Algeria to launch $262bn five-year investment plan

Algeria has been spending heavily on social programs and infrastructures to diversify the oil-reliant economy

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Algeria will launch a new five-year investment plan worth $262 billion to boost domestic production and move its economy away from reliance on oil and gas, the government said.

The OPEC member north African country has been spending heavily on social programs and infrastructures to avert unrests and diversify the oil-reliant economy.

But analysts say previous investment plans have had little impact due to a slow pace of reform that has limited foreign and private investors' involvement in bringing the economy out of stagnation.

Projects to be included in the 2015-2019 plan will be finalized before the end of this year, said an official statement following a cabinet meeting chaired by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika late Tuesday.

The new step is intended to "develop a productive and diversified economy", it said, without giving details.

Algeria, a major gas supplier to Europe, depends on oil and gas for about 97 percent of its export earnings and spends over $50 billion per year on goods imports including food and pharmaceutical products.

With $200 billion in reserves, government spending on social programs, credits and housing helped ease any unrest, but reforms have stalled due mainly to bureaucracy and restrictions on foreign investments despite promises to open up the economy.

The ailing Bouteflika, 77, who is serving a fourth five-year term, had launched a $200 billion investment plan for the 2005-2009 period to build infrastructure including a 1,200-km (750 mile) motorway, water desalination plants and thousands of state-subsidized housing units.

That was followed with a 2010-2014 plan worth $286 billion to complete projects already underway and launch new ones.

But the outcome of those plans was apparently disappointing, and Bouteflika earlier this year ordered the involvement of private businessmen in drafting any new scheme.

"We want to draw lessons, improve its impact on the local and human development, as well as on the development of a productive and competitive economy in all sectors," he said, referring to the 2015-2019 plan.