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Major producers schedule confab on oil freeze

Published:Thursday | March 17, 2016 | 12:00 AMOPEC member states and other major oil producers plan to meet next month to discuss a freeze in oil output levels, Qatar's top energy official said on Wednesday.
In this September 30, 2015, file photo, oil pumps work in the desert oil fields of Sakhir, Bahrain. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, File)

The gathering, which will build on earlier talks that included major suppliers Russia and Saudi Arabia, reflects a growing sense of urgency among producers to try to shore up crude prices following a steep drop that is straining their domestic budgets.

Qatar holds the rotating presidency of OPEC and will host the upcoming talks, which are scheduled to take place the capital, Doha, on April 17.

Some 15 oil-producing nations representing about 73 per cent of world output have agreed to take part, according to a statement from Mohammed bin Saleh

al-Sada, Qatar's energy and industry minister.

"The continuous efforts of the Qatari government have been instrumental in promoting dialogue among all oil producers to support the Doha initiative, helping the stabilisation of (the) oil market to the interest of all," al-Sada said in the statement.


Energy ministers from Russia and OPEC members Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Venezuela pledged to cap their output levels if others do the same in an effort to bolster oil prices during a meeting in Doha last month. Other major producers, including OPEC members Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, have since expressed support for the initiative.

The countries are seeking coordinated action because they are reluctant to give up market share to other producers.

Oil prices plunged to below US$30 a barrel their lowest point in more than a decade earlier this year, extending a slide from over US$100 a barrel that began in 2014. Prices have edged higher in recent weeks, with US benchmark crude trading above $36 a barrel in electronic trading early Wednesday.

The slump is causing growing alarm in countries heavily dependent on oil exports, leading them to slash public sector jobs and search for new sources of revenue. Kuwait, for example, this week proposed a 10 per cent corporate tax on profits and the privatisation of some publicly-run services and facilities to close a widening budget deficit brought on by a plunge in global oil prices.

The Cabinet suggests privatising services at Kuwait's airport, ports, as well as the management of schools, hospitals and some facilities owned by Kuwait Petroleum Company proposals that are part of a nearly 60-page document outlining broad economic reforms.

- AP