Opening address to the 152nd (Ordinary) Meeting of the OPEC Conference

No 3/2009
Vienna, Austria
15 Mar 2009

by HE Eng. José Maria Botelho de Vasconcelos, Minister of Petroleum of Angola and President of the Conference.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour for me to hold the Presidency of the Conference of this very important Organization, which my country, Angola, was privileged to join two years ago.

In opening the 152nd Meeting of the Conference, I should like, on behalf of Your Excellencies, to welcome His Excellency Sheikh Ahmad Al-Abdullah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, the Minister of Oil of the State of Kuwait, who is attending the Conference for the first time as the Head of his country’s Delegation.

Let me also extend a special welcome to His Excellency Dr Rilwanu Lukman, the Minister of Petroleum Resources of Nigeria. Dr Lukman is returning to the Conference as Head of his country’s Delegation, having filled this role on many occasions since 1986, including being OPEC Conference President. He also served with distinction as the OPEC Secretary General from 1995 to 2000.

Also, I should like to thank their predecessors — HE Eng Mohammed A Al-Aleem for Kuwait and HE Odein Ajumogobia (SAN) for Nigeria — for their contributions to previous Meetings of our Conference and to wish them well in the future.

Once again, the Conference extends the hand of friendship to the esteemed Observers from non-OPEC oil-producing countries, who are attending this meeting. They are here at a very critical time for the oil industry, as it comes to terms with the grave situation in the world economy. And so let us greet His Excellency Igor Ivanovich Setchin, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia; His Excellency Natiq Aliyev, the Minister of Industry and Energy of Azerbaijan; His Excellency Engineer Shamel Hamdi, First Undersecretary, Ministry of Petroleum, Egypt, His Excellency Dr Aldo Flores, Director General of International Affairs, Mexico, and His Excellency Al-Zubair Ahmed Al-Hassan, Minister of Energy and Mining of Sudan. I am also pleased to welcome His Excellency Suleiman Al-Herbish, the Director-General of our sister Organization, the OPEC Fund for International Development, OFID.

Excellencies, it has been almost three months since the Conference last met, in Oran, Algeria. During that meeting, we took decisions aimed at checking the unprecedented downward pressure that was being exerted on oil prices. That pressure had seen prices fall by more than US $90 per barrel since the middle of the year.

A high level of compliance with that decision has helped stabilize oil prices, although these are still at low levels. However, this has come at a time when many other leading sectors of the global economy have continued to weaken, sometimes dramatically.

Without any doubt, we are living in exceptional times. Long-established practices and procedures in the world’s financial sector are breaking down. On top of this, there is the major downturn in the real economy, intensified by the financial crisis. Despite the stringent efforts of authorities from around the world to handle this major crisis, the situation is still very fluid and the final outcome unclear.

All this is having a direct impact on the oil industry. It affects everything from day-to-day operations to longer-term investment decisions. It goes right along the supply chain. Already, there have been many cutbacks, cancelled projects and job losses in our industry.

The outlook for oil demand in the coming months — and longer — concerns all of us in the industry. Crude oil prices are at levels that do not support sound investment strategies for the future. If this continues for much longer, the boom/bust cycles will continue for years to come. We would all suffer, if this happened — producers and consumers alike.

At our meeting today, we shall be looking closely at the oil outlook for the coming quarters and beyond. Our objective, as always, is to act in a way that is in the best interests of the market, both for today and for the future and to the benefit of all parties. We shall aim to secure a price level that will support investment in the industry. That is the only way future demand increases can be met in a timely and adequate manner. At nearly 50 years old, our Organization has the wisdom and experience to handle challenging times, such as these.

As we have always maintained, the responsibility for ensuring stability in the oil market is a collective one involving all producers — OPEC and non-OPEC alike — as well as consumers. OPEC must not be expected to shoulder the burden alone.

Finally, Excellencies, as you know, the 4th OPEC International Seminar will open in Vienna on Wednesday. Together with other top decision-makers and experts, we shall be looking at the wide-ranging challenges facing the world energy industry. We expect to receive many valuable insights at this important two-day event, and I very much look forward to taking part in it.

It is now my honour to invite His Excellency Igor Ivanovich Setchin, the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, to deliver his remarks.

May I now call on His Excellency Natiq Aliyev, the Minister of Industry and Energy of Azerbaijan, to take the floor.

Your Excellency Engineer Shamel Hamdi, First Undersecretary, Ministry of Petroleum, Egypt.

Your Excellency, Dr Aldo Flores, Director General of International Affairs, Mexico, the floor is yours, please.

His Excellency Al-Zubayr Ahmad Hassan, Minister of Energy and Mining of Sudan.

It is my pleasure to invite His Excellency Suleiman Jaser Al-Herbish, the Director General of the OPEC Fund for International Development, OFID.

Thank you, Excellencies, for your words of encouragement. Let us now proceed with today’s meeting.

Thank you.