Inauguration day and OPEC's brighter future

OPEC Bulletin Commentary April 2010

When the big day came, everything went as planned. But this came as no surprise, with the meticulous preparation that had been the hallmark of the success of the entire venture.

The inauguration of the OPEC Secretariat's new home in the heart of Vienna on March 17 was a memorable occasion for all those attending the special ceremony, which attracted top officials from the Organization, host country Austria and other international bodies based in the historic city.

It marked the culmination of a quest for a new headquarters building that had begun late last century, but had received its vital conclusive impetus from the arrival of Secretary General, Abdalla Salem El-Badri, in 2007, with the full support of the Federal Republic of Austria and the City of Vienna.

Under his guiding hand, the project took shape and was steered through to completion on November 30, 2009, when the staff moved in for their first day of work in the state-of-the-art premises tailored to the Secretariat's specific needs. El-Badri warmly praised the staff and associated outside parties for their hard work and dedication to the success of the venture.

The impact of the new premises on staff morale was immediate. There was the feel-good factor of having brand new, congenial surroundings. And there were the practical benefits of working in an environment better equipped to cope with the hectic demands of life in today's fast-paced, constantly evolving energy sector.

With enhanced morale comes enhanced performance - and the enhanced ability to meet the endless cascade of challenges that characterise the oil industry and related areas, such as sustainable development and environmental harmony.

Furthermore, the mid-March inauguration had an inherent symbolism, in taking place both at the start of a new decade and at an early stage of OPEC's 50th anniversary year.

This trilogy of circumstance is suggestive of reflection, the consolidation of basic principles, a willingness for change, a reassessment of corporate vision and a reaffirmation of solidarity, as well as renewed energy, drive and ambition for the future.

When El-Badri cut the ribbon in the red-carpeted lobby of the new building to conclude the inauguration ceremony, he was, by that very act, acknowledging the coalescence of these virtues and the responsibilities they instil in OPEC and its Member Countries, as the Secretariat settles into its day-to-day tasks in the new premises.

The commitments and responsibilities which OPEC and its Member Countries have undertaken over the past half-century remain as valid and as crucial today as they did in Baghdad on September 10-14, 1960. What is more, they have grown in number, diversified and intensified, in line with the evolution of the energy landscape in the years since.

Meanwhile, in the world at large, life goes on as usual. This is as true for the international oil market as it is for any other business sector, as was seen at the 156th Meeting of the Conference, which took place on the same day as the inauguration.

The Conference reminded us that serious threats to the oil market are still apparent at the present time, with mounting public debt in the most advanced economies, the possible tightening of fiscal and monetary policy, high unemployment, persistent global imbalances and rising protectionism. Closer to home, there is weak oil demand, while there is the possibility that rising non-OPEC supply may lead to a decline in the call for OPEC crude for the third successive year; indeed, this situation is likely to be compounded by persistently high OECD stock levels.*

In short, as we enter the new decade and as we celebrate our Golden Anniversary, the challenges in the oil market will not disappear. Instead, they remain as real as ever.

However, we now have a more congenial, effective base from which to face them with our Organization's time-honoured commitment to market order and stability, in support of sustained world economic growth and the fulfilment of a broader-based agenda, such as greater equality among nations and the eradication of poverty in a cleaner and safer world.

And we all welcome that.

* These and other important topical issues were to be discussed at the 12th International Energy Forum in Cancun, Mexico, at the end of March, and will be covered in next month's OPEC Bulletin.

This Commentary is taken from the April 2010 edition of the OPEC Bulletin, which can be downloaded free of charge in PDF format from the OPEC website.

OPEC Bulletin April 2010

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