Algerian chief of staff says army will tackle crisis

Noureddine Bedoui, center, is trying to form a new government to pacify the protests. (AFP/File)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Algerian chief of staff says army will tackle crisis

  • One of the leaders said they do not support the PM because the people reject the system
  • President Abdelaziz Bouteflika said he will remain in office until a new constitution is adopted

ALGIERS: Algeria’s army should take responsibility for finding a quick solution to its political crisis, its chief of staff said on Monday, in the most overt signal of potential military intervention since mass demonstrations erupted three weeks ago.

“The army will remain a fortified fortress for the country,” the chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Gaed Salah, said on state TV. “We should be responsible for finding solutions as soon as possible. There is no problem without solution.”

He added: “I’m confident the Algerian people are wise and able to overcome all difficulties.”

Meanwhile, 13 independent Algerian unions have refused to back the newly appointed prime minister’s efforts to form a government he hopes will placate protesters who are pressuring President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and his inner circle to step down.

“We will not hold discussions with this system, we belong to the people and the people said ‘No’ to the system,” Boualem Amora, one of the leaders of the education sector unions, told reporters.

Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui has promised to create an inclusive government of technocrats, taking in the military and business representatives, in a country dominated by veterans of the 1954-1962 war of independence against France. But union leaders said they refused to enter a dialogue when he reached out to them.

Many Algerians, who have been demonstrating for more than three weeks, have rejected overtures by Bouteflika, 82, who has reversed a decision to stand for another term after 20 years in power.

On Sunday some workers at Algeria’s biggest natural gas field staged a protest against extending the president’s fourth term, an energy official said, referring to a proposal by Bouteflika to stay in office until a new constitution is adopted.

Output at the Hassi Rmel field was not affected, said an official from state oil and gas company Sonatrach.

Algeria is an important gas supplier to Europe, mainly Italy, Spain and France. Several foreign firms operate in the country including BP, Total and Repsol.

In the 1990s, oil and gas production did not stop despite the country’s descent into chaos during a civil war between security forces and militants.

Since returning from medical treatment in Switzerland the president has in recent days been losing allies, including senior members of the ruling National Liberation Front party, known by its French acronym FLN.

Protests have been mostly peaceful and the military, which is expected to keep playing its influential behind-the-scenes role as a power broker, has stayed in the barracks.


New social deal signed in Morocco, salaries to rise

Updated 26 April 2019
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New social deal signed in Morocco, salaries to rise

  • The minimum wage, currently 2,570 dirhams a month ($266), will be increased by 10 percent over two years from July
  • Last July King Mohammed VI urged the government to take “urgent action” to address social issues

RABAT: The Moroccan government on Thursday announced a “new social deal” with employers and the main labor unions, under which many workers will enjoy a pay rise.
The deal agreed by the General Confederation of Moroccan Businesses (CGEM) and the three main unions — the UMT, UGTM and UNMT — is the fruit of months of negotiations
The minimum wage, currently 2,570 dirhams a month ($266), will be increased by 10 percent over two years from July, except for the agricultural sector.
Government-paid family allowances will also rise.
Meanwhile public sector workers will be given a 300-500 dirham monthly pay increase over three years.
Of Morocco’s main trade unions only the Democratic Labour Confederation has not signed the social deal which, according to the government statement, is aimed at “improving spending power and the social climate.”
Last July King Mohammed VI urged the government to take “urgent action” to address social issues, in particular health and education in the north African country which has been hit by protests over employment and corruption.
Mohammed VI pointed to social support and social protection programs that “overlap each other, suffer from a lack of consistency and fail to effectively target eligible groups.”
After months of stalemate, the dossier was handed to the interior ministry at the beginning of the year and the final rounds of talks were held.
The social unrest began in October 2016 after the death of a fisherman and spiralled into a wave of protests demanding more development in the neglected Rif region and railing against corruption and unemployment.
Morocco is marked by glaring social and territorial inequalities, against a backdrop of high unemployment among young people. In 2018, it was ranked 123rd out of 189 countries and territories on the Human Development Index.