What kind of a speech do you give when you’re invited to a party and you want to get a difficult message across without upsetting your hosts?
That was the dilemma confronting two very senior executives from Chevron and ExxonMobil when they addressed the Kazenergy Forum in the glittering Kazakh capital of Astana last week. They had some serious points to make about the conditions for foreign companies in general, and their own in particular, but they would have been way out of line had they been too blunt in their comments.
So how do you go about getting your points across? Naturally you start by praising Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country’s president. But for what do you praise him? For presiding over the quadrupling of oil production from 20 mt in 1991 to 79.7 mt in 2010? For the giant pipelines and shipping routes that mean his country now exports around 1.5 million b/d to markets as far afield as the United States, China and Western Europe? Or for overseeing the country’s emergence as the world’s leading producer of uranium?
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