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French Version

Gulf states told to use extra oil income to diversify their economies

Bahrain and other Arab oil producing countries cashed in an extra $300 billion (BD113.4 billion) between them last year from high oil prices, a government official said. But the extra income should not distract these countries from their plans to diversify their economies away from oil, he said.

"With the increase in oil prices, these countries added revenues exceed $300 billion at the end of 2005," said National Oil and Gas Authority chairman Dr. Abdel-Hussain Mirza.

"However, with such high revenues these countries and particularly the GCC countries should not neglect or be distracted from their plans to divest their economies away from sole dependence on oil income."

Mirza was speaking at the opening of the fifth Middle East International Refining and Petrochemicals Conference and Exhibition (Middle East Petrotech 2006) at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa.

He said the increase in revenues from high oil prices was an opportunity for oil producing countries to upgrade their economic infrastructure.

"This will be the right time to intensify pursuance of their plans for diversification and to create the enabling environments to encourage radical economic reforms and build and enhance their basic and essential infrastructures and industries," he said.

"In this respect our national oil companies are encouraged to engage in strategic alliances with each other and, where possible, with international oil companies to create or increase production capacity outside the boundaries of the region both upstream and downstream and to participate in joint ventures in consuming countries.

"There will be a pressing need for more transparency and joint oil data availability and dialogue between producing and consuming countries as the gap between their expectations widen."

According to industry experts, oil prices are currently hovering around $60 (BD22) a barrel, five times more than the nominal price in 1999.

They say political turbulence in the Middle East, including the war in Iraq and worries about Iran's nuclear program, have all helped oil prices to rise.

Hurricane Katrina and demand from developing nations such as India and China also played a major part in the surge toward the end of last year that saw prices reach a record $70.85 (BD26.781) a barrel.

More than 1,000 industry professionals and 130 companies from 21 countries are taking part in the three-day event in Bahrain.

Speakers at the conference included Petrotech 2006 chairman Khalid al-Buainain, Saudi Aramco senior vice president of refining and marketing Abdel-Aziz al-Khayyal, American Petroleum Institute president and chief executive officer Red Cavaney and World Business Council for Sustainable Development president and chief executive officer Bjorn Stigson.

The topic of the conference was Technology for Tomorrow's Generation.

The exhibition will run from today until Wednesday at the Bahrain International Exhibition Center.

It will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and tomorrow, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday. - TradeArabia News Service

Beirut,01 16 2006
The Daily Star
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