King Salman Sends Message to Bouteflika

A soldier patrols in front of the OPEC headquarters in Vienna

Kuwait- Prime Minister of the Republic of Algeria Ahmed Ouyahia received a message sent by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. It was conveyed by Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Khalid al-Falih who was received in Algiers.

Falih reviewed with the Prime Minister areas of cooperation and joint work between the two countries, including cooperation in the efforts to rebalance the oil markets.

He and his accompanying delegation also met with Algerian Minister of Energy Mustapha Qaitouni. During the meeting, they discussed the latest developments in the world oil markets – the two countries stressed the need for adhering to oil production cuts.

They also discussed preparations related to the scheduled meeting between OPEC and non-OPEC producing countries in November in Vienna, as well as possible ways to make the meeting a success and emphasize trust in producers’ efforts.

Further, reliable sources revealed to Asharq Al-Awsat that Falih will visit three oil producing countries besides Algeria.

Last month, Falih visited Kazakhstan and discussed with his UAE and Kazakhstan counterparts the possibility of keeping the extension of oil output cut deal an option to be discussed in the upcoming meeting in November.

UAE Energy Minister Suhail bin Mohammed al-Mazroui said on Wednesday he was hopeful that the meeting will help re-balance the market in 2018. OPEC Secretariat will present a couple of suggestions to be evaluated under the framework of reaching balance in the market.

Algeria: Laws to Prevent ‘Alteration’ of Citizens’ Religious Convictions

Algiers – Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments Mohammed Eisa warned of sectarian efforts to break the religious principles of Algerian society, pointing out that the government is planning to issue new laws posing penalties on those who try to change Algerians’ religious convictions.

Speaking at a conference for religious Imams and religious guides, eastern Algeria, the minister said that the country was exposed to foreign ideas that created terrorism and provoked hatred among the people. Eissa was referring to the war during the 1990s where 150,000 people were killed inducing: extremists, security men, and civilians.

The minister reiterated that Algerian youths do not need to cross the border looking for new forms of religiosity other than the ones they inherited from their ancestors. He didn’t elaborate as to what he meant, but it is understood that he was referring to hundreds of young people who had been involved in extremist groups abroad and then returned to the country to perform their practices in society.

Through a scientific and pedagogic method, Algeria succeeded in overcoming this flux and discourse of hatred, especially against various sectarian movements aiming to divide the country, added the minister, in reference to Shi’ite sects chased by security services.

Since his appointment as Minister of Religious Affairs in 2014, Minister Eissa had repeatedly spoken of the authorities’ efforts to “protect local religious authority”.

He called upon Imams and teachers of Koranic education to adopt the approach of relying on local religious authority to immunize the country against all dangers.

Eissa stressed that the state is determined to legislate laws that “protect the doctrine, fight sectarianism, and punish those who seek to change the convictions of religious Algerians.”

The minister announced a new law will soon be issued to regulate mosques’ affairs.

Since 2008, according to the minister, all Imams finished their religious education programs and memorized the Qur’an because these measures are important to ensure moderate speech that could serve the country.

Eissa himself is in a war against al-Ahmadiyya sect and Shiaism in the country.

Recently, he told state radio that Algeria was “a target for Islamic trends that are different from our culture and religious values that we inherited from the predecessors” in reference to several new sects that are spreading in many mosques in the country.

The minister confirmed that Islam in Algeria is that of Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and a moderate one that promotes coexistence with other sects and religions. He added that Islam in the country is not affected by ideologies or political exploitation.

Algeria Mulling Wealth Tax to Cope with Financial Pressure

London- Algerian Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia has told the parliament that the draft state budget for 2018 would include for the first time a wealth tax as part of measures aimed at securing new sources of finance after a sharp fall in energy earnings.

State finances of the OPEC member North African nation have been significantly hit after a more than 50 percent drop in oil and gas revenue.

Oil and gas account for 60 percent of the state budget and 95 percent of total exports.

Algeria’s presidency named Ahmed Ouyahia as prime minister in August. He is known to be experienced in implementing austerity measures recommended by the International Monetary Fund since the 1990s.

According to Reuters, Ouyahia said on Wednesday that the implementation of the wealth tax from early 2018 would affect about 10 percent of the country’s 41 million people.

“This tax will not concern 90 percent of Algerians,” he told parliament.

In June, the IMF welcomed the Algerian authorities’ commitment to pursue sustained fiscal consolidation.

In its country report, the IMF said that the 2017 budget raised Value Added Tax rates in addition to increasing taxes on tobacco and a range of luxury goods.

The government also initiated subsidy reform in 2016 by increasing the prices of fuel, natural gas, and electricity for the first time since 2005. The 2017 budget law raised fuel prices further, according to the report.

Algeria Turns to Islamic Banking to Resolve its Financial Crisis

Algeria

Algiers– Algeria will introduce Islamic financial services before 2018 as a way to cope with its financial crisis, announced Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia on Thursday.

The services will be available at two state banks before the end of the year. Four others will adopt the measures in 2018. he added.

The first sukuk, or Islamic bond, will also be adopted in 2018 as Algeria seeks new funding sources after a fall in energy earnings hit state finances, Ouyahia told parliament.

The steps are part of wider reforms planned by the government after the OPEC member’s finances were hit by the more-than-50-percent drop in crude oil prices since mid-2014.

The North African country had rejected sharia-based financing options in the 1990s.

But financial difficulties have prompted the government to speed up implementation of long-delayed reforms aimed at weaning the economy off its reliance on oil.

“This will help us cope with the situation,” Ouyahia told parliament, referring to the plan to sell sukuk, which he said would be in the finance law for 2018. He gave no details.

Algerian firms rely heavily on state spending, which in turn depends on the hydrocarbons sector, with oil and gas exports accounting for 60 percent of the state budget and 95 percent of total sales abroad.

The government also aims to modernize the stock market, which is now smaller than those in neighboring Morocco and Tunisia and has a very low level of liquidity.

The measures follow public spending cuts and new taxes on some subsidized products including electricity, gasoline and diesel.

But Ouyhia said subsidies for basic products will be maintained for now, pending the launch of talks with political parties and civil society.

“We are still studying how to rationalize subsidies,” he said.

Ouyahia’s return to the premiership was met with skepticism in Algeria. He had already served four terms since 1995. He is usually the man the country turns to in times of crisis and after the role of the presidency has been left idle after the chronic illness of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who has been away from political life for years.

Ouyahia came under fire from the opposition when he spoke of Algeria’s “gloomy financial and economic future”. The opposition asked him about the fate of some 1 billion dollars the state had earned from oil revenues between 2000 and 2014. They wondered why Bouteflika’s subsequent governments did not employ these funds to achieve economic growth.

Ouyahia said the funds went to building schools and hospitals, paving roads and improving electricity supplies in distant regions.

His claims were however rejected by lawmakers and the Algerian people, who condemned his statements on social media and said that officials abused the funds for their own personal gain.

Algeria: Extremist Surrenders after 12 Years in Terrorist Strongholds

Algeria's President and head of the Armed Forces Abdelaziz Bouteflika gestures during a graduation ceremony of the 40th class of the trainee army officers at a Military Academy in Cherchell

Algeria- An armed Algerian extremist left terrorist strongholds and surrendered to local military authorities after spending 12 years in the ranks of extremist groups.

Meanwhile, the Algerian army command announced dismantling thousands of anti-personnel mines, dating back to the French colonial period between 1830 and 1962.

On its official website, Algeria’s Ministry of National Defense described the terrorist who surrendered on Sunday in El Milia as “dangerous.”

“D. Fares” aka “Abu Osama,” who had joined terrorist groups in 2005, had a Kalashnikov type machine gun, ammunition and a pair of binoculars, said a statement from the Defense Ministry.

The Ministry neither did mention the organization to which the terrorist belonged nor the crimes he may have committed while operating; however, the most famous extremist groups is known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, formerly known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC).

In this context, the Ministry launched again an appeal to remaining terrorists to seize the opportunity and benefit from the regulations in force, like those who surrendered to the security authorities.

In reference to the policy of national reconciliation, judicial pursue against militants is abolished in case they voluntarily renounced terrorism and hand themselves to the authorities.

On the other hand, Algerian Defense Ministry on Monday announced the destruction of the last stockpile of anti-personnel mines in an operation.

Chief of Staff of the People’s National Army Ahmed Gaid Salah supervised the final stage of the public destruction operation of 5,970 anti-personnel mines, which have been retained for training purposes in the province of Djelfa, 300 km south of Algiers.

General Salah, who is also the deputy Defense Minister, said Monday that “Algeria has fulfilled its international obligations by destroying the remaining stockpile of anti-personnel mines held by the army in accordance with Ottawa Convention (Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction).”

Algeria ratified the treaty on 17 December 2000. The operation on Monday is the last of a series of destruction launched by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika since 24 November 2004.

Gaid Salah stressed that Algerian people have been suffering from mines for decades now, and that led to starting firm effort to clear Algerian territory from anti-personnel mines.

He announced that the Algerian army has discovered and destructed about nine million mines and completed the clearance of more than 62,000 hectares of agricultural and pastoral land since 1963.

Most of the mines were planted during the Second World War and the French colonial period.

Algerian Authorities Warn of Greater Social, Economic Hardships in 2018

Ouyahia

Algeria – The “work plan” of Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia is expected to garner wide support at parliament where it will be up for a vote on Sunday, predicted observers of the political situation in the North African country.

The premier’s document acknowledges that the Algeria people will face difficulties in 2018 due to the lack of financial resources.

Islamist lawmakers announced that they will oppose the plan that was drafted during President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s fourth term in office. Their influence will be however limited at parliament because they are in the minority.

Ouyahia’s plan expresses government skepticism about the possibility of improving the country’s income from the selling of fuel during the next two years, revealed a copy of the document obtained by Asharq Al-Awsat.

This has prompted the PM to voice his intention to amend the loan law through printing more hard currency.

The possibility to obtain a loan from the Central Bank has not been ruled out.

Economic and financial experts predicted that this step will create great inflation and spark a rise in the majority of products, which will ultimately keep the deficit as it is.

Furthermore, a local newspaper reported Ouyahia as saying that should the Central Bank fail to print more hard cash, the government may not have the sufficient funds to pay the salaries of employees for November.

2 Policemen Killed in Algeria Suicide Attack

A general view of Algiers with the Kasbah in the background taken on June 5, 2014. (FAROUK BATICHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Two security members were killed in a suicide attack on a police station in western Algeria after one officer jumped on the attacker to protect his colleagues from the blast, state news agency APS and police said on Thursday.

In the attack early on Thursday morning, an armed militant wearing a suicide belt tried to enter a police post in Tiaret, around 300 kilometers southwest of the capital Algiers.

“One of the officers in an act of bravery, threw himself on the attacker to protect the others in the entrance of the police station,” APS said.

Another officer later succumbed to his wounds, the national police said in a statement.

It was the first suicide attack in months in Algeria. A militant tried to blow himself up at a police station in Constantine in April and another was shot dead in an attempted bombing in the same city in February.

Algeria: Three Ministers Replaced in Cabinet Reshuffle

Algiers- Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika carried out a minor cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, only two days after dismissing the prime minister.

The reshuffle included the appointment of Youcef Yousfi as minister for industry and mines, Mohamed Benmeradi as trade minister and Abdelwahid Temmar as housing minister.

The other 24 ministers kept their portfolios in the cabinet headed by Ahmed Ouyahia who was appointed to replace Abdelmadjid Tebboune only three months after being assigned this position.

Commenting on these changes, Political Science professor Mohammad Hanad said that men allied with the president are entering the government. He noted that Ouyahia was the head of the president’s bureau before being appointed prime minister on Tuesday.

There have been reports that Bouteflika had sent a strongly worded letter to Tebboune, demanding he adjust his policies and criticising a decision to restrict imports of many products.

Observers considered that Tebboune is paying the price of his announced intention to fight the link between politicians and businessmen – he once stated that “the state is a state and money is money.”

Political Sciences professor Rachid Talmasani said that “the ministers who have applied procedures such as reducing imports especially in the car sector were dismissed.”

Al Watan Newspaper also expected that ministers, who have waged war on the power of money, to be dismissed.

Bouteflika Sacks Algerian Prime Minister

Algiers– Sacking the Algerian Prime Minister could be the beginning of power struggle over the succession of Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, according to observers.

In less than three months after appointing him, Bouteflika sacked Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune on Tuesday, according to a presidential statement carried by state media.

“President Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Tuesday relieved Prime Minister Abdelmadjid Tebboune of his duties and appointed Ahmed Ouyahia,” the statement added.

Ouyahia, 65, served three terms as prime minister and most recently was Bouteflika’s chief of staff.

He is also leader of the National Rally for Democracy (RND), and during May’s parliamentary election he won absolute majority in the parliament along with Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN).

Bouteflika is expected to name the new government soon, although reports say that Ouyahia will most likely maintain the majority of the ministers of Tebboune’s cabinet, except Minister of Industry.

Political observers stated that it is possible that Bouteflika assigned Ouyahia as prime minister in an attempt to “kill his political dream” of becoming president before the 2019 presidential elections.

For his part, Tebboune avoided to comment on his departure. He said “All I can say is that I’m still faithful to President Bouteflika.”

Few weeks after his assignment as the PM, Tebboune entered a public media war with prominent businessman Ali Haddad who is also close to Said Bouteflika, the president’s brother and special adviser.

As prime minister Tebboune was leading the austerity drive, he also spoke out about the need to separate money from politics. News about his dismissal was surprising for his supporters, especially after the rise in his popularity on social media.

Few days ago, Algeria seemed to be witnessing an open political crisis after the President gave the former PM Tebboune instructions through the private TV Channel al-Nahhar.

According to Algerian law, Nahhar is a foreign and not considered part of the official channels.

The president’s instructions included several warnings to Tebboune’s ministers to stop meddling with businessmen and investors and asked them to refer to the law in case of violations. The president said that such behavior is bad publicity for the country.

FLN Secretary General Djamel Ould Abbes reiterated that Bouteflika is the ruler of this country and there is no alternative authority.

Speaking before party commanders, Abbes said he wouldn’t analyze what the president did since he is the decision maker and aware of all aspects of the issues.

Founder of opposition party New Generation (Jil Jadid) Sofiane Djilali said that ever since the president appeared at the funeral of former PM Reda Malek and his public provocation of the PM, Algerians realized that the internal balances of the system are broken.

Djilali said that the President’s alleged reprimand to PM Tebboune made it clear that the regime is divided.

He explained that it had been agreed among the president’s entourage that he will continue in position no matter his condition or illness duration, meanwhile people around him will prepare for succeeding him.

Djilali claimed that Tabboune and his supporters were against the “militia deviation of the president’s clique threatening civil peace and security.”

According to Djilali, it is no longer acceptable for the other party in power to overlook the unconstitutional decisions made in the name of an irresponsible president who has nothing left other than his title.

This public crisis will not be over with the departure of the PM, stated Djilali, adding that the failing system suffers from presidential vacuum and impersonation.

Former Trade Minister and opposition figure Noureddine Boukrouh stated that it was pertinent if the President summoned the PM or spoke with him on the phone rather than speaking about him in the media like he is some sort of criminal to be arrested.

“Whether those actions and statements came from the president, his brother, or his chief of staff, they are still nonsensical actions. And if indeed the orders attributed to the president were issued by him, this means we’re ruled by a man who is not just physically ill, but also mentally incompetent,” Boukrouh declared, adding that this requires the president’s dismissal.

Algeria Replaces PM Tebboune with Ouyahia

Algeria’s presidency has named Ahmed Ouyahia as prime minister, replacing Abdelmadjid Tebboune after just three months in the job, the president’s office said on Tuesday.

The statement from President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s office gave no reason for the change. Ouyahia, 65, has served three terms as prime minister and most recently was Bouteflika’s chief of staff.

Ouyahia will likely be seen as a steadying influence as Algeria tries to carry out economic adjustments to cope with a fall in oil prices that has slashed state revenues.

He is also leader of the National Rally for Democracy (RND), a party close to the presidency that increased its number of seats in May’s parliamentary election.

Moves to reduce subsidies and imports and diversify Algeria’s oil-dependent economy have created political divisions over how far to push reforms.

The North African state’s political system is often opaque, and Bouteflika, 80, has rarely been seen in public since suffering a stroke in 2013.

Political jostling around him has intensified as his health has waned, fueling questions about the shape of any transition if he steps down before his term ends in 2019.

In the run up to Tebboune’s dismissal, there was media speculation that he had fallen out of favor because of differences with Ali Haddad, a prominent businessman close to the presidency.

Tebboune was also perceived to be encroaching on foreign policy, seen as a preserve of the presidency, after he held a meeting with French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe earlier this month, said one senior source who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.