Algeria’s economic growth falls to 2.2 percent in 2017

An LNG refinery in Arzew near Oran. OPEC member Algeria relies heavily on oil and gas, which account for 60 percent of the budget and 95 percent of total export revenue. (Reuters)
Updated 15 March 2018
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Algeria’s economic growth falls to 2.2 percent in 2017

ALGIERS: Algeria’s economy grew by 2.2 percent in 2017, down from 3.3 percent the previous year, due to a decline in the performance of the energy sector, the central bank said in a document seen by Reuters.
It 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.
OPEC member Algeria relies heavily on oil and gas, which account for 60 percent of the budget and 95 percent of total export revenue. State finances have been hit by a fall in crude oil prices since mid-2014.
The North African nation’s energy sector grew by 7.7 percent in 2016 but its performance declined in 2017, the document said, without elaborating.
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.


Italy endorses China’s Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

Updated 24 March 2019
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Italy endorses China’s Belt and Road plan in first for a G7 nation

ROME: Italy endorsed China’s ambitious “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan on Saturday, becoming the first major Western power to back the initiative to help revive the struggling Italian economy.
Saturday’s signing ceremony was the highlight of a three-day trip to Italy by Chinese President Xi Jinping, with the two nations boosting their ties at a time when the United States is locked in a trade war with China.
The rapprochement has angered Washington and alarmed some European Union allies, who fear it could see Beijing gain access to sensitive technologies and critical transport hubs.
Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio played down such concerns, telling reporters that although Rome remained fully committed to its Western partners, it had to put Italy first when it came to commercial ties.
“This is a very important day for us, a day when Made-in-Italy has won, Italy has won and Italian companies have won,” said Di Maio, who signed the memorandum of understanding on behalf of the Italian government in a Renaissance villa.
Taking advantage of Xi’s visit, Italian firms inked deals with Chinese counterparts worth an initial 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 billion). Di Maio said these contracts had a potential, future value of 20 billion euros.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) lies at the heart of China’s foreign policy strategy and was incorporated into the ruling Communist Party constitution in 2017, reflecting Xi’s desire for his country to take a global leadership role.
The United States worries that it is designed to strengthen China’s military influence and could be used to spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.
WARM WELCOME
Italy’s populist government, anxious to lift the economy out of its third recession in a decade, dismissed calls from Washington to shun the BRI and gave Xi the sort of red-carpet welcome normally reserved for its closest allies.
Some EU leaders also cautioned Italy this week against rushing into the arms of China, with French President Emmanuel Macron saying on Friday that relations with Beijing must not be based primarily on trade.
There was not even universal backing for the BRI agreement within Italy’s ruling coalition, with Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, who heads the far-right League, warning against the risk of China “colonialising” Italian markets.
Salvini did not meet Xi and declined to attend a state dinner held in honor of the visiting leader on Friday.
Di Maio, who leads the 5-Star Movement, says Italy is merely playing catch up, pointing to the fact that it exports significantly less to China than either Germany or France.
Italy registered a trade deficit with China of 17.6 billion euros last year and Di Maio said the aim was to eliminate the deficit as soon as possible.
After talks with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Di Maio in the morning, Xi flew to the Sicilian city Palermo for a private visit on Saturday afternoon.
He is due to head to Monte Carlo on Sunday before finishing his brief tour of Europe in France, where he is due to hold talks with Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.