Algeria to allow foreign ownership in some sectors

Draft 2020 budget includes reform to allow foreign ownership in non-strategic sectors of economy, must go through layers of approval before becoming law.

ALGIERS - Algeria is looking into allowing majority foreign ownership in non-strategic sectors of its economy, the government said in a statement on state media late on Wednesday, without giving details.

Algeria has prevented foreign investors from holding stakes of more than 49%, and large parts of the economy have remained under state control.

A government statement announcing the draft 2020 budget included the reform, but it must still go through more layers of approval before becoming law.

It did not specify which sectors in the major energy producer are strategic, but economists say they could include oil and gas, electricity, transportation, water and telecoms.

Algeria has been looking into economic reforms in recent years as lower energy prices undermined its fiscal position. Oil and gas provide 94% of export earnings and 60% of a budget that doles out extensive benefits to citizens.

However, mass protests since early this year, which led to the resignation of president Abdelaziz Bouteflika in April, have made movement on economic reforms harder.

The protests continue, though at a smaller level than in the spring, and the army is pushing demonstrators, who want a thorough purge of Bouteflika allies before any new election, to agree to a vote by the end of the year.