Heavy criticism continues to hit Algeria’s regime as ailing President Bouteflika clings to power.
Rabat – A former high-ranking Algerian official has said that Algeria is doomed to political failure and economic crisis unless there is mobilization to make the current regime relinquish its hold on power and the country’s resources.
According to economist Ahmed Benbitour, who led the Algerian government as prime minister from 1999 to 2000, Algeria is going through a deep political crisis due to the “autocratic and paternalistic” regime.
Benbitour said Algeria’s “responsible elites” have to assess the situation, inform the population of the dire state, and force a “peaceful” regime change.
Benbitour made his remarks in Algiers on Monday this week while speaking at a conference on “The Mission of Elites in Saving the Country.”
“Our country is governed by an authoritarian, paternalistic, and patrimonialist regime that thrives on rent-seeking and economic predation,” Benbitour said. “A regime change is the key to solving all of our other governance-linked issues.”
Algeria is an energy-rich country, with considerable reserves of oil and natural gas. According to Benbitour, however, “irresponsible” spending and “the lack of vision” of the ruling class have put the country in a situation where its economy depends entirely on external rents. So “lacking” is Algeria’s economic model that it cannot meet the minimum requirements of the government’s budget.
“The disintegration is characterized by the institutionalization of ignorance and stagnation, morothe personality cult, the institutionalization of corruption, the replacement of qualified state institutions with a restricted circle of people, and the transformation of state power into clans of authority.”
He explained that the fierce power struggle between sub-clans in the presidential circle deeply impacts the lives of citizens whose daily struggles to make ends meet are ignored by “the corrupt and detached ruling elite.”
The political crisis and the “lack of planning” coming from the regime’s highest places have a perceptible impact on the country’s political culture, Benbitour argued.
As government corruption and “irresponsibility” leaves little room to escape from the country’s woes, Algerian society finds itself mired in “generalized corruption, fatalism, and individualism.” In such a context, “violence becomes the only legitimate means to resolve conflicts between people.”
More troubles ahead
Already suffering from over-dependence on oil, the Algerian economy is now “volatile, vulnerable, and totally dependent on foreign money.”
Benbitour foresaw more troubles for the Algerian economy because the value of imports far outweighs export revenues.
With such bleak comments on Algeria’s political prospects, Benbitour has joined a chorus of political commentators, researchers, and politicians who agree that the Bouteflika regime has reached a point where it causes more harm than good for Algeria.
As the ailing 82-year-old president prepares to bid for another term in the upcoming election in April, many Algerians and foreign observers have questioned the president’s ability to govern the country.
“An invisible hand is governing Algeria… The invisible hand astonishes everyone and is the source of all the obstructions facing investments in the country. I don’t think President Bouteflika knows about this obstruction…. The economic situation is untenable,” an Algerian CEO said recently, doubting whether President Bouteflika is in command of the government.