Forthcoming

March 20; 7:45 am, B Nimri Aziz begins a new radio commentary on events around the globe and in the USA. Listen in at 99.5 fm, or online www.wbai.org where we are livestreamed.

March 8, Women's Day Radio Specials  10-11 am on WJFF Radio, 90.5 fm, and 11:am on WBAI, 99.5 New York: B. Nimri Aziz interviews director Amber Fares about her new film "Speed Sisters" --a profile of 5 Palestinian car racers. Orther segments are from 2009-2010 interviews with professional women in Damascus Syria, Nadia Khost and Nidaa Al-Islam.

 

 

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

 

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

 

 

 

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

 

 

Articles

Algeria Open For Business
2005-10-28
by Barbara Nimri Aziz

It’s confirmed by the US government. Algeria is back on the map, according to the United States. Less than two weeks after the country’s national referendum on peace and reconciliation (MEI 7610), the American embassy in Algiers announced that it was to reopen its consular office after a ten-year gap.

It is  no coincidence that the American announcement comes 12 days after President Bouteflika’s success in the referendum with little opposition or significant violence. The reported 97% vote supporting the amnesty plan for those connected with crimes committed during Algeria’s ten years of civil war gives the Algerian president what he wanted-- a show of public solidarity and a demonstration of stability.

Bouteflika seems genuinely popular. With a winning personal style and a knack for politics, he has moved the country ahead on promised economic and political changes, at least to a degree. But Washington seems to have needed the assurance brought by his referendum success, despite other signs of peace in Algeria.

Despite the steady improvement in the security situation since 2000, Algeria’s negative image continues to prevail in the international media and business circles, apart from those engaged in extracting oil and gas from its vast reserves. Companies like Haliburton, Bechtel, Anandarko and others tapping the country’s hydrocarbon wealth continued their operations during Algeria’s most fearsome years. Foreign contractors still employ private security firms, among some of the companies now engaged in Iraq.

Whether on the corporate front or for other reasons, the US embassy here has been active. But it operates at a very low profile. Visiting Americans are rarely seen in public. There are few foreign journalists. Even CNN doesn’t maintain a correspondent in Algiers.

But American businesses had begun venturing into the country. Outside the hydrocarbon business, only France, Canada and China had a significant commercial presence here until recently. Microsoft opened an office in the capital two years ago and Ford and General Motors are extending their presence, joining already established Asian car manufacturers Hyundai and Toyota. The most recent U.S. corporate logo to appear in the city is that of Federal Express.

The reopening of the US consular services in Algiers is likely designed to facilitate a more aggressive approach from American businesses here.
Algeria has annual surpluses in billions of dollars. High oil and gas prices have proved a massive boon after so much of the country’s infrastructure was damaged and development curtailed by the war. Described by many citizens as an “import-import economy”, the government is committed to change that, with plans for development in every province and major transport networks across the country. Investment is also sought to bring technical education levels up to par. With a stated foreign currency reserve of $50bn, Algeria is seen as a vast market for suppliers and investors.
A brief perusal of the local press gives a good indication of just how much foreign business interest there is in Algeria. Among recent headlines: “Italian businessmen ready to invest in Algeria's agriculture sector; France ready to develop railway; Russia interest in the privatization programme;; Russia's Irkut to sell jets to Algeria; Pakistan and Algeria sign contracts in small enterprises sector; Petro-Canada pledges to boost investment; Algeria and China vow to boost cooperation in telecoms sector; Danish Novo Nordisk to produce insulin in Algeria;; Siemens wins $497,100 contract for Algiers metro; Honeywell wins $10 million maintenance contract with Soatrach; investment promotion minister visits France.”

These announcements all appeared in the Algerian press before the U.S. embassy announced the resumption of “business as usual”.

Debt and Development

Doubtless, U.S. firms can soon be expected to join the hunt for contracts. But Asian companies have stolen a march. The Chinese ventured early into the Algerian market and won the major portion of the government’s plan to build a million new homes. And Algerian motorists are increasingly driving Toyota and Hyundai autos rather than the Fiats, Peugeots and Renaults which dominated the roads here for so long.

The pace of Algeria’s development can be seen in its 5.2% GDP growth in 2004. Growth in 2005 is expected to be even higher this year. But Algeria is addled with an enormous foreign debt, currently just under $18bn. The ministry of finance recently announced plans to halve that by 2009 on the basis of the current high prices for gas and oil. Algeria's reserves of foreign currency, which have risen almost tenfold in five years as oil and gas prices have spiked,  now exceed $50 billion according to official figures, an increase of  $4 bn over the last five months.

But there is plenty of work to be done. Unemployment remains very high—officially it  is put at 17% but many Algerians suggest it may be almost double that. There is also widespread concern here that a foreign investment bonanza will result largely in low-paid jobs for locals while foreigner workers dominate the better-paid management sector. Moreover, many fear the loss of state-subsidized education, health, and housing when privatization really gets underway.

Middle East International, London, Issue No 761, October 28, 2005

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