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Oil exporters vow price stability

New Delhi, Jan. 9: Opec president Abdulla Bin Hammed Al Attiyah today gave the assurance that the oil exporting countries would, at their meeting on Sunday, work out a formula to increase supplies so that the “market is stabilised”.

“We do not want to see very high prices. These are dangerous for producers also,” he told newspersons at the Petrotech-2003 international conference being held here. Attiyah is the energy and industry minister of Qatar.

Although he refused to specify the exact quantum by which the oil exporting countries would increase their output, this could be in the region of 1.5 million barrels per day.

While the official Opec position is that international oil prices will be maintained within a band of $ 22 to 28 per barrel, they have soared in recent weeks past the $ 30 per barrel mark. The oil exporting countries have been attributing the runaway prices to speculative activities in the market.

Petroleum minister Ram Naik said, “India would like to see prices at the lower end of the band ($ 22 per barrel) but any decline from the current level of $ 30 per barrel would be welcome.”

The high prices have imposed a considerable strain on India since 70 per cent of its crude requirement has to be imported. The oil import bill during the last financial year was Rs 78,000 crore and is expected to be much higher this year because of spiralling international prices. The demand for petroleum products has also increased during the current year, which will add to the import bill.

LPG and kerosene are still being supplied at subsidised prices. As a result, the national oil companies — Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum — have been losing close to Rs 600 crore every month.

Meanwhile, Planning Commission deputy chairman K.C. Pant said the restructuring and disinvestment of the public sector oil companies should be done on a selective basis.

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