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Work together to overcome global crisis, says Saudi energy minister

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16 Jun 2020 02:06:37 GMT9
16 Jun 2020 02:06:37 GMT9
  • Situation 'getting worse,' WHO director general tells Riyadh webinar

Frank Kane

DUBAI: Policymakers, health officials and scientists met via a webinar from Riyadh to hear a stark message: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic will continue to take a significant toll on the world’s health and economic well-being.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, told a web forum at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Centre (KAPSARC): “While the situation in Europe is improving, at a global level it is getting worse.”

Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman told the gathering: “On the economic front, the impact of the pandemic is unprecedented in scope and intensity,” adding that in the Middle East the fall in demand for oil had “weakened the fiscal positions of the oil-exporting countries of the region.”

The meeting was organized by the T20 — the “think tank” unit of the G20 summit to be held under Saudi Arabia’s presidency later this year — and coincided with increased worries in global financial and energy markets about the outlook for the world’s pandemic-ravaged economies.

In New York, markets opened to volatile trading after news of fresh virus outbreaks in China at the weekend. Risk adviser Ian Bremmer told Arab News the market falls were “recognition that the coronavirus trajectory is worse than widely expected.”

The Vix index — a benchmark that measures the amount of volatility in Wall Street shares known as the “fear gauge” — rose 5 percent to its highest level in months.

Global oil markets were also under pressure, with Brent crude, the global benchmark, down 3 percent in European trading to below $38 per barrel as hopes faded for a resumption of energy demand in a quick V-shaped economic recovery. It recovered some of those falls later.

Prince Abdul Aziz told the T20: “The significant economic contraction and uncertain outlook due to the pandemic have exacerbated energy supply and demand imbalances, directly impacting the oil and gas sector.”

Ghebreyesus said that the impact of the pandemic went beyond the disease itself, and that the Americas and South Asia were suffering a surge in new cases. It had taken the world more than two months to hit the level of 100,000 cases, but for the past two weeks that same number were occurring every day, he said.

The WHO leader warned against “complacency” as mass gatherings were allowed to take place in many parts of the world, and he appealed for “national unity and global solidarity” in the fight against the disease.

Prince Abdul Aziz opened the three-day T20 gathering with a plea for “experts from around the world to work together in a cooperative effort to overcome this unprecedented global crisis.”

He applauded the work of OPEC+ and other oil- producing nations in bringing stability to oil markets.

“Ensuring energy market stability and affordable, secure energy are key in addressing the health, well-being and resilience of all countries,” he said.

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