April 14, 2018 / 12:05 PM / 4 months ago

Algerian PM says economy to improve in 2018 as energy exports recover

ALGIERS, April 14 (Reuters) - Algeria’s economy will improve this year, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said on Saturday, as revenue from the OPEC member’s oil and natural gas exports picks up after falling by half since 2014.

“2017 has been a difficult year, but 2018 will be much better,” Ouyahia told reporters, adding that unemployment had risen to 11.7 percent last year.

Oil and natural gas exports increased 25 percent to $7.1 billion in the first two months of 2018, up from $5.67 billion in the same period a year earlier, according to official data.

Algeria is a major gas supplier to Europe and relies heavily on revenue from energy exports. They account for 95 percent of its total exports and 60 percent of the state budget.

Ouyahia also confirmed he will not run in next year’s presidential election as speculation grows that veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, 81, will seek a fifth term.

Bouteflika, in office sine 1999, has largely disappeared from public view since a stroke in 2013.

“We can only be proud if the president decides to run,” Ouyahia said.

In a possible sign that authorities are paving the way for a fifth term, Ouyahia — leader of the pro-government National Rally for Democracy (RND) party — said a campaign will be launched to showcase the president’s achievements.

“It is important ... to show where the $1,000 billion (in energy revenues) were spent during four terms,” Ouyahia said.

Bouteflika can also count on the support of the ruling party FLN, and thousands of former fighters who have accepted a partial amnesty offer to lay down arms ending civil war with Islamists in the 1990s. (Reporting by Lamine Chikhi and Hamid Ould Ahmed Editing by Ulf Laessing and Helen Popper)

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