Many of you who read the national press regularly will know that since what has come to be known as the “Arab Spring“, many professional sectors in Algeria have experienced intense instability in the form of long and paralysing strikes. The recurring reason for all these strikes is the ‘low’ salaries. Many would say that financial incentives are usually the main motivation behind any strike anywhere. I agree but the point I will attempt to make here is concerned with our cultural outlook with regards to labour and the value of it.
I have a short story to share with you. Several years ago, at the airport, I was finishing my coffee while the passengers started boarding. A police officer passed by and lit a cigarette. The airport was already a non-smoking place so, without thinking much, I rose up to remind him of the rule. But before reaching the man, I thought a little more and considered the risk of the officer not liking my comment and getting me into some petty trouble. I had an important meeting on the next day and couldn’t afford to miss my flight so I decided to keep silent.
I chose the status quo over change after weighing the pros and cons. The risk, tiny as it was, of missing my flight was big enough to hinder my initial action. Today, there are still a few airport employees and some passengers who smoke in non-smoking areas.
Someone even told me she saw policewomen smoke in Houari Boumediene airport’s bathrooms. Continue reading →
The Algerian minister of transportations, Amar Tou, announced that the metro of Algiers will be up and running on November 1st. Yes you heard me, in less than four months; which is nothing when you have waited for it for more than 30 years. The people of Algiers should be able to visit the stations starting from next week and should even take part in the official trials during the month of September. Continue reading →
Reading about the details of the Greek case, I cannot help but see many structural and cultural similarities between Greece and Algeria: corrupt politicial and business elite, dismal working ethics at the population level, a completely inefficient not to say non existant taxing system and so on. All observers say that Greece will inevitably default now, but opinions vary as to what this will lead to on the economic level of Greece and also with regards to the Euro project. Personally, I just wonder if (or should I say when?) the same scenario happens to Algeria, who will be able to propose a solution out of the mess (not even talking about what sort of solutions as am sure most will be incredibly hard to implement at that point anyway). The world is becoming an unstable, riot-happy place. I wonder if we will see a surge in the fashion appeal of the Fascist regimes of old in the next few decades….
I keep saying, in Algeria we absolutely need to sort out our working ethics and taxation system, also put in place measures to minimize big business influence on government. It is absolutely imperative. But sadly, seems to fall on deaf ears…even the population does not see the importance of some or all of these things. Worse, we seem to be replicating the consumption-based system of the West!! Sigh.
I haven’t read any of the Algerian state-owned newspapers for many years so I thought, in these very special times, why not check what our dear El Moudjahid says on the recent events. And good news the good old newspaper didn’t disappoint me. I let you read this magnificent article. I liked it very much, especially the words in bold. Hope you’ll like it too.
I just came back from home and, like every time, I have mixed feelings. I of course miss my family, my country and my people (not all of them I have to admit), but at the same time my heart is filled with anger and pain for what I’ve witnessed during my holidays.
I must say that I am never surprised as I have a job which allows me to go home many times a year (and I do) and I stay connected to/with Algeria when I am abroad (while I am hardly aware of what’s happening in the country I live in). But my stays in Algeria always display all the country’s problems like a punch in my face.
This time too, I came back with a list of things which are going wrong. Perhaps am I blind to positive things (even those aspects which look positive to many Algerians such as Beb Ezzouar mall, etc. are the most negative things in my eyes) or is it that I am not looking in the right direction. Continue reading →
Algeria seems to be back in the 80s, the period before the East Block collapsed. People cannot find milk anywhere and are queuing early in the morning to have a chance to buy one or two litres. This reminds me of when I was a kid and had to wake up at 5am to queue at the baker’s in order to buy some bread, or when we all queued to buy oil, sugar or coffee. The minister says we shouldn’t worry as there is no milk shortage at all (lovely 80s propaganda), that it’s just a matter of organisation which will be solved very soon (he didn’t add that fakhamatouh Bouteflika would be the solver).
The recent rain and the flooding and road closures it caused in Algeria brings back the old topic of efficiency and effectiveness, or rather their absence in the country. It is common to define efficiency as doing things right and effectiveness as doing the right things; and I will use these terms with these definitions in mind but without the economic/monetary aspect they convey. I will actually use them as a way to translate the Arabic “إتقان العمل”.
We keep criticizing the state/government for not doing their job and being useless, and this is true, but let’s for once point our fingers at another direction, towards us the people. Continue reading →
Today it has been exactly one year since Algeria has switched the weekend from Thursday-Friday to Friday-Saturday. So now we are like most of the Arab countries (to my knowledge only Tunisia and Morocco with Saturday-Sunday and KSA with Thursday-Friday are different).
Following our independence Algeria inherited, among many other things, the Saturday-Sunday weekend from the colonial era; and it was only in 1976 that Boumediene decided to switch to Thursday-Friday. I don’t know exactly why he did it, but I am guessing it was a way to affirm Algeria’s difference with the West. Algeria was then one of the Non-Aligned Movement‘s leaders and such a symbolic decision had its meaning. I also think it was somewhat related to the oil crisis. Some say it was a concession he made to the Islamists inside the FLN. Anyway, I would be glad to find out about the real reasons so if anyone has an idea, please do share it.
I have always wondered what (or who) really sets the prices for consumer goods and comodities within the Algerian market. The national press has a long-established moaning tradition about booming food prices (which usually sky-rocket in festive seasons such as Eid, Ramadan, Mawlid etc.). The poor Algerian consumer is always depicted as the powerless victim who doesn’t have enough spending power nor choice and is obliged to buy at whatever the selling price. The merchants are always the evil, merciless baddies who refuse to lend a helping hand to their brethren and sisteren compatriots (by selling their goods at cheaper prices) and the Algerian State is the pathetic useless tired old dog who cannot control anything and is unwilling to even try. These arguments when considered separately may seem coherent and sensible but when considered together they are devoid of any sense and are even contradictory!