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French Version

Algeria unveils $50 billion development plan

PM says economy still not doing well

Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on Wednesday announced a $50 billion economic development plan over the next five years.

Speaking at a meeting of the north African country's National Economic and Social Council (CNES), Ouyahia said "all conditions are right for steady economic growth in the coming five years.

" However, the prime minister also called for reforms in the financial sector, currently hampered by "reluctance on the part of banks to make investment loans," rather than relying on tax revenues from state-owned companies.

Algeria will have to "meet the challenge to make improvements in the delivery of services" if the country wants to join the World Trade Organisation within the five-year period and also implement finance and development agreements reached with the European Union, he said.

Investment in development over the past five years totalled some 28 billion dollars.

The country derives more than 96 percent of its income from its oil and gas production and is currently benefitting from high oil prices.

CNES president Mohamed Salah Mentouri warned that this "highlights the need to rationalise budget decisions and show greater efficiency in public expenditure, notably by addressing mounting demands for social improvements which have for so long been delayed." Mentouri said the economy "is doing better" but "it is still not doing well." Rejecting "the logic of the short term," he said Algeria "needs economic and social treatments which are both urgent and appropriate to a long-term outlook." For all Algeria's wealth in petroleum products, economic hardships, inadequate housing and unemployment remain major problems - factors that played into the hands of Islamic extremists who launched a guerrilla insurgency in 1992.

"Important needs are awaiting appropriate treatment," Mentouri said, adding that the "consolidation of the macro-economic balance shelters our economy for a while from outside shocks, but it does not make the risks go away."

Beirut,12 13 2004
The Daily Star
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