Haitham al-Ghais will become OPEC’s secretary general in August.
OPEC has selected veteran Kuwaiti oil executive Haitham al-Ghais to become the organization’s top diplomat, as the group and its allies are navigating a delicate recovery from the pandemic.
Al-Ghais – a multilingual technocrat whose three-decade career in the oil industry in Beijing and London – will become Secretary-General in August and take over from Mohammad Barkindo, according to a statement from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on Monday.
His appointment comes at a time when OPEC and its partners are treading a narrow path and trying to satisfy the recovery in oil consumption without dropping markets into oversupply again. The OPEC + coalition is expected to approve another modest resumption of supplies when it meets on Tuesday.
“He knows OPEC inside and out,” said Johannes Benigni, chairman of consultant JBC Energy Group in Vienna. “At the same time, he knows the ins and outs of the market. He is very smart and a good analyst. ”
While the Secretaries-General do not set out OPEC’s production policies, they do act as the group’s public face – and as an intermediary seeking compromise between members who are often weak.
This is now a sensitive task as oil’s return to near $ 80 a barrel raises fears of inflation among large consumers such as the US – where lawmakers sometimes threaten antitrust laws – and as climate change accelerates a transition away from fossil fuels.
Internal tension within the group must also be managed. Last year, tensions arose between two of OPEC’s longtime allies, group leader Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as the smaller nation pursued an increasingly independent set of energy and foreign policies.
The diplomatic balancing act is a mission to which Al-Ghais brings a number of strengths.
After previously serving as a diplomat, he subsequently held a number of positions at the state-owned Kuwait Petroleum Corp. holds, most recently as Deputy Managing Director for International Marketing. Al-Ghais also acted as the country’s liaison with OPEC from 2017 to last year.
The appointment of a Kuwait as OPEC chief indicates a shift for the group, which typically assigned the post to candidates from smaller producers to offset the concentration held by its Gulf heavyweights. Smaller members are likely to monitor whether he can act as a counterbalance to the group’s most influential nation, Saudi Arabia. Al-Ghais was the only candidate, and was appointed by acclamation on Monday rather than a vote.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to HE Haitham Al-Ghais on his appointment, by acclamation, as the next Secretary-General of OPEC,” Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said in a statement. said.
As incumbent Secretary-General, Barkindo will retire in July after completing the full six years allowed by the cartel’s rules, after playing a crucial role in the creation of OPEC + at the end of 2016. Prince Abdulaziz said ‘ proposed a farewell party with ministers in Vienna before leaving, according to a person familiar with the situation. Ministers met virtually throughout the pandemic.
(change attribution after OPEC confirmation in second paragraph)
– With the help of Salma El Wardany.