September 12, 2019 / 9:22 AM / 3 days ago

Algeria looks into allowing foreign ownership in some sectors

FILE PHOTO: General view of the port terminal in Algiers, Algeria March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra/File Photo

ALGIERS (Reuters) - 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.

Reporting by Lamine Chikhi; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Jason Neely and Mark Potter

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