Algeria suspends grain agency head in corruption probe — govt sources

A combine harvester is used to harvest wheat in a field west of Buenos Aires, December 18, 2012. (Reuters)
Updated 15 July 2019

Algeria suspends grain agency head in corruption probe — govt sources

  • Belabdi is accused of “inflating bills and making false statements”

ALGIERS: Algeria’s government has suspended the head of grains agency OAIC over corruption allegations, sources close to the prime minister’s office said, creating uncertainty for traders who supply one of the world’s biggest cereal importers.
The decision to suspend Mohamed Belabdi pending the completion of investigations was taken at a government meeting chaired by Prime Minister Noureddine Bedoui, the sources told Reuters on Monday.
The government also decided to shut a total of 45 mills in relation to the alleged corruption case.
Belabdi is accused of “inflating bills and making false statements,” one of the sources said.
OAIC did not answer telephone calls from Reuters seeking comment.
Algeria has placed several former senior officials in custody since mass protests broke out earlier this year demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people suspected of involvement in corruption.
OAIC has a monopoly over wheat imports and purchases 7-8 million tons of the cereal annually through international tenders in order to supply flour mills.
French supplies usually account for the majority of Algeria’s wheat imports, making the North African country the top export destination for French wheat.
European traders said it was too early to tell if the corruption probe would alter the functioning of OAIC.
But the suspension of Belabdi comes as traders are already anticipating possible changes in Algeria’s import policy due to budgetary constraints and efforts by top wheat exporter Russia to gain access to the Algerian market.
“This shows they are continuing to clean things up and to keep a close eye on spending,” one European grain trader said of the probe into OAIC.

Largest French business team visits Saudi Arabia

Updated 28 January 2020

Largest French business team visits Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The largest French business delegation to tour a country is visiting Riyadh in a two-day trip to meet Saudi ministers.

The delegation is composed of 100 representatives from 80 French companies.

“We are here to tell them (the Saudi government), look, French business wants to be more present in Saudi Arabia and … to be part of Vision 2030. Tell us, (in order for us) to know precisely where you are expecting us to invest,” Frederic Sanchez, president of MEDEF International and chairman of Fives Group’s executive board told Arab News.

“I have to say, the delegation I am leading is the biggest I have ever led, which means French companies think they might benefit. It’s a win-win approach, by benefitting from transformations in your country, and the big ‘giga-projects’ Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is launching,” he added. 

Sanchez emphasized the delegation was listening to the needs of the Saudi people and government in helping develop the country’s business sector “because we understand that these transformations need us to evolve.

“We understand that you want more local content, you want us to invest locally, create jobs for young people, and to train them to be future leaders of the economy and business,” he added.

The vice president of MEDEF International, Francois Touazi, said: “We’d like to express our very strong commitment to supporting Saudi Arabia in this transition. We are fully committed to supporting the country and we strongly believe there is a win-win partnership between French and Saudi companies.”

He noted that French companies had solid expertise in many sectors, including tourism, health care and entertainment. 

“We’d like to illustrate and demonstrate to Saudis our full commitment. France and Saudi Arabia are strategic partners, we’d like to consolidate and strengthen the economic dimensions of our statistic partnership,” he added.

Training young people might be a challenge, but one they were willing to take, he said.

“We are sure we can support Saudi Arabia in the training of the youth,” said Touazi.

“In that area, we have expertise,” added Sanchez, alluding to work in Bahrain in the aluminum industry. The French government has put in place a department which helps companies to set training programs overseas, he explained. 

“We know how to do it, and we willing to do it here, because this is way to differentiate ourselves in front of the competition. We know that Saudi Arabia is a competitive country and we need to be competitive,” Sanchez added.

Companies from France, research centers and universities with their expertise will work with the Kingdom “because there is much to do for our partnership. By teaming up, France and Saudi Arabia can do a lot of things, not only in the Kingdom but also in the region, the Middle East and Africa, to develop this win-win partnership,” said Touazi.

The last official French business delegation to Saudi Arabia was led by then-Prime Minister Manual Valls in 2015; since then plenty has changed. “What makes me amazed is the spectacular change in the country in the recent years. You can see it visually. It’s impressive,” Sanchez said.