Foreword

OPEC Secretary General

“Now, what I want is facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else.”

The opening lines of Charles Dickens' seminal novel, Hard Times, were spoken with commanding authority by the character, Gradgrind. Of course, Dickens was satirizing a tendency among some of the dominant philosophies of the 19th century to emphasize facts and rationalism at the expense of human experience.

Looking to our own times, we can see that a countervailing strand of thinking dominates public thought. Indeed, the very opposite tendency to what Dickens satirized is prevalent in our modern age. In 2016, the Oxford Dictionaries ‘word of the year’ was ‘post-truth’ , and along with its synonym ‘post-factual,’ the concept has been forefront of international discourse in the last three years. In 2019, it can appear that facts themselves are under siege and fact-based policy is in danger of being sidelined.

Unfortunately, the oil market can often be subjected to similar forces which are not rooted in fact. Sentiment, speculation and even rumours have been known to drive the market. The situation can be further complicated by computerized or automated trading, with algorithms, Big Data and AI playing important roles.

While OPEC would perhaps not go as far as Gradgrind’s tunnel-vision, the Organization passionately believes in evidence-based analysis, policy making grounded in fact and verifiable assumptions guided by careful observation. OPEC is not interested in distorted or selective interpretations of market developments; rather, we meticulously monitor and critically examine realities, and we are proud that this remains the core purpose of OPEC’s Annual Statistical Bulletin (ASB).

Since its first publication in 1965, the ASB has remained an indispensable reference tool for analysts and academics, policymakers and industry specialists. The ASB’s ever increasing readership  and online viewership reflects its status as a highly respected and regularly cited source on conditions in the oil market. Indeed, this 54th edition of the ASB is a first in the history of OPEC and the oil industry: it is the earliest publication of its kind in a calendar year.

The ASB is the outcome of hard and labour-intensive work involving analysts, researchers and statisticians, both at the OPEC Secretariat and our Member Countries. This is a collaborative achievement and I would like to express my appreciation to the staff at the OPEC Secretariat  — and all the colleagues and other officials in our Member Countries — for their continuous hard work to make this publication possible.

Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo
OPEC Secretary General