Thousands of Algerians took to the streets on Sunday to protest a draft energy law aimed at attracting foreign investment to the oil and gas sector, which underpins the national economy. The protests gathered in large numbers in front of the parliament. The new energy law is aimed at boosting investment in the vital hydrocarbon sector.
The protesters raised their fists and accused the government of selling out Algeria’s resources and threatening their children’s futures. They argue that the interim government has no authority to approve the legislation and was intent on passing it only to win the support of Western nations as it still faces daily protests. Authorities also approved the 2020 budget, the private Ennehar TV station reported.
The bill has further led to anger among anti-democracy protesters who have been demonstrating since February. The weekly mass protests since February have ousted veteran leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika and forced the authorities to detain many senior officials on corruption charges.
Professor Noureddine Bouderba, one of the protest organizers, has accused Algeria’s provisional government of offering favors to international companies in exchange for political support ahead of December’s presidential election.
The government argues that Algeria needs foreign investment to modernize the sector and make it more globally competitive. State-run gas and oil giant Sonatrach said the bill is needed to simplify Algeria’s tax system. The bill will however maintain a 49 percent foreign ownership if passed into law by parliament.
The interim president Abdelkader Bensalah on Sunday told the state media that the draft law was agreed by the cabinet on Sunday, but it must still be approved by parliament.
“The draft will allow us to start deep reforms in the energy sector and implement a development plan for Sonatrach,” Bensalah said, referring to Algeria’s national energy company, reported Reuters.
A presidential election has been scheduled for Dec. 12 this year, but demonstrators ave rejected it claiming that the vote cannot be free or fair if the military and senior officials tied to Bouteflika retain political power.