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The Algerian Hydrocarbon Law That Sparked Protests

A series of protests have taken over the streets of the Algerian capital, provoked by the Parliament’s decision to approve the country’s long-mooted hydrocarbon law. The hydrocarbon law, despite reportedly being ready from December 2018, has played into popular fears that Algeria’s bountiful resources would be taken over by rapacious Western majors. At first glance, this might mark an especially ill-timed decision as Algeria readies for its first post-Bouteflika elections on December 12, whilst it remains unclear whether the Algerian army might prove willing to cede control over the country to an opposition candidate. But is the hydrocarbon law actually that bad? Shouldn’t protesters demand a more ambitious bill instead?

The answer depends on the perspective, as always. Protesters in the streets claim the hydrocarbon law would result in Western majors squeezing out even more money from Algeria and that a military-backed caretaker government had no authority to push it through the parliament anyway. The opposition depicts the proposed amendments as remnants of the Bouteflika era – in a way they certainly are as it was Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour, the recently sacked CEO of Sonatrach, who initiated the reform drive. Ould Kaddour happened to stir up popular fears about a foreign takeover of Algerian subsoil riches – an MIT-graduate, having worked for the Algerian JV of Halliburton for years, convicted for espionage in the mid-2000s (for…




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