28 November 2012

Algerian Government Reconciles With Citizens

Algiers — A new watchdog group aims to protect citizens' interests and give them a greater voice in governance.

As Algerians prepare for local elections on Thursday (November 29th), a new committee to monitor government performance aims to gain a "better control of the people on local affairs", Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said.

The watchdog group will monitor the social atmosphere, trends and changes, allowing the government to act in a timely manner and better understand its citizens.

The new body will be "at the service of the citizens, not the other way around", Sellal promised.

"The government's decision to create a watchdog committee responds to a need to understand a society undergoing continuous change," sociologist Ahmed Mehdi said about the initiative announced on October 17th.

"This is directed toward young people. Politicians want to reach out as much as possible to that age bracket, which happens to be 70% of the population," he said.

Economist Zoubir Benhamouche wrote about the plan new strategy on his blog, saying that the "watchdog committee should be able to precisely identify and quantify the problems citizens encounter with the local authorities".

"Ideally, we should be asking citizens what they think of the government, which is a very touchy subject but one that needs to be asked if we want to have an efficient and long lasting effect on how public institutions are run," he said.

The Algerian government has taken other measures to reach out to the population and regain its trust.

"The government will pay special attention to promoting jobs by reinforcing its current support system and integration methods and by resorting to innovative techniques in the economic sphere," the prime minister said while reaffirming the state's commitment to creating 3 million jobs by 2014.

He also announced that the state would maintain subsidies for general consumer goods such as milk, food grains, oil, sugar, products intended for cattle feed production, and most recently corn.

He assured Algerians that these prices, as well as that of electricity, would not be increased.

The prime minister also promised to build 1.4 million homes by 2014.

"The government's new program could be the prelude to that - provided that they put in place what it takes to make it happen," unemployed young man Aymen Mahiou told Magharebia.

Karia Oudah, also young and unemployed, said, "The needs of young Algerians are no different than those of other young people around the world."

"Employment, safety, the right to a decent life, and freedom of speech are all things young Algerians aspire to," Oudah said.

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