Population, society and rights
As for access to health services, currently guaranteed to 95% of the population, Algeria is among the most virtuous states in the region, but records a below average figure for access to drinking water (84% against, for example, 99% of Egypt), which in the last twenty years has fallen by 11%. To remedy the problem, the Algerian government is investing in the development of infrastructure in rural areas and in the desalination of seawater. For Algeria society, please check homosociety.com.
Freedom of the press is severely restricted: Although the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, a 2001 amendment to the Press Law introduced very severe prison sentences for journalists who defame the government or any other public institution. Whereas government control also acts ex ante (TV and radio are a state monopoly and most of the newspapers are printed in state printers), it is clear that the government is able to control the entire information process. Although only 12.5% of the population can access it, the only alternative source of information is the Internet, on which the government places no particular restrictions. The protests in 2011 led the executive to make some concessions in the area of rights and freedom of expression, in particular the revocation of some paragraphs of the emergency law in force since 1992. The government has also increased the space for opposition parties to the media.
Economy and energy
The Algerian economy is dominated by hydrocarbons, whose exports represent 98% of the country’s total exports and about 70% of the national GDP. About 85% of hydrocarbon traffic is directed to the US and the European Union, which as a whole is Algeria’s largest trading partner, absorbs almost half of exports and supplies half of imports. About a quarter of the gas imported into Europe comes from the country.
At the level of individual states, however, the major partners are France, China, Italy, Spain and Germany. Imported goods are mainly capital goods and food: almost half of food is imported, because it is difficult to efficiently exploit arable land. Hydrocarbons guarantee a constant surplus and a positive trade balance, unlike what happens in other North African states, with the exception of pre-revolution Libya. In 2013, the trade surplus represented 8.5% of GDP, down by more than ten points compared to the previous year, also due to the persistence of the economic crisis in the eurozone and the financial difficulties of the main European trading partners.
Concerns about the medium to long-term effects of an economic system so strongly centered on the hydrocarbon sector convinced the government to diversify the economy, promoting investments in petrochemicals and mining (especially for gold mining). This process was framed in the five-year plans of 2005 and 2010 and aims to stimulate private investment and invest in infrastructure, also in order to reduce unemployment, which in 2014 stood at 9.4%. The lack of work, which affects in particular 21.6% of young people under the age of twenty-five, is a cyclical factor that weighs on Algerian society and undermines internal stability, as demonstrated by the street clashes in January 2011.
The private sector is underdeveloped, mainly due to the insecurity of the 1990s, the inadequacy of financial services and excessive bureaucracy. However, the Association Agreement with the European Union which entered into force on 1 September 2005, providing for the establishment of a free trade area between Algeria and EU countries by 2017, could favor liberalization and privatization of the Algerian economy, in the wake of what happened in Tunisia and Morocco. This agreement is also functional to Algiers’ goal of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). Until a few years ago, in conjunction with the low price of hydrocarbons, the Algerian government tried to attract foreign investments and related technologies, but the recovery in prices, which began in 2003, Sonatrach (the leading state-owned oil and gas company, the first African company and one of the world’s top exporters of natural gas and oil) and prompted the government to amend the hydrocarbon law, further strengthening the position of the energy giant. Since 2009, the government has placed further restrictions on foreign investment, with higher taxes and limiting foreign holdings in Algerian companies to 49%.