Magharebia (Washington DC)

Algeria Looks to Boost Business Climate

Algiers — The government held a tripartite meeting with labour and business partners to get the country out of its financial doldrums.

In a bid to solve the deepening economic crisis, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal last Thursday (November 22nd) conferred with a wide range of civil society, political and business partners.

The only ones left out were independent trade unions, though they had been expressing the greatest worker discontent.

"Tell me what has stalled so that we can get things going again quickly", Sellal began by telling the attendees.

"We need to create a business climate and facilitate and simplify investment, because we have the means and the money, which, if used wisely, can enable us to push the growth rate up from 2.5% and achieve double-digit growth," the minister said.

Among the participants were five members of the cabinet, Bank of Algeria Governor Mohamed Laksaci, the General Union of Algerian Workers (UGTA), employer unions, civil society representatives and entrepreneurs.

The goal was to haul the country out of the current economic and social deadlock.

"Make extra efforts to foster a business-friendly environment," the prime minister told bank chiefs. He also called on managers and companies to take advantage of the considerable reserves which banks have at their disposal "in order to move things up a gear".

On the macroeconomic front, Finance Minister Karim Djoudi and Laksaci underlined that indicators were on the move.

The rate of inflation has reached 9.39% this year due to tensions in the agriculture market and repercussions of wage increases, they said.

For the first time since the tripartite meeting's inception, the issue of wages was not discussed.

For his part, Forum of Company Directors (FCE) chief Reda Hamiani warned against a resurgence of inflation due to the wage increases at the beginning of the year.

UGTA chief Abdulmadjid Sidi Said mentioned some fifteen or so proposals including the reintroduction of consumer credit for Algerian-made products. He also recommended charging VAT on imports and re-launching consumer cooperatives.

"I hope that together with you, in 2013 we will forge a real pact for growth," Sellal said. "It's no longer enough for us to have 700,000 small and medium-sized enterprises in Algeria. We really have to do more. Especially since, in the light of the international context, many companies in European and neigbouring countries are suffering a great deal and are offering us opportunities."

"We have sectors which we're still not managing to kick-start, but which offer a way of creating wealth", he lamented, referring in particular to information and communication technologies. "If we lag behind in the development of new information and communication technologies, we will miss the boat."

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