Venezuela launches oil-backed cryptocurrency

VENEZUELA formally launched its new oil-backed cryptocurrency yesterday, in an unconventional bid to haul itself out of a deepening economic crisis.

The leftist Caracas government put 38.4 million units of the world’s first state-backed digital currency, the Petro, on private pre-sale from the early hours.

During the first 20 hours of the pre-sale, which runs through March 19, Venezuela received “intent to buy” offers to the tune of US$735 million (RM2.9 billion), said President Nicolas Maduro.

“The Petro reinforces our independence and economic sovereignty, and will allow us to fight the greed of foreign powers that try to suffocate Venezuelan families to seize our oil,” he said.

A total of 100 million Petros will go on sale, with an initial value set at US$60, based on the price of a barrel of Venezuelan crude in mid-January – but subject to change.

Economist and cryptocurrency expert Jean-Paul Leidenz told AFP that prices during the pre-sale “will be agreed privately” and would then fluctuate according to the market when the initial coin offering of 44 million Petros was made on March 20.

Meanwhile, the government will reserve the remaining 17.6 million Petros.

Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves, but is facing a crippling economic and political crisis.

Vice-President Tareck El Aissami said the Petro would “generate confidence and security in the national and international market”.

Maduro announced in early December that Venezuela – which is under sanctions from the US, as well as the European Union – was creating the digital currency.

The Venezuelan leader said he expected the Petro to open “new avenues of financing” in the face of Washington’s sanctions, which prohibit US citizens and companies from trading debt issued by the country and its oil company, PDVSA.

But, experts are sceptical about the Petro’s chances of success, pointing out that the country’s deep economic imbalances would only serve to undermine confidence in the new currency.

“Theoretically, with cryptocurrencies, you could bypass the US financial system… but everything depends on generating confidence,” said economist Henkel Garcia.

Meanwhile, consulting firm Eurasia Group estimates that although Venezuela could raise some US$2 billion in the initial offer, it is “unlikely” that the Petro will be established as “a credible means of exchange”, beyond short-term “interest”.

Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis triggered in large part by a fall in crude oil prices and a drop in oil production, which accounts for about 96% of the country’s exports.

It is struggling to restructure its external debt, estimated at around US$150 billion by some experts. – AFP, February 21, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/39016

Sarawak BN must fight for Miri, says Abang Johari

SARAWAK’S Barisan Nasional (BN) components must go all out to recapture the Miri parliamentary seat, a former BN stronghold that was lost to the opposition in 2013, in the coming 14th General Election (GE14).

Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg said with all four BN component parties – Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS), Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), and Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) – now fully recovered from their embroilment in internal conflicts, chances of winning back the Miri parliamentary seat seemed bright.

“We must win the Miri parliamentary seat so that we can develop it together for the future generation,” he said at the Chinese New Year Dinner organised by the SUPP Miri and Sibuti parliamentary liaison committee last night.

Abang Johari, who is also the state BN chairman, said the Miri community must think rationally during GE14 as it would determine the future of Miri.

“All four leaders in Sarawak’s BN component parties are Sarawakian. We will protect the state rights based on the constitution,” he said.

SUPP Miri and Sibuti parliamentary liaison committee chairman Lee Kim Shim said SUPP had formed an election committee for GE14, with election machinery ready to move once the campaigning started.

“Together with our component parties PBB, PRS, and PDP, we will make sure that we win back the Miri parliamentary seat,” he said.

On another issue, Lee, who is state assistant minister for tourism, arts and culture, hoped that the state government would study the possibility of turning the Miri River winding from Pullman Hotel to Kampung Wireless to be turned into a waterfront that could attract tourists similar to the Kuching Waterfront.

He also appealed to the chief minister to consider making Miri City the headquarters of Sarawak-owned oil and gas company, Petroleum Sarawak Berhad (Petros).

“Miri has been the centre of the oil and gas industry for over hundreds of years. It is hoped that Petros will play an active role in developing the oil and gas industry in Sarawak, particularly in Miri, creating more jobs and opportunities,” he said. – Bernama, February 19, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/38641

Sarawak eases push for 20% oil and gas royalty

SARAWAK Housing Minister Dr Sim Kui Hian today said the state has eased on its push for a 20% increase – from the current 5% – of the oil and gas royalty.

It would instead focus on getting state petroleum company Petros, off the ground and the potential revenue it could generate.

“We are no longer talking about oil royalty,” the Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP) president said while speaking to reporters at the party’s Chinese New Year open house in Kuching.

Echoing Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg’s earlier statement that the rights to prospect and mine for all mineral and natural resources in Sarawak, including oil and gas, are rights of the state as spelt out in the federal constitution, Dr Sim also reiterated “all the oil (and gas in the state) belongs to Sarawak”.

“What is ours, is ours. Its in the constitution,” he said in reference to the chief minister’s statement in a live interview over TV1 on Tuesday.

Abang Johari, in explaining why Petronas must obtain a prospecting license if it were to operate in the state, said while the federal constitution stipulates that the development of mineral resources falls under federal purview, it is however subject to item 2(c) of the state list when it comes to Sarawak.

According to item 2(c), permits and licences for prospecting for mines, mining leases and certificates are state matters.

The needs for the state permits and certificates are under the Sarawak Oil Mining Ordinance 1958.

“This means the state has the power to prospect and mine for oil and gas in the state just like Petronas,” the chief minister said.

“If Petronas wants to prospect for oil and gas in the state, they are subject to item 2(c) of the federal constitution and the licence must be issued by the state.

“I (only) work within the perimeters of the law and the federal constitution is supreme law.”

In his Chinese New Year message, the chief minister made it clear Petros will not “just be another production sharing contract company (PSC) but one that will operate alongside Petronas and play an active part in the downstream activities of the oil and gas industry in Sarawak”.

Abang Johari said Petros be an active player in the oil and gas industry alongside Petronas within two years.

With the prospect of a higher revenue Petros could potentially generate from newly discovered gas fields and re-exploiting old oil fields with new technologies, Dr Sim took a swipe at Harapan’s New Deal manifesto for Sarawak and Sabah and the promise to give Sarawak and Sarawak the 20% royalty as demanded.

“They (Harapan) only want to give us 20%. DAP wants to kongsi (share) Sarawak’s resources.

“Petros is just a beginning. The best is yet to come,” the cardiologist turned politician said. – February 16, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/38221

No ultimatum to Petronas, says Sarawak CM

THE Sarawak chief minister’s office has denied a posting on social media that cited Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg purportedly giving an ultimatum to Petronas.

“The office wishes to clarify that the chief minister has never issued such (an) ultimatum to Petronas though the onus is on Petronas to comply with the state law like any other companies with prospecting and mining interest in Sarawak.

“(The chief minister) has always stressed that Sarawak will work alongside Petronas through its newly-formed oil company, Petros in the oil and gas industry in Sarawak within the ambit of the law and constitution. The fake news is very much regretted,” it said in a statement today.

According to the widely circulated posting titled “Ultimatum to Petronas, Get Licence or Get Out”, the chief minister purportedly issued an ultimatum to Petronas that it must obtain a prospecting licence under the Sarawak Mining Ordinance 1958 to operate in Sarawak. – Bernama, February 15, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/38033

Bidayuh oil and gas veteran picked as Petros CEO, industry sources say

OIL industry veteran Saau Kakok is expected to head Sarawak-owned Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros) after months of searching for a chief executive officer, industry sources say.

Saau, who was former special projects vice-president for Asia of the US-based independent oil company Hess Corporation, is the man Sarawak Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg has headhunted for the job and was not among the numerous applicants for the post, they said.

The 64 year-old is one of only a handful of Bidayuh oil and gas executives holding very senior positions in a multi-national petroleum company.

According to his profile on his LinkedIn page, he resigned from his vice-president position at Hess at the end of last year.

Abang Johari on Sunday said he has found “the right person for the job” and gave only one hint – that the person was a Bidayuh with experience in oil and gas industry.

The Bidayuh are the second largest of state’s ethnic tribes.

Petroleum-rich Sarawak formed Petros last year amid long-standing unhappiness over the 5% oil and gas royalty the state receives from the federal government. Sarawak has been demanding that the amount be increased to 20%.

The state government said Petros would be of “equal status” as national oil company Petronas and was meant to protect Sarawak’s interest in the industry by allowing it to participate in upstream oil and gas development, particularly in the exploration and extraction of oil and gas within Sarawak waters.

Oil and gas executives have told The Malaysian Insight that Saau was indeed picked for the job as the native of Ulu Padawan, located just outside Kuching the state capital, was a person with vast experience in the industry.

“It’s Saau. We are positive it’s him as he has been having a few meetings with Petros board chairman Hamid Bugo over the position this week,” an executive said.

Saau joined Hess in 2011 as vice-president of global new business development.

He completed his tertiary education at University of Malaya, graduating with honours in a Bachelor of Engineering degree in 1977.

Like many Sarawakians, he first joined the oil and gas industry via Shell.

His LinkedIn page stated his last position at Shell as vice-president of Shell EP International Ltd, a position he held from 2007 to 2009.

In Hess, Saau has held several positions including vice-president for Asia-Pacific, as a director in Hess Malaysia and Thailand Ltd, in Hess Oil & Gas Sdn Bhd and in Hess (Indonesia-South Sesulu) Limited.

He was with the London-based Hess (Indonesia-South Sesulu) Ltd from January 2014 to December 31, 2016.

Wilfred Nissom, one of his former teachers at the Dragon Secondary School (later renamed SMK Tun Abdul Razak), described Saau as “very sharp but quiet and humble”.

He also remembered Sauu as being a good athlete who had represented the school as a long-distance runner in inter-school sports meets.

The Malaysian Insight was also told by industry sources that the “humble” Saau had expressed that he was not good enough for the job and had asked Hamid to look for someone else.

Last November, Hamid said the Petros board was in the midst of screening 40 applications for the post that was advertised in local and national newspapers.

The other members of the Petros board are Bintulu Port Holdings CEO Mohammad Medan Abdullah, Sarawak Energy Bhd CEO Sharbini Suhaili, former Shell Gas & Power Malaysia managing director Heng Hock Cheng and Sarawak Public Works Department director Zuraimi Sabki.

All of them had served in various capacities in the oil and gas industry. – February 14, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/37884

Sarawak CM hints of plans to claim more oil, gas revenue

CHIEF Minister Abang Johari Openg has given another hint that Sarawak will muscle in to claim more revenue from oil and gas for its coffers.

“I already have ideas (on generating more income), but I cannot reveal them today,” said Abang Johari, who is also president of Parti Pesaka Bumiputera Bersatu (PBB), the second-largest party in the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, when jointly opening the PBB Women and Youth wings’ triennial delegates’ conference in Kuching today.

“We have oil, we have gas, but we only see other people benefiting from them,” he said in an apparent reference to the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA), which takes away gains from the two valuable resources from the state, and the highly contentious royalty payment arrangement, where the federal government gets 95% of revenue from the state’s oil and gas.

The PDA, a law passed by Parliament, gives Petronas the sole right to the exploration and exploitation of oil and gas, whether onshore or offshore, and “the entire ownership, and exclusive rights, powers, liberties and privileges” relating to the resources.

Having already demanded that state gets an increase in royalty to 20%, Abang Johari has spoken about plans to curtail the national petroleum company’s unbridled operations in Sarawak.

They include making Petronas obtain mining permits, as the rights to issue mining leases still rest with the state under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, and the formation of Petroleum Sarawak, a state oil company “to look after the interests of the state”.

Sarawak has also demanded that it gets the first right of refusal in any new development of oil and gas fields.

Abang Johari said he was “very confident” of making Sarawak a developed state by 2030.

“We have set a target. We can meet that target if our revenues are increased… so that we can better develop our cities and rural areas.”

He said this confidence was the reason why he dared disclose plans to build mega projects, like the light rail transit for Kuching and Samarahan, the building of an “internet backbone” in rural Sarawak and the building of a water grid without federal assistance.

The water grid, which involves laying a huge water main through the entire length of the state, could cost between RM7 billion and RM8 billion.

Abang Johari said when such major infrastructure was in place, “then, we can call Sarawak a developed state”.

Gerald Rentap Jabu, the son of former deputy chief minister Alfred Jabu, takes over the helm of the PBB Youth wing from Works Minister Fadillah Yusof, who has stepped down due to his age.

State Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Fatimah Abdullah has been made president of the party’s Women’s wing after Empiang Jabu, who is Gerald’s mother, stepped down after 11 years at the helm.

Both Gerald and Fatimah won uncontested. – February 9, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/37040

Restoring territorial integrity, devolving more powers top Pakatan’s Sarawak agenda

RESTORING the territorial integrity of Sarawak and devolving more powers top Pakatan Harapan’s agenda for the state, should it win the 14th general election.

Unveiling “Part 2” of its election manifesto at the pact’s convention in Sibu today, PH said it would prioritise the dismantling of “two fundamental pillars that Barisan Nasional continues to employ to deceive Sarawakians and sustain its grip on the state – the stripping of territorial integrity and the abrogation of powers”.

The opposition coalition said the restoration of territorial integrity and the devolution of powers would “heal the festering wounds of 55 years in Malaysia”.

The manifesto, launched by PH deputy president Muhyiddin Yassin and state PH leaders, reiterated that the pact was committed to honouring the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and restoring Sarawak to its original status “within the context of the Malaysia Agreement 1963”.

Sarawak was one of four territories, along with the federated states of Malaya, Singapore and North Borneo (now Sabah), that formed Malaysia, but in 1976, the BN government amended the constitution, reducing the status of Sabah and Sarawak as the 12th and 13th states of the federation.

Reading out the “New Deal”, former DAP Piasau assemblyman Alan Ling said a royal commission would be formed “to review various legislation that affect Sarawak’s immutable right to its natural resources, including but not limited to the Continental Shelf Act 1966, the Petroleum Development Act 1974 and the Territorial Sea Act 2012”.

In its devolution of powers proposal, PH promised to remove the BN government’s control over revenues related to budget allocations for development and funds for the implementation of projects with a fiscal decentralisation.

Under the plan, the opposition pact will devolve the power of taxation, which will see Sarawak retaining 50% of all tax revenues collected in the state.

The state will also receive 20% in oil and gas royalties, or its equivalent, from the federal government – something that Sarawak has long demanded.

On education, a lost autonomy right whose return is being demanded by Sarawak, PH said while it upheld the national education policy, “decision rights in education” would be returned to the state to “improve service delivery for the benefit of the children and youth of Sarawak”.

With this, and based on the needs and demographic of Sarawak folk, parents can choose whether to have their children taught in Bahasa Malaysia, English or Mandarin.

There will also be a localised school syllabus featuring local languages, history, politics and geography.

PH said under the education reform, staffing and administrative policies would be reviewed to enable teachers to focus on teaching and not be burdened by administrative matters.

It also promised to set up faculties in universities for the study and development of all native languages in Sarawak, and indigenous knowledge, history and anthropology.

It vowed to make available state education grants, to be awarded based on merit, for students from low-income families who wish to pursue their tertiary education either locally or overseas.

On healthcare, the pact said it would return decision rights to the state.

“The over-centralised healthcare system has not catered to the different needs and demographic of Sarawakians.

“The centralised procurement system, in the form of the middle man, has also significantly increased the cost of healthcare and medicines.”

To overcome the problem, the manifesto said, open competition in the procurement of medical supplies, pharmaceuticals and medical services would be encouraged.

There will also be the upgrading of all general hospitals in Sarawak, to be equipped with cancer and heart centres.

PH also promised to dismantle the BN government’s trade control and licensing system, which it said encouraged monopolies, cronyism and rent-seeking.

The No. 1 target is the removal of controlled import permits on cars, rice, sugar, cement and other commodities, which the pact said “artificially inflated” the prices of goods.

On the management of Sarawak’s natural resources, PH said the state-owned petroleum company set up by the BN government, Petros, would be replaced by an “equivalent of Petronas” and be named “Sarawak Petrogas”.

The company will answer directly to the state legislative assembly, and like Petros, it will be wholly owned by the state government.

PH said Petros was a mere sub-contractor of Petronas, “hopeful to receive some distribution and sub-contract work”. – January 20, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/33504

Petroleum Sarawak signs up for Petrotel’s expertise in oil and gas

STATE-OWNED fledgling oil and gas company, Petroleum Sarawak (Petros) has taken its first step into the business with the signing a memorandum of understanding with Petrotel Energy Oman LLC “to explore the possibility of co-operation to develop the downstream sector of oil and gas industries in Sarawak”.

International oil and gas company “with links to Sarawak”, South Sea Energy (SSE), is also a signatory to the MoU.

The signing in Muscat, Oman today was witnessed by Chief Minister Abang Johari Openg.

Chairman Hamid Bugo and board member Zuraimi Sabki signed for Petronas, president Lily Chin and executive director Tiong Kiong King for SSE, and chief executive Dr Anil Chopra and chief operating officer Mike Lucich for Petrotel.

The chief minister, who is on a working visit to Oman and the United Arab Emirates, had earlier witnessed the signing of an MOU between Petrotel and SSE on exploration and production rights in the Arab country.

Petrotel is described on its website as “a leader in oil and gas technology in all aspects of exploration and production with worldwide experience” which has worked on “more than 300 fields worldwide in over 30 countries”.

The Sarawak chief minister and his delegation, which included Deputy Chief Minister and Second Minister of Natural Resources Awang Tengah Ali Hasssn, State Secretary Mohammad Morshidi Abdul Ghani and Sarawak Energy chief executive officer Sharbini Suhaili, arrived in the Omani capital yesterday.

Later yesterday evening, the chief minister and his entourage were shown an overview of the prospects and possibilities of cooperation in the oil and gas sector in the sultanate by SSE.

On Monday, while in the oil refining town of Miri, Abang Johari said Petros would be an active player in the oil and gas industry in two years.

The company was formed in August last year to look after the state’s interest in oil and gas discovered and mined in Sarawak.

Petros is still on a head hunt for a chief executive officer. – January 17, 2018.

Source: https://www.themalaysianinsight.com/s/33006

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