[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] O [/yt_dropcap]PEC, which is the cartel of the 14 major oil producers, has recently adopted a policy that is bound to change all future political, strategic and economic equilibria.
With a view to contributing to support the oil barrel price, the Vienna-based organization of the major Middle East oil producers has agreed to accept a very considerable output reduction, together with the Russian Federation and other countries, which is worth at least fewer 1.8 million oil barrels per day.
Also all the non-OPEC oil producing countries, as well as Russia, shall follow suit and play along, otherwise the six-month agreement – which can be renewed indefinitely – will have no value.
Obviously Russia plans to reduce its oil output and it is worth recalling that, in 2014, it was exactly the excess of Russian and North American oil supply to bring down the cost of crude oil below $ 100.
Currently, after Russia’s victory in Syria, it is precisely geopolitics which is knocking on the door of those who manage oil prices.
Russia wants to resume its growth pathway and recover the costs of the war in Syria and of its future power projection onto the Middle East.
The Sunni and the Shiite world want either to grow and diversify or recover from the long season of international sanctions – as is the case for Iran.
It is worth noting that the non-OPEC producers or, better, oil extractors, are Canada, Mexico, the United States, Bahrain – where only 8% of its GDP is generated by oil and gas, although it is a great centre of Islamic finance and aluminium production – Oman and, in Asia, China, Kazakhstan and obviously the Russian Federation, as well as, in Europe, Norway.
Saudi Arabia will account for approximately 50% of the expected total reduction in oil production, that is 486,000 out of the 10 millions produced every day.
Iran, which is very tried by sanctions, accepts the reduction which is implicit in the agreement between Russia and Saudi Arabia, but drops from 3.975 million barrels per day to 3.797.
OPEC will cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, thus reaching 32.5 at the end of January 2017.
If the cut had not been made, the oil price per barrel would have fallen below 30 dollars, but currently the most reliable analysts estimate that oil prices may grow from 50/65 US dollars up to 70.
The higher cost of crude oil is quickly reflected in all related prices, thus favouring the start of inflation that many people – again with some naivety – are waiting in Western economies.
Incidentally, Russia does not trust much of OPEC promises but, together with other countries such as Kuwait, Algeria and Venezuela (all OPEC members), Oman (non-OPEC member), and Russia, it manages the “Review Committee on the evaluation of production agreements”. As a result of the agreements, also Russia has cut production by 100,000 barrels per day.
In this regard, it is also worth recalling that the agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC countries would enable the US shale oil producers to stabilize production or even to increase it.
At strictly technical level, Iran participates in the operation only considering the strategic situation in the Greater Middle East, while it would even need to increase its oil supply by at least one million barrels per day so as to regain its position and recover from the long period of sanctions.
However, as also the Iranian authorities know all too well, the country’s oil production is even on the wane, from 3.85 to 3.60 barrels per day.
After the end of the embargo, the Iranian ayatollahs have succeeded in increasing production only from 2.8 to 3.8 million barrels per day, but the problem is that, in such a market, the increase in supply immediately depresses the oil barrel price.
In fact, operators naively expected an unlimited oil flow from Iran which, however, failed to increase production and, indeed, OPEC itself has recently recorded a drop in the oil extracted by Iran from 3.85 to 3.60 million barrels a day, a clear sign of damage to the extraction system and of technological obsolescence – problems which cannot certainly be solved in a day.
The booming prices, caused by a substantial oil barrel market manipulation, will also benefit the Iranian Shiites, without diminishing Saudi Arabia’s economic and military chances.
At qualitative level, which is not a secondary aspect in these situations, the production of light and sweet crude oil typical of US oil fields has not much favoured the recent excess of production, unlike the OPEC sulphurous and medium-quality oil.
In recent years, the OPEC increase in oil production has originated over 50% of its excess supply exactly from Saudi Arabia and Iraq, namely 1.5 million oil barrels a day, while shale oil – which is the main enemy of the Vienna-based cartel – has decreased by over 500,000 barrels a day, considering that it is more sensitive than other sectors to the profitability guaranteed by its high price.
It is equally true that currently the increase in the oil barrel price favours even the US and Canadian shale oil, which becomes economically viable only above 60 US dollars per barrel. Some analysts even maintain that currently 60% of the remaining world oil production is precisely in the US shale oil sector, whose companies should gain a competitive advantage over the next five years.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that in recent years the production cost of the US oil barrel has dropped by 30-40%, while it has declined by only 20% in the OPEC area.
Hence, paradoxically, a clearly anti-American geoeconomic choice becomes an asset for the new US economy – halfway between oil and domestic manufacturing companies – according to Donald J. Trump’s designs.
Moreover, currently Saudi Arabia has reached its maximum production level, but it may have technological capabilities to increase it by 25% for a short lapse of time.
Today, after the agreement between OPEC and non-OPEC countries, the Brent futures maturing in February 2017 have temporarily exceeded 57 US dollars – a rise by over 5% compared to the closing of last Friday.
According to Merrill Lynch, the agreement between the two groups of oil producers – an agreement that Russia has developed for years (and it is worth recalling Putin’s statements in favour of Russia’s becoming an OPEC member) – will make the oil barrel price rise to 70 dollars by mid-2017.
Hence speculative capital will come back on oil markets, thus temporarily abandoning the other alternatives: non-oil commodities, currencies, gold and precious metals, as well as many government bonds.
Behold, Italy shall recalibrate its supply of public debt securities. It will not be an easy task.
Nothing, however, is yet decided and stable.
In fact, you may recall the underground war against OPEC waged by Kuwait in 1985, when the OPEC countries reported much larger oil reserves than the real ones because this boosted their production quota.
In principle, the OPEC reserves are supposed to be only 0.8 billion barrels as against the 1.3 billion barrels reported by the Vienna-based cartel.
In general terms, all OPEC official oil reserves could be larger than the actual ones by over one third.
Not to mention the fact that the real data on Saudi oil and gas reserves is still a state secret in the country.
Therefore the current OPEC’s policy line is to attract in the cartel, at least indirectly, all the external oil production, by marginally favouring even the US and Canadian production, which had been the target of the long bearish fight of Middle East oil countries.
The geopolitical effects are before us to be seen: much of the Middle East is united in adhering to the Russian strategies, while the United States – not to mention the ludicrous EU – are left at the starting post.
Egypt will receive one million Iraqi oil barrels a day, at a much lower price than Saudi Arabia’s, which had been initially promised to Al Sisi in the framework agreement envisaging 23 billion US dollars of aid on a yearly-basis.
Saudi Arabia did not implement the agreement with Egypt so as to punish it for its participation in the Russian-Alawite system in Syria.
Al Sisi has even reopened the hidden channels with the Lebanese Hezb’ollah and will contribute to the construction of an oil pipeline from Iraq to Egypt through Jordan – not to mention the fact that Egypt is already training four Iraqi army units for anti-terrorist operations.
Moreover, Egypt is fighting actively against the “Islamic State” in Libya, and especially in the Sinai region, and Daesh can now hit Egypt from its bases in Southern Libya.
Hence Al Sisi has envisaged to strengthen his ties with Algeria, which has similar problems.
In fact, this is exactly where the new oil proceeds will be channelled. They will be used to defend the extreme lines against the jihad – hence Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Syria.
They will also be used to stabilize the situation in Syria and the increase in crude oil price will also fund the modernization and diversification of the Russian economy.
Europeans will not jump on the bandwagon and, like the kids living in the outskirts, will remain in the railway stations to watch the trains leaving.
New UNWTO Report Helps Cities Manage Impact of Tourism
A new World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report aims to help manage growing urban tourism flows and their impact on cities and residents. ‘Overtourism’? Understanding and managing urban tourism growth beyond perceptions’, was launched today during the 7th UNWTO Global Summit on Urban Tourism, in Seoul, Republic of Korea (16-19 September 2018).
The report examines how to manage tourism in urban destinations to the benefit of visitors and residents alike. It proposes eleven strategies and 68 measures to help understand and manage visitor growth. The report is the result of collaboration between UNWTO, the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH), Breda University of Applied Sciencesm and the European Tourism Futures Institute (ETFI) of NHL Stenden University of Applied sciences.
The recent growth of urban tourism requires the sector to ensure sustainable policies and practices that minimize adverse effects of tourism on the use of natural resources, infrastructure, mobility and congestion, as well as its socio-cultural impact. Increased reports of negative attitudes among local populations towards visitors, due to perceived overcrowding, noise and other issues, have led to the spread of terms such as ‘overtourism’ and ‘tourismphobia’ in the media.
“Governance is key. Addressing the challenges facing urban tourism today is a much more complex issue than is commonly recognized. We need to set a sustainable roadmap for urban tourism and place tourism in the wider urban agenda,” said UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili. “We must also ensure local communities see and benefit from the positive aspects of tourism”, he added.
To better understand visitor management challenges in urban contexts, particularly the relationship between residents and visitors, the report includes an analysis of residents’ perceptions towards tourism in eight European cities – Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Munich, Salzburg and Tallinn.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to deal with overtourism. Instead tourism needs to be part of a city-wide strategy for sustainable development”, Dr. Ko Koens of the Centre of Expertise Leisure, Tourism & Hospitality (CELTH) and Breda University of Applied Sciences concludes. The report recommends a common strategic vision among all stakeholders involved, bringing residents and visitors together and adopting careful planning which respects the limits of capacity and the specificities of each destination. “The involvement and support of local residents is key in achieving sustainable tourism”, Professor Albert Postma of CELTH and NHL Stenden University of Applied Sciences explains. “Building shared responsibility amongst stakeholders directly or indirectly involved in tourism development is a key for ensuring long-term sustainability”, involved researcher Bernadett Papp concludes.
The Geopolitical Impact of Petro-Yuan
A few months ago, a piece of news shook the global oil future market: yuan-denominated oil contracts have begun trading for the first time in Shanghai on March 26, 2018. By widening the gaze beyond the next few years, this fact is poised to change how oil (a potentially other commodities and hard assets) are traded globally. It is obvious to register this will enhance the role of the yuan as a global trading currency, and compel investors to increase their allocations to Chinese financial assets.
Some facts to begin with: China became the world’s largest oil consumer at the end of 2016 (source: Bloomberg). As a consequence of this achievement, China is progressively manifesting a strong desire to pay for its huge import bill in its own currency, rather than resorting to employ USD. Additionally, China’s quite open aspiration with this new oil trading plan is to promote the internationalization of yuan and it intends to achieve this goal by aggressively promoting a wider adoption of the yuan as a global trading currency. Switching to yuan payments for major imports is a fundamental cornerstone of this process and the internationalization of the yuan is clearly one of the main priorities now for People’s Bank of China and other Chinese regulators.
Shall this plan be successful (at least to a certain degree in the short run), China can start thinking about replicating this model for other commodities purchases. Furthermore, the Chinese are, according to a number of sources, planning to devise active measures to persuade oil exporting countries to accept payment for their crude oil in yuan, which would be the logical next step from the new futures contract.
The emergence of petro-yuan revenues collected by the world’s largest oil producers is a natural development from this process and it is expected to become the third global price benchmark alongside Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude. As evidence of the seriousness of the Chinese new policy, a few top global energy traders, such as Glencore and Trafigura, have decided to start trading in the new contracts.
Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High Frequency Economics, in a recent interview stated: “Moving oil trade out of dollars into yuan will take right now between $600 billion and $800 billion worth of transactions out of the dollar… (That) means a stronger demand for things in China, whether it is securities or whether it is goods and services. It is a growth plus for China and that’s why they want this to happen”.
Obviously, the petro-yuan will encounter many challenges on its way of various nature: the most evident is the exchange policy designed by China in the past two decades. In 1994 the Chinese Yuan was pegged to the US Dollar, and it was only in 2005 that the country shifted to a “managed float” system and was allowed to appreciate. It now fluctuates in the forex market in accordance with a basket of major foreign currencies, and the Chinese government has always been very keen to keep the yuan undervalued as it is understandably a means of promoting the country’s exports.
Arguably, in order to be able to gain the investor confidence and to sustain the even greater capital inflows, Chinese policy maker might have to be forced to reconsider China’s exchange rate policy to render it more sustainable and, equally important, insulated from external shocks. This state of affairs may prove to be unattainable given the theorem of the “Impossible Trinity” which states that it is impossible, for any given country, to maintain the following three at the same time: a fixed foreign exchange rate, a regime of free capital movement (or absence of capital controls), and an independent monetary policy.
On the other side of the world, the most relevant oil actor, Saudi Arabia, seems to remain firmly committed to the dollar peg for its currency, the riyal, which has been in place for more than 30 year, and to the continued dominance of the US dollar as the medium of payment for its main export. However, the petro-yuan future contract represents an unplanned and (possibly) uncontrollable variable in Aramco’s long-term strategic planning. Aramco is the Saudi’ state controlled oil company the value of which is estimated in several hundreds of US billions
On the other hand, Saudi Arabia may benefit from the introduction of the petro –Yuan future contract in the light of the magnitude of its commercial partnership with China: the petro-yuan may ensure the establishment of a long-term eastern market for crude oil in the world’s biggest oil-consuming economy and furnish a hedge against the surge in American oil exports triggered by the shale boom.
Similarly Russia, the largest oil producer in the world, has welcomed the petro-yuan future contract with one of the national champions, Gazprom, having already made the switch from the US dollar to the yuan and other Asian currencies. The diffusion of the petro-yuan future contract will greatly benefit the Russian state politically as it allows her to further reduce its dependency on the United States (and capital denominated in US dollars) and weakens the US’ ability to wage economic war and conduct currency wars.
Nonetheless, in the long term, the petro-yuan future contract may offer a win-win solution for the two contenders on the ongoing trade and tariff war (namely, USA and China).
Let’s explore the underpinning reasons why it could turn out to be a good deal for both countries:
- Despite the good premises and the warm welcome it has received so far, it will take many years for Chinese oil futures to establish themselves as an alternative benchmark in the oil market.
- If the prediction above is correct, the petro-yuan future contract will have an insubstantial impact on the US economy in the short term; nonetheless, it could help to lower the value of the US dollar against other foreign currencies.
- A slightly weaker US dollar may, in turn, make US dollar denominated exports more competitive in global markets, thus allowing the US to narrow their trade deficit, particularly with China.
Machines Will Do More Tasks Than Humans by 2025
The world is going through a workplace revolution that will bring a seismic shift in the way humans work alongside machines and algorithms, according to new research by the World Economic Forum. By 2025 more than half of all current workplace tasks will be performed by machines as opposed to 29% today. Such a transformation will have a profound effect on the global labour force, however in terms of overall numbers of new jobs the outlook is positive, with 133 million new jobs expected to be created by 2022 compared to 75 million that will be displaced.
The research, published today in The Future of Jobs 2018, is an attempt to understand the potential of new technologies to disrupt and create jobs. It is also seeks to provide guidance on how to improve the quality and productivity of the current work being done by humans and how to prepare people for emerging roles.
Based on a survey of chief human resources officers and top strategy executives from companies across 12 industries and 20 developed and emerging economies (which collectively account for 70% of global GDP), the report finds that 54% of employees of large companies would need significant re- and up-skilling in order to fully harness the growth opportunities offered by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. At the same time, just over half of the companies surveyed said they planned to reskill only those employees that are in key roles while only one third planned to reskill at-risk workers.
While nearly 50% of all companies expect their full-time workforce to shrink by 2022 as a result of automation, almost 40% expect to extend their workforce generally and more than a quarter expect automation to create new roles in their enterprise.
The report presents a vision of a future global workforce that provides grounds for both optimism and caution. Compared to a similar study by the Forum in 2016 to understand the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on jobs, the outlook for job creation today is much more positive as businesses have a much greater understanding of the opportunities made available by technology. At the same time, the huge disruption automation will bring to the global labour force is almost certain to bring with it significant shifts in the quality, location, format and permanency of roles that will require close attention from leaders in the public and private sector.
“It is critical that business take an active role in supporting their existing workforces through reskilling and upskilling, that individuals take a proactive approach to their own lifelong learning, and that governments create an enabling environment to facilitate this workforce transformation. This is the key challenge of our time,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.
Among the set of roles set to experience increasing demand across all industries are data analysts and scientists, software and applications developers, and ecommerce and social media specialists, all of which roles that are significantly based on or enhanced by technology. Roles that leverage distinctly ‘human skills,’ such as sales and marketing professions, innovation managers and customer service workers, are also set to experience increasing demand. Jobs expected to become redundant include routine-based white-collar roles, such as data entry clerks, accounting and payroll clerks.
Jobs Outlook 2022
Within the set of companies surveyed, respondents predicted a decline of 984,000 jobs and a gain of 1.74 million jobs between now and 2022. Extrapolating these trends across those employed by large firms in the non-agricultural workforce of the 20 economies covered by the report suggests that 75 million jobs may be displaced by a shift in the division of labour between humans, machines and algorithms, while 133 million new roles may emerge that are more adapted to this new division of labour.
While we expect net positive job growth, there will be a significant shift in the quality, location, format and permanency of new roles. In fact, businesses are set to expand their use of contractors doing task-specialized work, engage workers in more flexible arrangements, utilize remote staffing, and modify the locations where their organization operates to ensure access to talent.
Workers will require new sets of skills as the division of labour between humans and machines continues to evolve. Surveyed companies report that today, 71% of total current task hours are performed by humans, compared to 29% by machines. By 2022, this average is expected to shift to 58% task hours performed by humans, 42% by machines.
Change Management Strategies
All industries expect to have sizeable skills gaps, with average skills instability of 42%, highlighting the scale of the challenge in preparing today’s workers for changes within their current roles and the emerging jobs of the future. Technology proficiency, such as technology design and programming, and distinctly human skills, such as creativity, critical thinking and persuasion, are among the competences that will be sharply increasing in importance.
“Companies need to complement their automation plans with comprehensive augmentation strategies. For businesses to remain dynamic, differentiated and competitive in an age of machines, they must in fact invest in their human capital. There is both a moral and economic imperative to do so. Without proactive approaches, businesses and workers may lose out on the economic potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society at the World Economic Forum.
An augmentation strategy takes into account the broader spectrum of value-creating activities that can be accomplished by workers, machines and algorithms in tandem. Fulfilling this potential will require workers to have the appropriate skills for the workplace of the future, and will require business and policymakers to lead complementary and coordinated efforts to invest in human capital.
Respondents reported three main strategies for coping with the challenges of the new world of work: hire wholly new permanent staff with the skills relevant to new technologies; automate work tasks completely; and retrain existing employees. A smaller but significant number of companies expect to allocate the work to specialist contractors, freelancers and temporary workers.
While large-scale, multistakeholder action will be needed to tackle existing and impending skills needs, 85% of companies reported that they plan to rely mainly on internal specialized departments within their organization to provide reskilling opportunities, compared to half expecting to work with public education institutions. Only 34% of the training to be delivered directly by employers is expected to result in an accreditation recognized outside of the company in question.These findings highlight both the future role of companies as learning organizations and the range of untapped reskilling and upskilling collaboration opportunities.
The Future of Jobs Across Industries
The future of jobs is not singular, and disparate impacts will be felt across industries depending on initial starting conditions, skills availability, technology adoption and adaptability of the workforce.
While there is an overall net positive outlook on the future job market, the balance of workforce expansion and contraction looks different across industries. The level of displacement is expected to vary considerably. For example the share of companies projecting jobs losses in the mining and metals, consumer and information and technology industries is higher than companies in professional services. Declining roles and skills in one industry are growing in other industries. These findings point to potential opportunities for coordinated job transition strategies across industries.
All industries expect to have sizable skills gaps, with the Aviation, Travel & Tourism industry projected to have the highest reskilling needs in the 2018-2022 timeframe. Skills gaps are also a particular concern in the Information & Communication Technology, Financial Services & Investors, and Mining & Metals industries. The broad mobility sector is least likely to look to reskill their current employees, while business leaders in the Global Health & Healthcare, Chemistry, Advanced Materials & Biotechnology sectors are most likely to retrain their workers.
“Knowing which occupations are growing and declining globally is a starting place for policymakers, educators, and employers to start conversations on how to transition the global workforce to the jobs and skills of tomorrow,” says Allen Blue, Co-founder of LinkedIn. “To help people connect to economic opportunity on the individual level, it’s important to map and understand today’s labor market dynamics at scale.”
If managed well, a combination of reskilling and the augmentation of a range of tasks today can create the opportunity for new, higher productivity growth. For example, administering and physical tasks are projected to be significantly replaced by mechanized labour, leaving room for humans to focus on higher productivity tasks.
The Future of Jobs Across Regions
The impact of automation on jobs will also vary across countries and regions, especially as global companies consider a number of strategic factors in choosing where to locate specific job roles and economic activities. 74% of companies cited the availability of skilled local talent as their foremost consideration in determining job locations. More than half of companies surveyed for this report expect that by 2022, they would consider adjusting the composition of their value chains in response to the adoption of new technologies, and just under half expect to target new talent by modifying the location of their operations. These findings point to the potential impact of workforce management strategies on the geography of jobs across the global economy.
The report finds variation among the demand for roles across regions. Region-specific roles expected to be in growing demand include Financial and Investment Advisors in East Asia and the Pacific and Western Europe; Assembly and Factory Workers in Latin America and the Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa; and Electrotechnology Engineers in North America. Across all countries and regions, employers expect that significant reskilling will be needed by a large share of the global workforce over the 2018-2022 period. Remaining competitive in a global context and taking advantage of emerging job creation opportunities will require a well-skilled local workforce bolstered by national lifelong learning ecosystems.
Shaping a Human-Centered Future of Jobs
Harnessing the transformative potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will require coordinated efforts among stakeholders in all industries and regions to formulate a comprehensive workforce augmentation strategy ready to meet the challenges of this new era of change and innovation. Business, government and workers must proactively plan and implement a new vision for the global labour market.
For governments, there is an urgent need to address the impact of new technologies on labour markets through upgraded education systems aimed at raising both technical and soft skills among the future workforce; social policies aimed at supporting an ecosystem of lifelong learners; safety nets for managing the social impact of workforce transformations; and stimulating job creation taking into account local and global demand for emerging roles and skills. For industries, it will pay to support the upskilling of their current workforce toward new and higher-skilled roles as competition for skilled talent intensifies and becomes more costly over the coming years. Industries will also need to consider how these efforts may also apply to the gig, temporary and online workforces they increasingly plan to rely on. For workers, there is a need to take personal responsibility for their learning trajectory through the current transition and developing a higher degree of comfort with the concept of lifelong learning.
The latest edition of the Future of Jobs Report aims to support individual workers, businesses, and policymakers understand the impact of automation on talent gaps, skills churn, job displacement and change management strategies for navigating the new world of work. The 2018 employer survey that formed the basis of the report gathered the views of business executives at the frontlines of the changing workforce, especially Chief Human Resource Officers, Chief Strategy Officers and Chief Executives. It covers over 300 global companies from a wide range of industry sectors. Survey responses represent more than 15 million employees, and 20 developed and emerging economies which collectively represent about 70% of global GDP. In addition to the aggregate analysis, the report contains 12 industry profiles and 29 country or regional profiles, providing detailed information for projections through to 2022. The Report also included a unique data contribution from LinkedIn, showing the key emerging and declining roles in the recent past across several industries and geographies.
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