A few weeks ago, on my way to the airport, the taxi driver said something funny. He wondered how many people and countries were fed by Algeria. He was of course thinking of all those projects the Algerian state awarded to foreign companies which employed foreign workers, and he thought countries such as China, Canada, France, the USA, Japan, etc. would experience some sort of famine without these projects.
I remembered a similar statement made almost a year ago by Ahmed Ouyahia. But the Algerian PM wasn’t talking of the state projects but rather the fact most of the food Algeria buys and sometimes subsidises was given (smuggled) to our neighbours.
These two men had two different perspectives making them ignore (because I know they see it) the obvious. The obvious, which is my perspective, being the fact that Algeria is actually fed by the whole world. Continue reading →
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 →
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!
The relief I felt after the good news mentioned in my previous post was unfortunately short-lived. British Gas does indeed still refuse to confirm Meryem Mehdi’s reintegration in a written document. The company even insists that it won’t make any move since the issue is taken before the court.
In the meantime, Meryem Mehdi is on her 54th day of hunger strike and is in the worst possible shape. She stopped taking her medication three days ago and enters often into coma state. This source tells us that hunger strikers would die between their 52nd and 74th days, and it is obvious that Meryem Mehdi has already reached a very serious condition.
British Gas’s decision is not only the arrogant answer of a powerful global company to weak Meryem Mehdi, but it should also be viewed as a slap in the face of Mr. Louh, who announced the good news, and his government.
It is actually more than that and the case is bigger than just British Gas and Meryem Mehdi. It proves that the politicians have little control, if any, over the big multinationals (is it really a surprise?), and the very sensitive and state-controlled field of oil exploitation is no exception. Orascom, Arcelor Mittal, Cojaal and other foreign companies can be used as a good illustration.
Elkhabar and Echourouk reported today a declaration by the Algerian minister of labour, Mr. Louh, saying that British Gas finally accepted to reintegrate Miss Meryem Mehdi in her earlier position. I didn’t see the information elsewhere and I hope it will be confirmed soon.
I must say that I feared to hear of the death of Miss Mehdi as she’s at her 41st day of hunger strike, that she’s lost half of her weight, and that she’s apparently suffering from asthma, anaemia and diabetes. And I kept wondering when the Algerian authorities and British Gas thought it was time to take care of her.
Mehdi’s case proves once more that the Algerian state with most of its institutions cares so little about the citizens’ security and welfare. But it also proves that when a person is tenacious and with the civil society’s support (SNAPAP and LADDH supported Miss Mehdi from the beginning), it is possible to win the most difficult and hopeless cases.
But is it normal to resort to hunger strikes and put one’s life at stake every time someone’s wronged? Are laws and justice not supposed to be there for this purpose?
From right to left: Muammar Gaddafi, Muawiya Ould Sid Ahmed Tayaa, Chadli Benjdid, Hassan II, Zine Elabidine Benali
Elkhabar reported today that Algeria made a new proposal to revive the Arab Maghreb Union (UMA). The Algerian idea aims at changing the structures and internal rules of the union so that the political aspect doesn’t hinder the other activities.
The only concrete souvenir I have of the UMA is this picture which many Algerians saw on their national TV or in their school books. It reminds us that 21 years have passed without making any significant advance on the union construction.
We remember Gaddafi’s famous phrase ‘we should put the union in the freezer’, but the most important setback to the UMA construction was definitely the 1994 problems between Algeria and Morocco and the closing of the land borders. This event almost paralysed the union.
Now Morocco says there will be no progress before the borders are opened again, and Algeria says they won’t open them before dealing with many aspects such as security, smuggling, drug traffic, etc. Not to forget the Western Sahara question. And I don’t think these issues will be solved any soon.
And anyway, despite some collaborations at the union level or bilaterally between the union members, the UMA has never been efficient as witnessed for e.g. by the member states negotiating individually with the European Union.
That’s what apparently pushed Algeria to make its pragmatic suggestion, and try to revive an economic union since a political one is not possible today.Elkhabar said that Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania welcomed the Algerian proposal while Morocco reminded of its conditions for “normalisation”.
A meeting is scheduled in Algiers next June and we will see what will happen. Until then, the UMA’s realised objectives list will remain as empty as its missions’ web page.