On Thursday (19 June) it will be exactly ten years since President Houari Boumedienne seized power in Algeria.
On Thursday (19 June) it will be exactly ten years since President Houari Boumedienne seized power in Algeria. During the decade of his leadership, Algeria has emerged as a respected voice in world affairs, and has gradually been transforming into a modern industrial power.
Under President Boumedienne's guidance, socialism is now firmly established bringing the benefits of the country's vast mineral wealth, particularly oil, to the 15 million inhabitants.
Houari Boumedienne became friends with independent Algeria's first President Ben Bella, when they were both students in Cairo. Later he supported Ben Bella's rise to power, but in 1965 he used his position as Defence Minister to oust him, accusing Ben Bella of being a dictator. The new leader established a Revolutionary Council made up largely of soldiers with himself as Chairman, but his Cabinet was, and has remained, mainly civilian.
Boumedienne was originally so committed to collectively leadership that in his first televised appearances he spoke off-camera and Algerian viewers saw only an empty podium and microphone. Ten years later, President Boumedienne, who's now forty-nine, is well-known throughout the world for his role as peacemaker in Africa; unflagging champion of the Palestinian cause; and as prime mover in the non-aligned nation bid for influence in world politics.
Algeria's economy has been one of the success stories of recent years. With oil exports of more than 50 million tons a year, it could hardly fail. Since President Boumedienne first introduced national planning in 1967 Algeria has succeeded in reaching a growth ratio of more than 10 percent. But with one of the world's fastest growing populations (the annual growth ratio is 3.4 per cent a year) Algeria has to ??? just to keep up. The latest plan, which runs until 1977, will be ninety percent covered by oil exports. This excludes natural has of which Algeria will soon be the world's greatest exporter.
The sudden affluence will not bring immediate prosperity to most of the people. Three quarters of them live on the land and agriculture is a low priority in the national plan, receiving only 14 percent of the total investment. Land reform however is being pursued by President Boumedienne, himself a countryman, as an essential measure of social justice for the landless. Privately-owned land is being distributed among them to be worked co-operatively with government aid.
The lion's share of the national plan continues to go to industry. The President's proud boast is that his county will emerge from under-development by the 1980's as a fledgling industrial power, capable of providing for three time its present population.
In international affairs, President Boumedienne has been a forceful opponent of colonialism. The memory of French domination has left a bitter legacy which Algeria only now seems to have come to terms with. Last mont the French President Giscard d'Estaing visited Algiers and affected "a solemn reconciliation" between the two countries. Relations between them were particularly French boycott the situation was satisfactorily resolved.
Algeria now needs more foreign capital,investment, technology, experts and trade. France, on the other hand, is anxious to regain its influence with Algeria, particularly now President Boumedienne looks set to take over the leadership of the Arab world.