Interview: Abdelghani Zalene
How do you expect public spending to evolve in the sectors overseen by your ministry?
ABDELGHANI ZALENE: The country’s current economic juncture is conditioned by low oil prices. This shock has been absorbed thanks to infrastructure projects realised through development plans. Our approach is to maintain efforts to rationalise public spending through tighter controls and greater efficiency of state investments. We also aim to improve the organisation of projects along hierarchical lines, by prioritising projects that carry a significant economic and social impact.
What measures could increase the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in infrastructure projects?
ZALENE: PPPs represent a solution full of advantages, but they remain very complex in terms of bringing into play and following through in the long term. Nonetheless, specific measures have been initiated by the government to put in place a more favourable environment for PPPs, including administrative, financial and tax reforms. We are also working on adapting the legal framework to better promote private investment.
What are the priorities for Algeria in terms of modernising transport infrastructure?
ZALENE: Modernising transport services and infrastructure is one of the major objectives of the presidential programme, and we are targeting several segments at the same time. In terms of highways, we aim to build 1000 km of internationally connected roads by finishing the installation of the East-West Highway, the North-South Highway and several connecting expressways. In the railway segment, the ministry is leading a diversification and modernisation programme of the existing network, as well as a densification plan. Our aim is to increase the size of the network from 4000 km to 12,500 km. As for urban transport, there is an ongoing project to extend the Algiers subway, and also projects for tramways in the cities of Sétif, Ouargla and Mostaganem. We recently launched a brand new tramway in the city of Sidi Bel Abbès. Air transport is also an important segment, with the extension and modernisation of several airports currently under way. For example, the new Algiers international terminal is set to be operational by the second quarter of 2018 and will have a capacity of 10m travellers per year, while the new terminal in Oran aims to achieve a capacity of 3.5m travellers per year. Lastly, several ports are being expanded, notably the ports of Oran and Djen
How can the participation of local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) be encouraged in projects financed by the state?
ZALENE: Promoting local SMEs is at the core of our development objectives. Our sector should always support the growth of small companies. We want SMEs to receive preferential participation in every project conducted by the state to ensure the development of national production of goods and services. To do this, we have been setting up a selection system that takes into consideration the capacity of local companies to participate in a project, either by themselves or together with a group of other companies. It is crucial that public needs get fulfilled as much as possible by national firms, especially SMEs.
At what stage of development is the central port project in El Hamdania?
ZALENE: We are currently going through the technical finalisation phase, while removing administrative obstacles that remain in the way. This port aims to become a significant cargo centre in the west Mediterranean Sea. Integrated with the North-South logistics corridor, it will play a crucial role for trade between North and Central Africa. In addition, it will facilitate the development of nearby industrial zones, which will boost the restructuring of the country. This port will play a big role in the Algerian economy for the next two decades.
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