According to the latest issue of le Monde, the current oil price crises highlights the Algerian economy’s failure to diversify its exports, perpetually trapped in an oil windfall.
The dip in oil prices could hit the country’s petroleum revenues hard, which have always allowed the Algerian regime to ensure social unrest. During the Arab Spring in Algiers in 2011, the regime generously granted up to 100% increases in wages for certain professions. Of the $62 billion in operating expenditures in 2015, 80% are expected to go to salaries and social transfers, including subsidizing commodities like food and energy.
How have Algerian authorities prepared for an eventual social upheaval if oil price keeps falling? They’ve provoked their neighbors, yet again.
During a press interview today, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal made a surprise statement on the Western Saharan conflict saying, “Algeria will spare no effort and will bring its contribution, in the respect of international legality, to settling Africa’s last decolonization issue.”
What does Sellal hope to accomplish by continually provoking Morocco? He most likely hopes for a strong reaction from the Moroccan government so that the Sellal led government can use it as leverage to continually justify their actions to their people. The money spent on weapons and the Polisario would be viewed as necessary for their national security, as Morocco would be depicted as a threat. Morocco would be viewed as the instigator, with Algeria the erroneously seen as the innocent bystander.
Yet I don’t believe the Algerian people are as gullible as their leaders think they are, or at least as it hopes they are. There are two major reasons the Algerian people are not willing to revolt. Firstly, they have already experienced civil war before the Arab Spring and they are very hesitant to rise up again in fear of a historical repeat of the 1990s. Secondly, people enjoy the advantages they gain by coercing with the regime. Algerians are smart enough to comprehend that this is not a solution, but simply a delaying of the inevitable.
Outside of gas and oil, Algeria exports total around $1 billion yet i imports a massive $53 billion, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity. This is extremely dangerous because the entire country is dependent upon a single resource for economic stability: if oil fails, Algeria fails. Their regime already had quickly bribe the latest police protest in several Algerian cities to quiet protestors. Many question how long the regime will be able to use oil revenues to pay off the rebellion.
Morocco cannot be a scapegoat to this regime, so the wisest course of action is to avoid conflict with Algeria altogether. The latest speech from the Moroccan Monarch should be more than sufficient. The Algerian regime is now in need of a matchup against Morocco in order to evoke fear in their people, but Morocco should not give the regime this opportunity. The so called Western Sahara is in Morocco and will be until the end of time. And that’s the final answer.
By Majid Morceli