Algeria eating itself
At `Aqoul, The Lounsbury has a great post up on an expected takeover of Djezzy, a huge cell phone operator owned by Orascom (an Egyptian firm) which led the telecom revolution in Algeria. A French company has teamed up with two businesses each representing a slice of the Algerian elite: Cevital (local business giant Issad Rebrab’s all-purpose corporation) and Sonatrach (the state oil company, a.k.a. the ATM of the pouvoir) to push out the Egyptians. That’s the sad state of Algeria for you: a giant, violent redistributory machine, moving capital from productive sectors of society to Swiss bank accounts.
Not that I feel much sympathy for Orascom’s owners, crooks as they undoubtedly are too, but it seems to me one more sign that the just-recently moderately promising outlook for Algeria is dimming fast. At this stage, Bouteflika appears to have more or less given up on liberalizing the economy, to leave the country on a positive trajectory. And I think that’s what he will be remembered for: unexpectedly and brilliantly centralizing power, partly through fortifying the rentier state, only to then miss the opportunity to use all that power to transform the country. Sooner or later, the old man will die, and there will be no one (?) there to catch the reins except the officers and their civilian props, all jostling for sole possession — and back we are to square one.