatar produces around 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day compared with the near 10 million barrels a day produced by Saudi Arabia
  • Qatar is the 11th-largest producer out of 15 members in OPEC and accounts for less than 2 percent of the oil group’s output

LONDON: Qatar’s decision to exit OPEC next month is unlikely to have a significant impact on the oil group’s structure or on short-term oil prices, according to analysts.
The Gulf country announced on Monday it would leave OPEC from Jan. 1 2019. It plans to attend the next meeting of the group due to take place in Vienna on Dec. 6.
The move is viewed as “symbolic” and reflects deepening regional divisions, market commentators said. Qatar has been under a trade embargo imposed by a Saudi Arabia-led group of Arab states since last June, following accusations that the country was fueling regional instability and funding terrorism.
“Qatar’s decision to exit OPEC will have no major impact on the cartel’s decision-making process, oil output or oil prices in the short term,” said Abhishek Kumar, senior energy analyst at Interfax Energy in London.
“Qatar is one of OPEC’s smallest oil producers, and its upstream strategy has revolved around natural gas production,” he said.

 

Qatar produces around 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day compared with the near 10 million barrels a day produced by Saudi Arabia, according to data from 2017. Qatar is the 11th-largest producer out of 15 members in OPEC and accounts for less than 2 percent of the oil group’s output.
“The move is highly symbolic — Qatar has been a member of OPEC since 1961. But we doubt that it will have a major bearing on global energy markets,” read a note from Jason Tuvey, senior emerging markets economist at Capital Economics on Monday.
Rejecting suggestions the decision was politically motivated, Qatar’s energy ministry said on Monday that it wanted to focus more on gas production.
“In the next few months we will be announcing several major projects. Our goal in this strategy was to remain focused on our core business and activities to enhance Qatar’s international standing as the world’s leading natural gas producer,” the ministry said.
Analysts said that the departure could have implications for regional politics. “Although Qatar has dismissed suggestions that its exit from OPEC was driven by geopolitics, the move could deepen tensions in the Middle East,” said Kumar.
“Qatar leaving OPEC can be seen as Saudis consolidating their influence within the cartel. Meanwhile, Iran’s economy is set to face further headwinds because of sanctions imposed by the US, which has the potential to ratchet up tensions in the Middle East,” he said.
Ehsan Khoman, head of MENA research and strategy at MUFG, based in Dubai, questioned the timing of the exit and suggested Qatar might look to increase oil production just as the oil cartel is due to cut production.
“More importantly is the timing of Qatar’s withdrawal — just three days before OPEC meets in Vienna to finalize the production cuts. This suggests that Qatar may have an agenda to raise production while others in OPEC are curbing production, although Qatar’s oil output has been steady in recent years with limited prospects of increases — given maturing fields,” he said in a research note.
OPEC is due to announce cuts to oil production this week in Vienna in an effort to stabilize the market and counter a potential glut in supply. This could push up Brent oil prices to the mid-$60 per barrel level, Khoman said.
Qatar’s economy has been fairly resilient in the face of the embargo, said analysts. “The economy has defied the expectations of some analysts that the blockade would lead to recession,” said Tuvey.

FASTFACTS

Qatar has been a member of OPEC since 1961.


To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

Updated 42 min 8 sec ago
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To fight off unemployment, Iraqi youth plant start-up seeds

  • Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups
  • Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector

BAGHDAD: Stuck between an endless waitlist for a government job and a frail private sector, Iraqi entrepreneurs are taking on staggering unemployment by establishing their own start-ups.
The first murmurs of this creative spirit were felt in 2013, but the Daesh group’s sweep across a third of the country the following year put many projects on hold.
Now, with Daesh defeated, co-working spaces and incubators are flourishing in a country whose unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent but whose public sector is too bloated to hire.
Many self-starters begin their journey at an aptly named glass building in central Baghdad: The Station.
There, they sip on coffee, peruse floor-to-ceiling bookshelves for ideas and grab a seat at clusters of desks where other stylish Iraqis click away at their laptops.
“We’re trying to create a new generation with a different state of mind,” said executive director Haidar Hamzoz.
“We want to tell youth that they can start their own project, achieve their dreams and not just be happy in a government job they didn’t even want,” he said.
Youth make up around 60 percent of Iraq’s nearly 40 million people.
After graduating from university, many spend years waiting to be appointed to a job in the government, Iraq’s biggest employer.
Four out of five jobs created in Iraq in recent years are in the public sector, according to the World Bank.
And in its 2019 budget, the government proposed $52 billion in salaries, pensions, and social security for its workers — a 15 percent jump from 2018 and more than half the total budget.
But with graduates entering the workforce faster than jobs are created, many still wait indefinitely for work.
Among youth, 17 percent of men and a whopping 27 percent of women are unemployed, the World Bank says.
When Daesh declared Mosul its seat of power in Iraq back in 2014, resident Saleh Mahmud was forced to shutter the city’s incubator for would-be entrepreneurs.
With Mosul now cautiously rebuilding after the militants were ousted in 2017, Mahmud is back in business.
“Around 600-700 youth have already passed by Mosul Space” to attend a seminar or seek out resources as they start their own ventures, said the 23-year-old.
He was inspired after watching fellow Mosul University graduates hopelessly “try to hunt down a connection to get a job in the public sphere.”
“A university education isn’t something that gets you a fulfilling job,” he said.
Another start-up, Dakkakena, is capitalizing on Mosul’s rebuilding spirit, too.
The online shopping service delivers a lorry-full of home goods every day to at least a dozen families refurnishing after the war.
“On the web, we can sell things for cheaper than stores because we have fewer costs, like no showrooms,” said founder Yussef Al-Noaime, 27.
Noaime fled Daesh to the Netherlands, where he was introduced to e-commerce. When he returned home, the computer engineer partnered with another local to found their venture.
A similar service, Miswag, was set-up in the capital Baghdad in 2014 and last year reported hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits.
On an autumn day, some 70 young Iraqi innovators converged for a three-day workshop in Baghdad on founding start-ups.
They flitted among round tables planning projects, their Arabic conversations sprinkled with English terms.
“What we’re doing is showing youth what entrepreneurship is — not necessarily so they succeed, but so they at least try,” said organizer Ibrahim Al-Zarari.
He said attendees should understand two things: first, that the public sector is saturated. And second, that oil isn’t the only resource on which Iraq — OPEC’s second-largest producer — should capitalize.
More than 65 percent of Iraq’s GDP and nearly 90 percent of state revenues hail from the oil sector. Many youths turn to it for work, but it only employs one percent of the workforce.
Widespread corruption and bureaucracy also weaken Iraq’s appeal for private investors. The World Bank ranks it 168th out of 190 for states with a good business environment.
Under current legislation, private sector employees are not offered the same labor protections or social benefits as those in the public sector.
And Iraq’s stuttering banking industry appears too cautious to dive in, said Tamara Raad, 26, who researches start-ups.
“The banks have a role to play. They must make loans without interest and help young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Banks or no banks, Mahmud in Mosul is already planning how he’ll grow his business in 2019.
“We will open a new, larger space for new gatherings,” he said excitedly, to bring together returning designers, developers and other inventors.