The Syrian Tragedy Versus Oil & Petroleum

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The Syrian oil industry took off in 1968, when the Karatchok oil field began production after a pipeline connecting it to the Homs refinery was completed, although Syria did not begin exporting oil until the mid-1980s. Although Syria is not a major oil exporter by Middle Eastern standards, according to the International Monetary Fund, oil sales for 2010 were projected to generate $3.2 billion for the Syrian government and account for 25.1% of the state’s revenue. 

Before the civil war the two main pillars of the economy were agriculture and oil, but since the civil war? Syria is heavily dependent upon the revenue it gets from its oil which is a pity. Particularly given the fact that ISIS now controls a third of Syrian territory, and as a consequence most of its oil and gas production. 

The Syrian government used to have business links to Anglo-Dutch Shell, the French oil and gas company Total, and the British oil and petroleum company Gulf Sands Petroleum. It also did oil and petroleum business with the American and Egyptian co-owned company Improved Petroleum Recovery (IPR).

Alas, President Assad’s brutal mistreatment of his people has put paid to these links for the time being.

Though not  to his business ties with Russia’s Stroytransgas and Soyuzneftegaz. 

In fact in July 2014 Tass, the Russian news agency reported that Stroytransgas had signed a $264 million deal with a Syrian state company for the first stage of a $2 billion project to irrigate farmland in the country’s north-east. The first stage of the project to comprise the construction of a pumping station near the country’s border with Turkey and Iraq. All this whilst President Assad battles ISIS and sundry other opposition groups for control of the country. impressive. 

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Now you may have noticed that although the focus of this post appears to be oil and petroleum production, the only images so far are of the same dead body. But I digress, so let the blog post continue! The Syrian Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Wealth and Russian energy company Soyuzneftegaz signed an deal on oil and gas offshore exploration in the Syrian capital of Damascus on December 25, 2013. So, Soyuzneftegaz became the first foreign and Russian company which was granted the right for oil exploration, development and production at Block-2 in Syrian territorial waters.

The company believes that oil exploration in Block-2 will take no less than five years, Shafranik said in an interview with British news agency Reuters. Upon results of oil exploration the company will make a conclusion whether commercial oil production is expedient there.

“If there is no possibility of normalising the situation throughout the country at once, the situation should be stabilised gradually in regions where it is possible to conclude an agreement,” Reuters quoted Shafranik as saying.And once the situation in ‘patches’ of Syria has been achieved?

“Then humanitarian aid should be provided, and then we should move on to energy projects, removing obstacles to them including any sanctions slowing down the country’s economic recovery,” he added. Shafranik also dwelt on plans to build an oil pipeline between Iraq and Syria. Shafranik sounds all heart to me (for a businessman) for once he’s accessed the oil he & his company are prepared to contemplate salving the wounds of Syria’s remaining populace. 

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Don’t you get the impression that although France, the United Kingdom, Egypt & America have lost out on oil and petroleum profits, as a consequence of the Syrian conflict, the Russians as ever, are sitting pretty? That state of affairs must really grate with the Americans, the French and the British. Particularly when one considers the situation in the Ukraine, with Russia’s Gazprom supplying over half of the Ukraine’s gas and 30% of Europe’s gas each year.There’s Chevron, Shell and Exxon Mobil all set to go shale gas exploring (that’s fracking to me and you) in Western Ukraine, when Russia invades the Crimea thereby throwing a spanner in the works. And now it would seem that Russia intends to further consolidate its presence in Syria.

Last week the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth cited Western diplomatic sources saying that Russia was on the verge of deploying “thousands” of troops to Syria to establish an airbase from which the Russian air force would fly combat sorties against Isil.

Those details appear to be backed by satellite images of a Russian base under construction near Latakia, according to anonymous intelligence officials quoted by several American newspapers. Moscow increasingly justifies its support for the Assad regime by pointing to the rise of violent jihadists in Syria. That’s right, just like the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron, Vladimir Putin is mightily concerned about the rise of ISIL in Iraq and Syria. So much so that he has ‘put boots on the ground’ to protect the well-being of President Basher Al-Assad and the Syrian people, naturally.

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And whilst I’m at it, for the sake of decency I should include the Syrian casualty stats; 191,369,000 Syrians are estimated by the UN to have died up to and including August 2014, at least 5,000 of those deaths will have been children. Those who have so far drowned in the Mediterranean? They number 2,600 but the talk amongst nations is not truly about these casualties and it should be.

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Instead, the conversation is all about the oil and petroleum centred, geopolitical manoeuvrings of the self-same nations (America, the United Kingdom, France) who are supposed to be enthusiastically embracing sustainable energy and the impending Paris World Climate Summit. Cold war politics are firmly back on the menu, and next to that nothing, not the Syrian people, not even the eventual fate of the world counts.

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Calais crisis: Screw British holidaymakers. What about the real victims?

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Frazzled British holidaymakers “desperately” trying to reach France for your annual sojourn, have no fear! Café Rouge in Canterbury is here. The chain is offering those stuck in Operation Stack on the M20 a free tea and slice of cake if they happen to be diverted towards Canterbury – you know because of all that unfortunate nonsense going on at Calais. Little ones eat free! And if the family phone still has battery after hours of “hell” on the motorway, you can tweet about the experience using the special hashtag #RouteRouge.

Pass the sick bucket.

I’m not making this up. And while I do have sympathy for anyone stuck in the traffic jam that’s cost UK industry millions, I’m reserving my compassion for a group who really could murder a slice of cake.

Just 21 miles from Britain there is a jungle. Or to give it its full name: Jungle Camp. This is where hundreds of displaced people from all over the world live in some of the most wretched conditions. Stuck in a no-man’s land in Calais, they are living in temporary cardboard structures and surviving on porridge made out of milk and soggy bread. Not that you will probably have paid them much attention over the last week.

calaisqueue The “Calais crisis” as it’s being referred to, is mostly being reported as a transport or business story. Actually, it’s a humanitarian timebomb. On Tuesday, one man died trying to get through the Channel Tunnel. We don’t know his name. He is the ninth this summer.

Among all the discussion of “secure fencing” and “delayed journeys”, our human compassion has deserted us. We have it in spades when we are reminded of suffering that doesn’t interfere with our holidays or freight:remember the collective horror earlier this year when desperate migrants had to be saved by gunboats in the Mediterranean? Where is it now?

Even the language that’s being used to describe the mostly male Eritreans, Ethiopians, Afghans and Sudanese trying to live in Europe is mechanical at best, and dehumanising at worst. Emergency government meetings are being held to ensure there is “upstream management of illegal migratory flows”. Excuse me? These are real people, with hearts, families and lest we forget it, human rights. What if they were children instead of young men? Would we feel differently?

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Moreover, we have very little idea if they are asylum seekers or economic migrants – because guess what? No one is engaging with them. Even a brilliant and emotional BBC Newsnight film filmed inside Jungle Campfailed to achieve full clarity when speaking to inmates.

We must also face the facts. The UK isn’t a soft touch when it comes to “letting everyone and anyone in”. According to the UN Refugee Agency, at the end of 2014, the population of refugees, pending asylum cases and stateless people made up just 0.24 per cent of the UK population. That’s 117,161 refugees, 36,383 pending asylum cases and 16 stateless people.We take fewer asylum seekers than many other countries. Turkey has the highest number at 1.6m, followed by Pakistan at 1.5m.

This country has a proud history when it comes to taking in the needy. Let’s not let ourselves down because we’re impatient for a holiday or a booze cruise. It’s time to see the bigger picture and stop the lamentable narrowing of our horizons. An island nation we might be, but that doesn’t have to mean our mentality must follow suit.

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Peter Sutherland – former chairman of corporate giant Goldman Sachs International, thinks the government’s reaction to Calais migrants is wrong

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Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General’s special representative on international migration and occasional strategic adviser to Goldman Sachs International (also former chairman he retired in June 2015), said the British reaction to the Calais crisis was “grossly excessive”.

In 2013, University College Dublin law school was renamed the Sutherland School of Law in his honour, following his financial contribution to the newly completed law teaching facility, the gentleman is clearly as respected as he is esteemed.

The great majority of migrants heading to Europe are genuine refugees, he said, and Britain receives far fewer applications for sanctuary than other European countries.

He said calls to stop economic migrants entering the UK are “a xenophobic response to the issue of free movement”.

He told the BBC: “In my opinion, the debate in the UK is grossly excessive in terms of Calais. We are talking here about a number of people – a relatively small number in the context of what other countries are having to do – who are in terrible conditions and have to be dealt with by France and/or Britain.”

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Thousands making the perilous boat voyage across the Mediterranean to reach southern Europe are “in the main” genuine refugees fleeing violence and persecution, he said.

Britain also receives far fewer asylum applications that other European countries, he said.

“Germany last year received 175,000 asylum applications. Britain received 24,000,” said Mr Sutherland.

David Cameron has faced criticism for referring to the thousands of migrants who are camped in Calais trying to get across the Channel as a “swarm”.

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Mr Sutherland said: “I think it is most unfortunate to create an image of hordes of people, when in reality the highest figure I have seen for the actual numbers in the so-called ‘jungle’ around Calais – the place where these unfortunate people are living – is 10,000.”

Kevin Hurley, police and crime commissioner for Surrey, earlier this week called for the 2nd Bn Royal Gurkha Rifles based just outside Hythe, Kent, to be deployed to make sure Britain’s border is secure.

Mr Sutherland said: “The first thing we have to do collectively is to deal with their conditions. Instead of talking about sending Gurkhas or building fences, we should be thinking of the humanitarian crisis.”

Mr Sutherland urged the UK to join the common European approach to the migrant issue, warning: “Anybody who thinks that by erecting borders or fences in some way a particular state can be protected from alleged ‘floods’ – which are anything but floods – of migrants is living in cloud cuckoo land.”

Mr Sutherland delivered his thoughts on this subject with an astounding gentleness, considering the decidedly aggressive approach he adopted, when establishing the World Trade Organisation in 1993.

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Perhaps his approach has softened with age, the gentleman who elevated the role of the World Trade Organisation, so that it dealt personally with presidents and prime ministers as opposed to just ministers, now chooses to walk gently over eggshells when discussing the subject of migration with those same presidents and prime ministers.

The same gentleman was also a director of the Royal Bank of Scotland, until he was kindly ask to leave the board by the British government, who took over the bank as it teetered on the verge of bankruptcy.

Peter Sutherland is also on the steering committee of the Bilderberg Group and was a vice-chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists ( an organisation highly focused on improving considerably, business competitiveness within Europe).

He would appear to be a gentleman whose concerns centre (in the main) around the more intimate co-operation of nations across the world, on matters economic and political. He is a creature of the coporatocracy, one who also heads the International Catholic Migration Commission, which has been active in Afghanistan, Indonesia (after the Tsunami in 2004 and is now hard at work in Syria.

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One wonders what has motivated him to comment on England’s xenophobia in relation to the Calais migrants. Mercy & compassion? Or cold blooded, clear eyed business sense?

In the words of Pietro Reichlin, economics professor at Rome’s Luiss university,

“When wages go down, there is more incentive to move towards the black economy (an economy fuelled by illegal migrant labour). It is almost a form of insurance, a way out” and he went on to say “Without the shadow economy, some economies would collapse. It’s the only part of the economy that keeps the economy thriving”. A black economy fuelled by migrant labour, as has become the case in parts of Italy (see Prato ) and Spain. Xenophobia aside, this doesn’t bode well for the migrants. 

 

Climate pressures threaten political stability – security experts

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LONDON, June 24 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Politically fragile countries face breakdown as a result of mounting climate change pressures, and even stable ones may find coming shocks too big to manage peacefully, security and development experts warned.

But work now to protect food security, reshape water sharing agreements and cut risks from worsening weather disasters could play a huge role in reducing future conflict and instability, they said in a report commissioned by G7 governments.

Both at-risk and stable countries would benefit, as they attempt to deal with problems such as uncontrolled migration, rising emergency relief bills, and demands for military assistance in conflict zones, the report said.

“The scale of security risks we’re talking about is potentially enormous,” said Dan Smith, a co-author of the report and head of International Alert, a UK-based peacebuilding organisation.

The report termed climate change “the ultimate threat multiplier”, and said it should be a top foreign policy priority for the Group of Seven major industrialised democracies.

As food and water security worsen in many fragile parts of the world, “you can see the climate thread” in social upheaval from Egypt’s revolution in 2011 to the rise of Boko Haram in Nigeria, Smith said at a discussion on the report at Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office this week.

SYRIA DROUGHT

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The start of Syria‘s crisis was preceded by a brutal five-year drought in its main northeastern food-producing region, the report said.

The loss of crops and animals pushed many rural families to already overcrowded cities, increasing unemployment, it added.

Lukas Ruttinger, an author of the report from Adelphi, a German policy thinktank, emphasised that drought was not the main reason for Syria’s crisis.

“We’re not saying climate change caused the conflict in Syria. But it combined with other pressures that a repressive and non-responsive government was unable to manage,” he said.

In Asia, Thailand’s severe 2011 floods, which affected 2 million people, came on the heels of years of anti-government protests. After the disaster many people complained that state compensation had been unfairly distributed – and the government eventually fell in a 2013 coup, Ruttinger said.

Looking ahead, regions from the increasingly water-short Indus River basin in India and Pakistan to states already afflicted by conflict and poverty, such as Somalia, Afghanistan and Niger, will probably face some of the biggest risks of instability, the report noted.

In all of them, “we have to think about this in terms of managing risk, not solving the problem”, Smith said.

The good news, he added, is that many of the elements of what needs to be done are starting to fall into place. Efforts to coordinate climate change adaptation, aid and peace-building efforts are growing, though they are “not systematic”, he said.

Maintaining a distinction between financing for climate change and financing for development “is misleading and potentially dangerous”, he warned, saying climate and development action must be integrated to be effective.

But many poorer countries want to keep the two types of aid separate to ensure that rich-country promises to mobilise $100 billion a year in international climate funding – on top of existing aid flows – are met, the experts said.

Insurance could play some role in reducing risks and providing stabilising payouts to disaster-hit families, Smith said. But the cost of providing insurance depends on analysing risks based on long-term trends, and climate change is bringing “profound disruption of existing trends”, he said.

That could make the cost of providing insurance cover for some climate risks excessive, the experts said.

CREATIVE THINKING

Innovative thinking could help. A project to negotiate open border agreements for drought-hit nomadic herders who move from country to country in Africa’s Sahel may ease pressures in the region’s fragile states, said Baroness Joyce Anelay, a minister at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The project, by French aid group Acting for Life, is supported by Britain’s Department for International Development through its Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.

On a broader scale, reducing climate-related security risks will require many changes, including better global risk assessments and support for food security through measures to build stocks and curb price fluctuations, experts said.

Improving local abilities to cope with climate stresses and finding ways to defuse water disputes between neighbouring nations will also be important, the report said.

Water sharing across national borders has in the past been a shining example of how to build cooperation and head off disputes, Smith said.

But with populations growing and demand for water rising as climate change in many cases cuts flows, a process for renegotiating water deals in line with those shifts is needed, he said.

Trying to reduce as far as possible the pressures driving world instability is crucial, Ruttinger said, because “we are already at the limit of what we can manage”.

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(Reporting by Laurie Goering; editing by Megan Rowling; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women’s rights, trafficking and corruption. Visit www.trust.org/climate)

Energy Security…..The Fear………

President Barack Obama called blasted Congress for not approving a new terrorism sanctions czar after receiving a briefing on the ongoing fight against Islamic State at the Pentagon. He also outlined the US strategy for defeating the terrorist group.

Obama blasted Congress for not confirming Adam Szubin, his nomination for the position of terrorism sanctions czar at the Department of Treasury, saying that the empty post hinders the US strategy against IS, he terrorist group also known as ISIS or ISIL.

“If Congress really wants to help in this effort, they can confirm Mr. Adam Szubin, our nominee for Treasury undersecretary, to lead this effort” against IS, Obama said. “This is a vital position to our counterterrorism efforts. Nobody suggests Mt. Szubin is not qualified ‒ he’s highly qualified. Unfortunately, his nomination has been languishing up on the Hill, and we need the Senate to confirm him as soon as possible.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey and others briefed the president on the attempts to drive IS out of Iraq and Syria.

“Our mission to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group ISIL… is a cause… that’s united countries across the globe ‒ some 60 nations, including Arab partners,” Obama told reporters after his briefing. “Our comprehensive strategy against ISIL is harnessing all elements of American power across our government: Military, intelligence, diplomatic, economic, development and ‒ perhaps most importantly ‒ the power of our values.”

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In mid-June, the Department of Defense announced the expansion of the Taqaddum base in Iraq’s Anbar province. At the same time, Obama ordered 450 more troops to the base that is just 25 kilometers from Ramadi, the provincial capital, which fell into the hands of IS forces in May.

A week later, Carter admitted to Congress that the Pentagon has not been able to find enough “legitimate”Iraqi recruits to fight off IS extremists. At that point, the US military had trained some 9,000 Iraqi soldiers –far short of its 24,000-troop goal.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said that the briefing should lead Obama to conclude that the current strategy to defeat IS isn’t working.

“The President’s afternoon at the Pentagon should lead him to the same conclusion I have reached from similar briefings; his strategy to defeat ISIL isn’t working,” Thornberry said in a statement. “From Libya and Tunisia, to Afghanistan, ISIL continues to advance while we lose ground and time. I hope that the President will acknowledge these realities, end the veto threats on bills that would enhance his ability to take the fight to ISIL, and rethink his own inadequate strategy.”

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Remember Jonestown? No?

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Jonestown” was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by the Peoples Temple, an American religious organization under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally notorious when on November 18, 1978, over 900 people died in the remote commune, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.

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A total of 909 Americans died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed “revolutionary suicide” by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan.

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Ruletta Paul and her on 1 year old baby were the first to drink the Kool-aid and Cyanide Jim Jones was dishing out, other mothers and their children followed and soon every single adult in the community had knocked back a dose.The Jonestown poisoning was the largest such event in modern history and resulted in the largest single loss of American civilian life in a deliberate act until September 11, 2001.

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“Die with a degree of dignity. Lay down your life with dignity; don’t lay down with tears and agony.” He also said, “I tell you, I don’t care how many screams you hear, I don’t care how many anguished cries…death is a million times preferable to ten more days of this life.”

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So preached ‘Pastor’ Jones and if Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the social media world had been around a couple of decades earlier, who knows what and to whom he might have preached & how many more deaths might have occurred. If say the ‘good pastor’ had an international backer or two, if for example, he had the kind of support that would have granted him access to several tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, Kalashnikov’s, military know-how & combat training what mightn’t he have achieved? Globally speaking? All with the help of devout followers who would gladly have followed him to the point of ‘revolutionary suicide’ and beyond.

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One journalist who had access to the film footage of that final day at Jonestown, wrote this,

Why is this footage so disturbing? It is disturbing for many reasons. The inevitability of what you are watching. You look at all the people singing and dancing and just getting on with life, and you know that by sundown, all but a small handful will be dead. You look at Jonestown in the sunlight on the last day, and you get a tiny taste of the work that had gone into this little hamlet. You know from everything you have read about Jonestown that even the survivors almost didn’t survive their demons after the event.

But most of all, it is disturbing because there is no video or sound editor who has manipulated your emotions.

What you are watching and what you are seeing is the raw soundtrack of impending waste of huge human potential. You are watching nearly a thousand people who are preparing to bow to the will of a man who is preparing to take them all with him in death.’

-Niels Colesky

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“Like most outsiders, we didn’t have any idea what was happening outside closed doors.” -Rebecca Moore, a professor of religious studies at San Diego State University.

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Jonestown? Al-Qaeda? ISIS? Really, other than professed religious belief what is the difference? All three have advocated and are advocating ‘revolutionary suicide’. Real people with real lives, families & friends have bought the Kool-aid and drank it. The people left picking up the pieces? The families, the friends and of course the victims.

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IMF agrees $833mn emergency loan to Iraq

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The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it plans to provide Iraq with an emergency financial assistance of $833 million. 

The IMF has announced in a statement that the emergency loan will be meant to help Iraq with its war on ISIL terrorists as well as the effects of the low oil prices. It has further added that its Executive Board will meet to approve the initiative in July.

“The Fund is ready to assist Iraq in its efforts to tackle the economic impact of the conflict with ISIL and the decline in global oil prices,” the IMF said in its statement.

It further emphasized that the Iraqi economy contracted 2.1% in 2014 “mainly because of the violence”, and might grow only 0.5% this year. Also, weak oil revenues, the Fund added in its statement, are expected to increase Iraq’s budget deficit and decrease its foreign assets.

“We welcome the steps taken by the authorities to address these urgent challenges and support their request for IMF emergency assistance.

Iraq’s 2015 budget called for roughly $102 billion in spending, to be financed by $67 billion in oil revenues, $13 billions in customs and other tax revenues, and $22 billions in debt.

However, the IMF has warned in its statement that Iraq’s budget deficit is serious.

“Mainly because of the violence, the economy has contracted by 2.1 percent in 2014 and is projected to achieve only a modest recovery of 0.5 percent this year, despite solid growth in the oil sector,” the Fund said in its statement that was released on Friday.

“With low oil prices, export revenues have contracted, pushing the current account into a deficit expected to reach 8 percent of GDP in 2015. As a result, foreign assets have declined in 2014 to US$67 billion and are projected to fall further this year”.

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deficit expected to reach 8 percent of GDP in 2015. As a result, foreign assets have declined in 2014 to US$67 billion and are projected to fall further this year”.