Pope visits Myanmar, Opec talks
The FT's Helen Barrett previews some of the big stories in the week ahead, including the controversial visit by Pope Francis to Myanmar, Opec talks deciding how to deal with the threat from US shale and the latest UK migration figures.
Written by Simon Greaves, John Reed, David Sheppard and John Aglionby. Filmed by Petros Gioumpasis and James Sandy. Clips from Reuters. Stills from Getty. Produced by Josh de la Mare.
Hello, and welcome to The Week Ahead from The Financial Times in London. Here are some of the big stories we will be watching this week. Pope Francis's visit to Myanmar runs into controversy. Can the Russian Saudi oil deal hold as Opec talks open in Vienna? And the UK releases its latest migration figures.
Pope Francis will begin a six-day visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh in the shadow of a humanitarian crisis at the two countries' borders. The trip will be the first by a Roman Catholic pontiff to Myanmar, whose forces have since August cracked down violently on Muslim Rohingya militants in the west.
More than 620,000 refugees have fled into Bangladesh. The Pope has spoken on the Rohingyas' behalf, but Myanmar's most senior Catholic priest, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, has warned the Pope against using this word Rohingya, which he says infuriates many in the Buddhist majority in Myanmar.
"We have asked him to refrain from using the word Rohingya, because his word is very much contested and not acceptable by the military, nor the government and nor the people in Myanmar. These are the people that need help, and they are also as human beings."
The Opec and Russia-led oil production cuts that started in January have sent the Brent Crude price rising above $60 a barrel for the first time in more than two years. But when Opec leaders meet in Vienna on Thursday, all eyes will be on whether the Saudi-Russian alliance can hold.
Last month, the two oil superpowers indicated they would back extending output cuts in 2018 to rebalance supplies with demand. But Russia is concerned a higher price could lead the US shale industry to swamp the market. The FT's Energy Markets Editor, David Sheppard, has more.
"They believe, many think, that perhaps the prices recover too far, too fast. Above $60 a barrel, that's a level where by US shale companies, who, of course, did so much to create the glut in market in 2014 in the first place, could come roaring back, massively increasing production and causing problems for Opec and Russia and other big producer countries further down the line.
What they might also be doing, however though, is just trying to spread a little bit of doubt in the market so that people do not think this is a straightforward, done deal, that you have a situation whereby it's definitely going to happen, and therefore when in nine months or more extension to the deal is announced, the price instead sells off, rather than being excited or grateful that this is going to go ahead and help draw down stocks.
UK migration figures and long term estimates are released on Monday. The government will want to see more people leaving in the wake of the Brexit vote, and is committed to reducing net migration to below 100,000. Official statistics in August showed net migration had fallen to its lowest level in three years, as significantly more EU citizens departed. But, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said the figures were evidence of an economically damaging Brexodus of EU workers. FT economics writer Martin Sandbu has the story.
The official statistics on migration into and out of the UK are political dynamite. They were very important in the Brexit referendum debate, where some people on the leave side wanted to leave the EU because they thought there was too much immigration and of course, under EU rules, there is free movement of EU citizens in and out of Britain.
Now in the last couple of releases we have seen immigration come down from levels of about 300,000 a bit more, net inward migration before the referendum, down to 264,000 in the last release. And a lot of that was because of Europeans clearly not being as attracted to the UK as before. East Europeans in particular, zero net migration in the last release, as many people leaving as coming in.
So everyone will be looking at the data coming out now to see if that trend is continuing, partly because it feeds into the political commitment by the government to bring immigration down, but also because the UK economy relies a lot on inward migration for growth. And if that migration falls, so could economic growth in the years going ahead.
Investing in young Africans' education and job opportunities will be at the top of the agenda when African Union and EU leaders meet in Abidjan in Ivory Coast this week for their fifth joint summit. It will be the first time African leaders have gathered since the resignation of Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president. The head of the African Union, Alpha Conde, had this warning.
And that's what the week ahead looks like from The Financial Times in London. Goodbye.