Algeria’s economy will improve this year, Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia said on Saturday, as revenue from the OPEC members 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 since 1999, has largely disappeared from public view since suffering a stroke in 2013.
“We can only be proud if the president decides to run,” said Ouyahia, who leads the pro-government National Rally for Democracy (RND) party. In a possible sign that authorities are paving the way for a fifth term, Ouyahia said a campaign would be launched to showcase the president’s achievements.
The overall national growth reached 2.2% in 2017, compared to 3.3 percent growth in 2016 due to drop in energy sector.
Algeria’s Central Bank said inflation last year stood at 5.6 percent against 6.4 percent in 2016. The balance of payments deficit declined by $3 billion to $23.3 billion. Algeria, aiming to cut spending after a fall in energy earnings, last year tightened restrictions on imports, resulting in a $1 billion reduction in their total value.
But the country’s foreign exchange reserves declined by $16.8 billion to $97.3 billion in 2017, from $114.1 billion at the end of the previous year.
The North African nation’s energy sector grew by 7.7 percent in 2016 but its performance declined in 2017.
Algeria aims for overall growth of 4 percent this year and expects the energy sector to grow by 6.5 percent, as it sees some oil and gas fields coming online before the end of 2018.