Saturday, February 2, 2008

OPEC controls world economy


Would you believe that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) controls the world's economy? And that nobody, even the technologically advanced nations like the United States, can impose its will on these oil-producing countries.

A case in point is Venezuela, an OPEC member and one of the biggest oil producers in South America. In that country, President Hugo Chavez wields power more than any leaders in that region do. On the contrary, what he does to his constituents and the Venezuelan economy are far-reaching and redounds to the benefits of the people in so far as economic benefits and privileges are concerned. Like the rest of the OPEC members, mostly located in the Middle East, Venezuelan consumers are extremely happy as to the way huge profits from oil exports are being distributed to the people themselves. With the price of gasoline so cheap, almost all Venezuelans enjoy the fruits of the natural resource God has endowed to them.

And in some ways, Venezuela knows how to share its cheap oil to those who need them most. Among those who benefit from this generosity are the poor American people who can't afford to sustain the costly imported heating fuels to warm up their homes during winter time. And this is because of one politician whose heart is for helping the poor. Meet Rep. Joseph Kennedy, who founded his non-profit Citizens Energy, which receives discounted heating oil from Citgo, a state-owned Venezuelan oil company, for distribution to low-income families.

In a survey conducted by the U.S. News and World Report, it said in a published article that the higher heating costs have exacted a serious toll on poor Americans comes the winter season. It added that more than 50 percent of the American households use natural gas whose cost went up by as much as 90 percent as compared to that in 2001 and 2002. Furthermore, it cited findings by the National Regulatory Institute that "past-due gas utility accounts rose from 16.5 percent in 2001 to 21 percent in 2006."

For example, an unprecedented 26 percent of the customers had fallen 26 percent behind in paying their bills in Minnesota, allowing the power utility firm CenterPoint Energy to look for a US$106 million in accounts receivable by spring.

Already popular in at least 16 states, Kennedy's Citizens Energy is now running advertisements that urge needy residents to call 1-877-JOE-4-OIL. Consequently, this publicity stunt has elicited negative comments from some sectors who may have misunderstood the ulterior motive behind Kennedy's humanitarian project.

In interview, Kennedy has scored the state governments for not acting at once on behalf of low-income consumers who couldn't afford the high costs of heating oil, which rose to more than 40 percent in a year. Despite this crisis, they have not declared an emergency in areas where poor people may have freeze to death.

These are just among the present scenarios that have impacted on the lives of ordinary people in most developing countries. Yet, never have we heard the OPEC extending some kind of financial assistance to the countries whose economies are reeling from the increasing prices of oil in the world markets? And why can't they follow what Hugo Chavez is doing in Venezuela? At least, President Chavez shares the bounty of his God-given resources to other nations as what Citgo does to low-income Americans. Who wouldn't refuse such an offer which is becoming a great help to those in need of cheap heating oil, anyway?

Although it is common knowledge that Middle East countries led by Saudi Arabia have opened their doors for the influx of foreign workers to their shores and remit their tax-free salaries they earn from their hard toils in these countries whose culture is so strange to those who are not used to them. Aside from these, nothing more. From the way it looked, OPEC couldn't care less for the needs of heavily indebted countries whose economies are already strained by repaying their external debts to the World Bank.

What is a sad reality is that everytime there is an oil price increase, the chain reactions are immediately felt across the globe. And most of those hurt by its negative impacts are the poor developing countries whose production costs are intolerably higher due to inefficient manufacturing practices that all the more result in costly prices of finished products in the domestic markets. Isn't these a clandestine way of killing the weak economies who are left without a choice but to bite the bullets.

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