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Banking

Algeria exasperates with lack of consistency

Newly peaceful, liberalized Algeria is an attractive prospect for Middle Eastern and European investors. But a change in the political wind has blown in a whiff of protectionism. Dominic O’Neill reports from Algiers.

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IS ALGERIA A developing or a developed country? Brand-new highways full of brand-new cars, brand-new airports, clear blue skies: at first glance, Algiers could be a city on the southwestern coast of Europe. Algeria is a western Mediterranean, Arab-African country. But its affinities with western Europe and especially France are cultural, linguistic and commercial, as well as geographic and environmental. Its economy is bigger than Egypt’s but it has half the number of people. Those in the know have hurried to exploit the opportunities. Until recently the country was welcoming with open arms eager investors from Europe and the Middle East. What happened?

Algeria appears so developed partly because it is using huge oil and gas revenue – about $80 billion in 2008 – to fund big infrastructure developments. The government is in the middle of a $250 billion investment programme and is building the biggest highway in Africa, the biggest mosque in the region, two new power plants, 12 new desalination units, a metro in Algiers, and a million new homes.

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