PETRONAS will be 45 this Aug 17. The RM55.3 billion net profit on the back of a revenue of RM251 billion for Financial Year 2018 must be considered a good birthday present.
Under US$120 (RM490) per barrel during Brent’s heyday, it surely would have been a mammoth birthday do for the Malaysian oil giant.
But those days may be gone forever. Such is the nature of the world of oil and gas. Volatility is part of the DNA of the industry.
There is no cure for it. The best the oil producers can do is to manage it. Petronas has done well here.
Petronas is often compared to Indonesia’s Pertamina, from which it drew some lessons in its early days. Their paths have diverged in contrasting ways since then as our Reuters’ story depicted yesterday.
In the early days of 1972 — two years before Petronas came into being — crude oil was trading at US$1.50 per barrel.
As unreal as it may seem now, low for long was a norm for crude prices then.
Soon came the Middle East War and Opec embargo, pushing prices to an unheard of US$12 per barrel. For a long time — between the late 1970s and early 1980s — crude prices were hovering around high US$20s and low US$30s, respectively.
The rest, as they say, is history. And what a history it was!
The first movers of Petronas did the right thing in establishing an oil company to call our own.
The US$27 billion Pengerang Integrated Complex is an example of what a good thing has come out of it.
Those who succeeded the first movers did well, too, by setting up the National Trust Fund in 1988 to stretch the molecule to as distant a generation as possible.
Since its establishment the fund has grown to a tidy sum, though confirmation of an exact figure is hard to come by.
Unfortunately, Petronas has been the sole contributor to the trust fund since its establishment. This shouldn’t be the case.
Ensuring the sustainability of the current and future generations of Malaysians isn’t just the responsibility of the national oil company.
There are a constellation of other corporate players in the Malaysian economic space, and they must step in to share the responsibility.
Relying solely on Petronas to grow the trust fund would mean jeopardising its ability to invest for its future growth.
What is more, Petronas has been dishing out to the government a total of RM971 billion in the form of dividends, royalties, taxes and duties from 1974 to 2016, according to one media report.
Asking it to do more is a sure way of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.
People, too, must help fight the sustainability battle. Sustainability doesn’t mean giving up.
It means using the resources we have in such a way that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising those of the generations to come.
This principle must be applied to all resources — from the petrol at the pump through the power at the switch of the toggle to the water on tap. Sustainability is a lifestyle.
Only such a lifestyle can guarantee a future that is perfect. Well, almost.