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Economic boom in Algeria

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  • Economic boom in Algeria

    Algiers - Algeria's economy is booming, billion-dollar developments are planned and oil and gas export revenues are soaring, but many Algerians are still unhappy about living conditions in the North African country.

    University teacher and political analyst Nacer Jabi said: "The macro economy is great. But, the micro economy is still lagging behind.

    "Social problems are a reality ... we do have good economic indicators ... but we do also have high unemployment particularly among the youth.

    "We do have a severe housing crisis, we do have water problems, poor education and so forth."

    Statistics 'impressive'

    Algeria's economic growth was expected to reach 5.8% this year, and 8% in 2008. Energy revenues in the OPEC member would likely go beyond $50bn, up from $45.6bn in 2005.

    The statistics were impressive: foreign debt, estimated at $15.5bn, was expected to shrink to $5bn by the end of 2006.

    Foreign exchange reserves were estimated at $63bn, and the government last year launched a five-year economic development plan worth $80bn to restore hope among the 33 million inhabitants.

    But hope was in short supply. Jabi said: "There is resentment. There is anger. Riots erupt daily all over the country.

    Unemployment rate 'high'

    "The youth want jobs, houses, and a decent future. The problem is that the oil industry doesn't provide many jobs."

    Officials said that unemployment was at 15.3% in 2005, down from 17.7% in 2004, and 23.7% in 2003. Labour minister Tayeb Louh said recently that the jobless rate would be less than 10% in 2009.

    But,independent analysts said that the number of jobless was much higher than official figures. Ecotechnics, a private consultancy firm, put it at 24%.

    Mahmoud, 23, an engineer who had been out of work since 1999, said: "I have sent dozens of CVs to private and state firms. Seventy percent did not respond and 30% said I didn't meet the criteria.

    Providing jobs, improving housing

    "What to do? Probably sell cigarettes in the streets." Mahmoud's plight was repeated throughout Africa's second largest country, posing an urgent and sensitive challenge.

    Providing jobs and improving housing, health and education were key to stabilising a society still reeling from a decade of violence in the 1990s.

    One of Africa's most brutal conflicts, the struggle between security services and Islamist armed groups cost an estimated 200 000 lives and caused damage estimated at $20bn.

    The violence was sparked after the military cancelled legislative elections in 1992 that a radical Islamic party was set to win.

    Anger at an unresponsive government, lack of jobs and poor provision of basic services helped boost support for militant Islamist groups.

    Economic boom in Algeria