Algerian paper upbeat about country as "the new Eldorado of the West"

Thursday, Feb 23,2012, 8:41:46 PM

Qualified as "dangerous" during the 1990s, our country has become today a key one. This rehabilitation abroad has been possible after paying a heavy price, marked by human and material losses. Algeria has rekindled the flame of friendship and brotherhood in the minds of other nations. This has prompted rulers, presidents, government leaders, ministers and senior officials to increase visits to Algiers. Forums, meetings of joint committees, business sessions, seminars, symposia meetings between foreign delegations and their Algerian counterparts have been taking place at a steady pace for at least three years.

Competition has been even imposed between the countries of the four continents for the conquest of the Algerian market. Everyone uses all his assets to try to convince the country to finalize partnership agreements and memoranda of agreement in almost all sectors.

Regarding investments, the destination of Algeria has been resurrected if we notice the recent visits of leaders and businessmen from several countries. Britain, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Serbia, France have engaged in a diplomatic battle to conquer the national market, which has become the attraction of the present moment. New fact of this renewed interest in Algeria: the investors do not insist too much on the hydrocarbon sector. They try, instead, to diversify the areas of intervention by initiating projects of win-win partnerships.

This is the case of the Americans who, in addition to the hydrocarbons, are shifting their investments into the health sector where it is planned to create a centre of biotechnology for which an agreement has been signed with the Ministry of Health.

The UK also wants to diversify its projects by moving gradually away from the south and getting closer to the north. Britain offers its services in training, an area that offers opportunities to this country as does the Algerian oil. Same spirit among the Italians who want to expand their cooperation to other sectors.

They want to give another dimension to the bilateral relations. The special envoy of the Italian foreign minister for the Mediterranean and the Middle East, Maurizio Massari, had in this regard announced the holding, in the course of 2012 of an Algerian-Italian summit. Spain did not hesitate to send a few days ago, its head of diplomacy, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, accompanied by the minister of industry, energy and tourism. This visit was within the framework of "deepening" the bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

Serbia, too, is not an exception. At the end of the 19th session of the Algerian-Serbian joint committee, four cooperation agreements in the fields of investment, agriculture, water and food storage, were signed in Algiers. Both sides admitted that the results obtained at the end of this meeting had met their expectations. The objectives outlined in the previous session in 2009 had been achieved.

Like all European countries charmed by the positive improvement of things in Algeria, Portugal wants to do a good business. A group of businessmen visited last week Algiers to develop their activities. Led by the minister of economy and employment, Alvaro Santos Periera, the Portuguese operators want to seize the opportunities offered by the domestic market.

This means that we have been witnessing in recent weeks a parade of delegations from overseas. It goes without saying that the countries of the "Old World" need new "adventures" in terms of business. Subject to a financial crisis which has no end, these countries are seeking ways to save their economy and Algeria seems to be one of the most popular tracks. They are hopeful about our country in order to restore the image, tarnished by the damning reports of the rating agencies. The US, too, had suffered from the same verdict.

After suffering from an affront on the part of most industrialized Western countries, which expressed reluctance for commercial exchanges and exercised a sort of blockade on our country, now Algeria has suddenly become a coveted Eldorado! Yet, at that time, no one gave any consideration to Algeria, which was kept in quarantine.

However, the evolution of the situation, characterized by a political stability and an unprecedented surge in oil prices has reversed the course. This has allowed our country to lounge on a comfortable mattress of foreign exchange reserves of about 176bn US dollars. Consequently, Algeria has become a creditworthy country with its oil windfall. We must also recognize that the behaviour of Western countries is not accidental. Several foreign investors have been seduced by an attractive financial package released for the next five years 2010-2014 amounting to over 286bn US dollars.

In addition to the facilitation and other tax benefits, the process of reforms initiated by the government constitutes one of the factors which have convinced the foreigners to cast their sights on Algeria. The minister of industry, small and medium enterprises and investment promotion, Mohamed Benmeradi has recently indicated that significant steps to improve the legal framework for investment in Algeria would be taken soon to accompany the foreign operators in their investments. "The government is working in the light of the last speech to the nation by President Bouteflika to the establishment of a true reform of the legal system in order to improve the investment climate and business in Algeria" , he assured at a meeting of representatives of French and Algerian companies.

For their part, the foreigners see in Algeria a market that is "potentially attractive" and a country with a high potential and with "an excess of resources for 20 years, an outstanding debt reduction and a growing economic base". Provided that, the regulatory environment is less complex, they said.

But one is tempted to ask the legitimate question: where were these countries at the time when Algeria was experiencing the worst moments of its life? These nations, apart from Italy which had maintained its presence in Algeria, the majority of countries had fled the country for fear of terrorism. But as the saying goes, in diplomacy there are no friends but only interests!

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