Interview: Boudjema Talai

What are the main priorities for construction of port infrastructure in Algeria?

BOUDJEMA TALAI: It is important to note that 95% of our trade is by sea. It is obvious that the importance of this type of traffic is made possible thanks to port infrastructure. Indeed, Algeria has infrastructure assets which include 45 ports covering a coastline of over 1280 km. There are 11 mixed commercial ports, two specialised ports for hydrocarbons, 31 fishing ports and one marina.

Our efforts are currently concentrated on the new central port project in El Hamdania, which aims to meet the needs of maritime traffic linked to the hinterland of the central area through to 2050, and also to be able to accommodate large container vessels typical of today. Moreover, we hope to generate new international trans-shipment traffic. Finally, we will reserve logistics platforms for the development of industrial activities around the port and free zone activities. It is important to note that this infrastructure will be put into operation within four years from the launch of the works, which is slated for the end of 2016.

How do you foresee state spending on public works in the coming years?

TALAI: In the short term, capital expenditure on public works could be maintained at the same level as 2016. Although it is possible to see the deferral of some secondary priority projects, the state will maintain the dynamics of public investment to develop basic infrastructure as an important growth factor. The tendency to rationalise public expenditure and to prioritise the use of local engineering consultancies and construction materials will help to achieve significant savings.

Furthermore, two additional funding methods can be considered, namely concession contracts and partnership agreements. A partnership agreement allows the state to entrust a company’s overall mission of financing, designing, building, maintaining and managing works or public facilities with long lead times that contribute to public service missions, against a payment spread over time and performed by the state.

What strategies should be put in place to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) participate in public works projects?

TALAI: The Public Procurement Code reform has created a favourable political and business environment in which SMEs can compete openly. Section 85 of the Public Procurement Code states that the potential of SMEs must be taken into account when establishing eligibility conditions and tender evaluation systems. Several additional regulations were set out to promote SMEs in this field – namely, Law 01-18, which has aimed to define SMEs and help support their promotion; Decree No. 32-78, which aims for the creation of “incubators”; Law 02-373, which established the Algerian Credit Guarantee Fund for SMEs; and various modernisation programmes for companies. These measures have also allowed SMEs to help achieve certain objectives such as creating jobs, and meeting the needs of public works and transportation.

In what ways is it possible to help Algerian construction companies enter foreign markets?

TALAI: Africa, the Maghreb and the countries of the Sahel, in particular, are natural areas of expansion for Algerian construction companies. In addition, geographical proximity to these countries, several decades of expertise, relatively low production costs and the presence of localised industrial and construction material producers are significant assets to our Algerian companies and position them as serious competitors.

Measures have also been taken by the higher state bodies to encourage and facilitate the involvement of our companies and engineering firms abroad. These measures concern the removal of constraints, especially with respect to Customs and the banking system, as