Algeria blighted by youth unemployment despite recovering oil prices

Economists have predicted that the government of veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 81, is likely to spend any increased revenues on imports, not on job-creation initiatives. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
0

Algeria blighted by youth unemployment despite recovering oil prices

  • More than one in four Algerians under the age of 30 are unemployed in a country that remains heavily reliant on exports of oil and gas
  • Unlike neighboring Tunisia or Morocco, Algeria has made little headway in attracting foreign tourists, and foreign investors outside the energy sector give it a wide berth

ALGIERS: Two years after graduating from university, Ali Lamir, 26, has been spending his days sitting in a cafe in central Algiers thinking about how to land a job.
He is not alone — more than one in four Algerians under the age of 30 are unemployed in a country that remains heavily reliant on exports of oil and gas, despite numerous official promises of economic diversification.
Economists see little prospect of improvement despite a recovery in global oil prices. They have predicted that the government of veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 81, is likely to spend any increased revenues on imports, not on job-creation initiatives.
“My university degree is of no use. I have been looking for a job for two years but to no avail,” said Lamir, a graduate of the Algiers Institute of Law and Administrative Sciences.
Unlike neighboring Tunisia or Morocco, Algeria has made little headway in attracting foreign tourists, and foreign investors outside the energy sector give it a wide berth, deterred by security concerns and bureaucracy.
A scheme of interest-free loans, introduced two decades ago to encourage young Algerians to start their own businesses, has not fulfilled early hopes that it could boost the non-energy sector, which today accounts for only 6 percent of exports.
“I have applied for jobs at many firms, but get nothing other than promises. I am willing to accept any position even with a low salary,” said 24-year-old Aziza Bari, a graduate in economics from Algiers University.
Overall unemployment stood at 11.1 percent in the first quarter of 2018, official data shows, but was 26.4 percent among the under-30s, who make up more than two thirds of Algeria’s 41 million people.
Such figures do not make for happy reading for Bouteflika, who has been in power since 1999 and is considering seeking a fifth term next year, despite poor health.
The recovery in global oil prices led to a 15 percent increase in Algeria’s oil and gas revenues in the first seven months of 2018 to $22 billion. Energy exports account for 95 percent of its foreign earnings.
Algeria has also gradually opened up industries such as food, home appliances and mobile phones to private investors, helping the non-energy sector to grow by 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the most recent available data.
But business leaders have demanded bolder steps. “Our country is in need of accelerating the transition movement to an economy of knowledge and innovation,” Aliu Haddad, head of the country’s largest business association Algerian Business Leaders Forum, told a conference.


Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

Updated 15 February 2019
0

Gulf defense spending ‘to top $110bn by 2023’

  • Saudi Arabia and UAE initiatives ‘driving forward industrial defense capabilities’
  • Budgets are increasing as countries pursue modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities

LONDON: Defense spending by Gulf Arab states is expected to rise to more than $110 billion by 2023, driven partly by localized military initiatives by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, a report has found.

Budgets are increasing as countries pursue the modernization of equipment and expansion of their current capabilities, according to a report by analytics firm Jane’s by IHS Markit.

Military expenditure in the Gulf will increase from $82.33 billion in 2013 to an estimated $103.01 billion in 2019, and is forecast to continue trending upward to $110.86 billion in 2023.

“Falling energy revenues between 2014 and 2016 led to some major procurement projects being delayed as governments reigned in budget deficits,” said Charles Forrester, senior defense industry analyst at Jane’s.

“However, defense was generally protected from the worst of the spending cuts due to regional security concerns and budgets are now growing again.”

Major deals in the region have included Eurofighter Typhoon purchases by countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Saudi Arabia is also looking to “localize” 50 percent of total government military spending in the Kingdom by 2030, and in 2017 announced the launch of the state-owned military industrial company Saudi Arabia Military Industries.

Forrester said such moves will boost the ability for Gulf countries to start exporting, rather than purely importing defense equipment.

“Within the defense sector, the establishment of Saudi Arabia Military Industries (SAMI) in 2017 and consolidation of the UAE’s defense industrial base through the creation of Emirates Defense Industries Company (EDIC) in 2014 have helped consolidate and drive forward industrial defense capabilities,” he said.

“This has happened as the countries focus on improving the quality of the defense technological work packages they undertake through offset, as well as increasing their ability to begin exporting defense equipment.”

Regional countries are also considering the use of “disruptive technologies” such as artificial intelligence in defense, Forrester said.

Meanwhile, it emerged on Friday that worldwide outlays on weapons and defense rose 1.8 percent to more than $1.67 trillion in 2018.

The US was responsible for almost half that increase, according to “The Military Balance” report released at the Munich Security Conference and quoted by Reuters.

Western powers were concerned about Russia’s upgrades of air bases and air defense systems in Crimea, the report said, but added that “China perhaps represents even more of a challenge, as it introduces yet more advanced military systems and is engaged in a strategy to improve its forces’ ability to operate at distance from the homeland.”