Editor’s Note: May 07, 2019

Algeria needs more than a good purge

Algerian authorities have arrested the youngest brother of former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika – who resigned last month following mass protests – as well as two former intelligence chiefs. Their detention is part of a high profile purge of figures linked to Bouteflika’s 20-year rule.

Led by the military this has seen everyone from billionaire businessmen to the country’s former prime minister arrested or questioned.

The aim is to appease protesters, who continue to call for more change despite Bouteflika’s resignation. The purge is a step in the right direction, but any gains could be short-lived.

While anger has overtly been directed towards Bouteflika and the establishment, an important catalyst for public discontent is the economy.

The commodities slump has hit hydrocarbon-dependent Algeria hard, exposing a lack of much-needed structural reform. Youth unemployment is estimated to be as high as 30%.

For years the government has largely ignored calls to diversify, instead relying on costly subsidiesto help keep protests and discontent at bay. With a return to the high oil prices of the last decade looking unlikely, this won’t cut it going forward.

In the immediate term Algeria needs stability, but without a meaningful plan to reform its stagnant economy – soon – no amount of purging will keep people off the streets.

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