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Archive for the ‘Algeria Section’ Category

Algeria seeks alternatives to hydrocarbon economy

The Algerian president is the latest to call for the country’s diversification from the energy sector.

By Walid Ramzi for Magharebia in Algiers – 10/08/11

The Algerian government is looking to reduce the economy’s dependence on the hydrocarbon sector, which represents 98% of the country’s currency income.

“Algeria is called upon to exert a great effort to bring its economy out of dependence on oil and to diversify its resources so as not to be a hostage to the fluctuation of oil prices in international markets,” President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said at an August 4th meeting on the energy sector.

Economists have long raised concerns over the vulnerability of the Algerian financial system to shocks in the event of a drop in oil prices. Experts warn the dependence could continue in the coming years unless action is taken.

“The danger of the situation in the medium term is continuation of the economy being excessively linked to oil and gas prices in the world market, and the absence of any serious strategy to support economic diversification,” economist Mohamed Sellama told Magharebia.

He said that at the end of 2010, the hydrocarbon sector comprised a third of GDP, the equivalent of 98% of total exports and more than 70% budget revenue.

The economist stressed the necessity of adopting other means to develop the Algerian economy, particularly by relying on the knowledge economy. Sellama said Algeria “should quickly prepare for a post-petroleum phase with the acquisition of additional resources from other sectors, particularly agriculture and tourism”.

A government report released last year showed that the value of Algeria’s hydrocarbon exports during the period between 2000 and 2009 amounted to nearly $400 billion. The report said Algeria produces 1.45 million barrels of oil per day and 152 billion cubic meters of natural gas. It exports about 62 billion cubic meters annually and plans to increase the exports to 85 billion cubic meters per year beginning in 2013.

“The Algerian economy is facing a double jeopardy because of the nature of exports, as hydrocarbons make up 98% of exports and, in addition, half of the exports of non-hydrocarbon products are in fact derived from oil,” noted Samir Kateb, a financial affairs journalist.

In the opinion of many citizens, continuing to rely entirely on oil will lead the Algerian economy into an abyss. Businessman Mohamed Amarni, age 45, said, “Despite the government’s announcing several measures to raise the level of public expenditure and to increase salaries, they remain insufficient to address the structural imbalances of the Algerian economy.”

Amarni said Algerian companies face administrative complexities and a bureaucratic banking system that stood in the way of efforts to improve competitiveness.

“The deteriorating business environment, the instability of the legislation and the rules governing investment weaken the country’s attractiveness for investment and discourage foreign investors from launching industrial and service projects that could enhance the domestic economic fabric and support its competitiveness,” he added.

Economics student Said Brakni believes that talk about diversifying the Algerian economy “is an old record officials have repeated for several years without anything being achieved on the ground”.

For her part, Halima Salhi, a media company employee, believes that solutions exist but the “political will and courage in taking strategic decisions do not exist”.

“What is required is implementation of solutions, and we want to see results with our own eyes and without deception as soon as possible,” she said.

Source: Magharebia.

Algeria creates one million new jobs


Algeria created more than one million jobs in the first half of 2011, according to an economic report released by the prime minister’s office on Monday (August 8th). The government analysis cited job growth in the administrative, agricultural, industrial, handicraft and service sectors.

Source: Magharebia.

Algerian Islamists launch new party

New Algerian political party FJD is raising questions about a possible schism in the Islamist movement.

By Ademe Amine for Magharebia in Algiers – 08/08/11

Long-time Algerian Islamist Abdellah Djaballah recently created a new political party, shaking up the conservative political landscape.

Djaballah announced the formation of the Justice and Development Front (FJD) before of a crowd of nearly 1,500 people who had come to attend his party’s inaugural congress July 30th in Algiers. The founder and one-time leader of the Ennahda and El Islah parties appealed to his former colleagues and those in the Islamist movement as a whole to join his new faction.

The announcement did not go unnoticed those by the Islamist movement, which some claim is losing ground in Algeria.

“We have no issues with Mr Djaballah,” said Fatah Rebii, Ennahda secretary-general. “We will contact this new party and engage with him in dialogue as we do with other political parties.” Rebii also did not rule out the idea of an alliance for the 2012 legislative and local elections “if Mr Djaballah wants one”.

Addressing an enthusiastic crowd at the first FJD congress, Djaballah said his group would “campaign for a democratic and social Algeria”, adding that the party was “interested in all national affairs in all sectors”.

“In addition, we want to serve our religion, our country and our nation. A holy trinity. A country and a nation without Islam has no value in the eyes of God. Striving for life and the afterlife is a duty. Victory in life, heaven in the afterlife,” Djaballah said.

The leaders of the Movement for the Society of Peace (MSP), a moderate Islamist party in the ruling coalition, have said nothing about the new party.

Djamal Ben Abdeslam, a leader of the Islamist El Islah party, described the announcement of a new party as “a non-event”.

“El Islah campaigners know this man well,” he added. “They were with him from the time when he led our party just as he wished and they won’t respond to his appeal today.”

El Islah Secretary-General Hamlaoui Akouchi said, “I don’t think our campaigners will join Djaballah’s party and anyone who wants to leave is free to do so.”

The political arena is open and “free for anyone who wants to create his own party”, Akouchi added. “It’s up to citizens to choose the party they like.”

“We accept plurality within the Islamist movement, just as we accept plurality within other movements such as secular ones”, Akouchi said. “We are not worried about any parties on the political stage as long as they use democratic practices that are far from violence.”

The FJD is the third Islamist political party created by Abdellah Djaballah, who is regarded as one of the most outspoken Islamist leaders and the most critical of government policy. He launched the Ennahda party after democratic reforms in the 1990s before setting up El Islah.

Source: Magharebia.

Algeria to launch biometric passports


Algeria will finally begin issuing biometric passports next month, Liberte reported on Wednesday (December 21st). According to Interior Minister Daho Ould Kablia, the high-tech Algeria biometric passport is “perfect in terms of security”. A test run of the issuance process will be conducted in 50 communities, he said, with priority given to those who have never had a passport.

In 2009, Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said the passports would give Algeria an extra tool in the fight against “terrorism, illegal immigration and various forms of organized crime”.

Source: Magharebia.

Bouteflika pledges transparent elections


The Arab League, United Nations, EU, African Union and other organizations will be invited to observe Algeria’s parliamentary elections next spring, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika told legislators on Sunday (December 18th). The elections will be followed by a revision of the constitution, in line with the Algeria reforms promised last April, he said.

The government will also authorize new political parties and launch a wide-scale media campaign about the parliamentary poll, Bouteflika said.

Source: Magharebia.

Algeria passes divisive media law

Observers say a restrictive new press act isolates Algeria at a time of expanding freedom throughout the Arab world.

By Nazim Fethi for Magharebia in Algiers – 19/12/11

Algeria’s People’s National Assembly passed a controversial new media law on Wednesday (December 14th), despite opposition from journalists and many politicians.

Although the act does away with prison sentences for journalists, opens up the audio-visual sector to private companies and includes a provision for new authorities to govern the press, it also places numerous restrictions on the free exercise of reporters, particularly in terms of access to sources of information.

“The law contains serious restrictions imposed in the name of defending the country’s foreign policy and economic interests,” according to Mustapha Bouchachi, president of the Algerian Human Rights League. In his view, the new legislation restricts freedom of expression through “a series of considerations adapted by the regime to suit its own interests”.

Khaled Bourayou, a lawyer who specializes in defending journalists, commented that the new law was “merely window-dressing by the authorities for the sake of our image abroad, when the reality is different”. He said he lamented the situation in terms of free expression following the act’s passage, adding that “all efforts made by media professionals to improve the law were ignored”.

Bourayou called on “all parties worried about the future of civil liberties in this country to continue their efforts to guarantee freedom of expression”.

Kamel Amrani, National Journalists’ Union Secretary-General, said that his union warned against amending the 1990 Information Act. “We said that amending it would not necessarily mean that greater freedoms would be guaranteed,” he said.

As the vote was taking place, press freedom campaigners gathered outside parliament. The demonstrators issued a statement expressing their “rejection of the bill on the Information Code, which does not address the expectations, aspirations and hopes of journalists, who aspire to professional and social protection”.

“To speak of an opposition force, you must first have a political scene. In Algeria, however, we no longer have politics or a political scene,” commented Redouane Boudjemaa, an information and communication science teacher.

“The Algerian authorities are moving even closer towards the margins of history,” Boudjemaa added. “They are thinking about their own interests, not the interests of the state.”

Brahim Brahimi, the head of the journalism graduate school in Algiers, commented that “the adoption of the two laws runs counter to what is going on around the world and the Arab world in particular”.

“With this law, we are isolating ourselves,” Brahimi said. “What’s more, the law goes against the reforms. In 1990, we insisted on the right to information, and now, with the opening-up of the audio-visual sector, we need to emphasize the right to communicate.”

“We are really taking a backwards step towards the law of 1982. The press must prove that it is the second authority in Algeria. Journalists must step up their efforts. The authorities have succeeded in destabilizing political parties without the courts daring to react,” he added.

“The press must now keep fighting to ensure that civil society finds its rightful place in a modern state,” Brahimi said.

Source: Magharebia.

Education strike to hit Algeria


Algeria’s National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) plans to mount a one-week strike on Monday (December 19th), El Watan quoted the union’s national co-ordinator, Ben Medour Nadjib, as saying. The union told members to prepare for a prolonged campaign, including hunger strikes, and will continue the action if the education ministry fails to meet their demands. The union’s demands include a variety of increases in compensation, benefits, and working conditions.

Source: Magharebia.

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