Luanda hosts ‘OPEC lite’

December 22, 2009

OPEC’s decision to hold oil supplies steady on Tuesday played out the story of a meeting foretold. Three of OPEC’s twelve ministers – Venezuela, Iran and Kuwait – didn’t even see the need to make the trip.
Those who did brave the humidity and traffic jams experienced the slightly guilty pleasure of what one delegate dubbed “OPEC lite”.
In contrast to the tension of a meeting in Algeria this time last year when the oil price was crashing toward $30 a barrel and ministers were stung into a record output cut, the mood of the Luanda gathering could hardly have been more relaxed.
Instead of the usual frenzy of journalists screaming at ministers, following them into hotel lifts, skulking in hotel corridors and outside presidential hotel rooms, correspondents were treated to champagne and nibbles while OPEC’s market committee met in the pocket of luxury that is Luanda’s only five-star hotel. Ministers were relaxed and cordial, and rarely refused comment.
The meeting was swift and with few complicatons. With the price at $75 even after the worst recession in decades, many OPEC countries are in the enviable position of running fiscal surpluses rather than the crippling deficits governments elsewhere are facing.
“There’s no need to shake down the economy with any action here,” said one OPEC delegate. “The price is just right.”
For the rampaging OPEC journalists, the only problem was the familiar nagging concern that lurking behind the headline of an easy no-change, there might be another story yet to be told.

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