OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna on 12 December rolled over their 30mn b/d output ceiling and decided to extend the term of Secretary-General, ‘Abd Allah al-Badri, for another twelve months, for what will be his seventh year in the producer organization’s top job.

It was hard to escape the conclusion that the Vienna decisions, though widely expected, merely postponed a set of difficult but very necessary decisions. Supply and demand fundamentals for the first half next year are looking ominous – by OPEC’s own calculations demand for OPEC crude is set to slump almost 1.7mn b/d from this quarter to mid-next year and it has been producing above that demand level throughout this year already. An emergency meeting before OPEC’s next scheduled gathering on 31 May looks a real prospect. Furthermore, OPEC’s constitution technically grants secretaries-general a maximum of two three-year terms. (CONTINUED - 1656 WORDS)