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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06ALGIERS694 2006-04-16 13:43:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Algiers
Cable title:  

PRESIDENT BOUTEFLIKA'S PUBLIC CRITICISM OF CABINET

Tags:   PGOV EINV ECON AG 
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ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 161343Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0864
INFO RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 1271
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 6115
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 0024
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L ALGIERS 000694 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/16/2016
TAGS: PGOV EINV ECON AG
SUBJECT: PRESIDENT BOUTEFLIKA'S PUBLIC CRITICISM OF CABINET
MEMBERS SPURS SPECULATION ABOUT GOVERNMENT RESHUFFLE

REF: A. ALGIERS 0622


B. ALGIERS 0662

Classified By: Ambassador Richard W. Erdman,
Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).



1. (C) SUMMARY: During a 30-stop visit to
government-sponsored development projects around Algiers
April 8 and 9, President Bouteflika publicly rebuked several
of his ministers for Algeria's slow progress in
infrastructure development, educational advancement, and
openness to foreign investment. In a clear jab at their
performance, the President highlighted the Algerian
educational system's lack of management training, noting that
"there is not a single sector where we have good managers,
even at the level of a football team." Privately, the
President expressed his outrage at the Minister of Justice
for his mistaken release of terrorists implicated in the 2002
plot to attack Los Angeles International Airport and bombings
in France in 1995. The positive reaction of many Algerians to
the President's bluntness may embolden him -- as the press
and several Embassy contacts have speculated -- to reshuffle
his cabinet soon. (End Summary.)

POOR MANAGEMENT AND LAGGING HUMAN DEVELOPMENT


--------------------------





2. (SBU) President Bouteflika visited approximately 30
GoA-sponsored projects around Algiers April 8 and 9. Although
billed as a series of ribbon-cutting and stone-laying
ceremonies to showcase GoA progress in infrastructure
development, the President used the visits to publicly
express how he was "distressed and irritated" by the
ineffectiveness and sluggishness of many GoA reforms. Embassy
contacts noted that the visits could have been completed in
just a few hours but the President insisted on two days of
inspections to see the sites for himself and offer public
feedback to his ministers.



3. (U) The President criticized the Algerian education
system, publicly telling Minister of Education Benbouzid that
many university graduates were unable to speak a single
language well. He stressed a need for programs to train
teachers at the primary, secondary, as well as university
levels. "The current situation," he said, "cannot continue as
it is. It will only lead to mediocrity." In a clear jab at
the competence of his own cabinet, the President repeatedly
stressed the GoA's need for better management training.
"Hospitals, schools, and all public establishments should be
managed by qualified people," he said at the University of
Bab Ezzouar, noting that in Algeria "there is not a single
sector where we have good managers, even at the level of a
football team!"

DISAPPROVAL OF AIRPORT CONSTRUCTION DELAY


--------------------------





4. (U) Bouteflika reserved some of his harshest criticism for
Minister of Transportation Maghlaoui. Construction delays
rendered Bouteflika's recent inauguration of the new Algiers
International Airport merely symbolic. Although an inaugural
Air Algerie flight departed April 9 for Paris, the terminal
is not slated to open to passengers until June. At the sham
ribbon-cutting, the President told Maghlaoui, "You are very
late and this is not what you said at the Council of
Ministers."

ANGER AT JUSTICE MINISTER


--------------------------





5. (C) According to Embassy contacts, President Bouteflika
was irate after Minister of Justice Tayeb Belaiz released
five Algerian extremists that should not have been freed
under National Reconciliation. The Algerian press reported
that three of the extremists were involved in the plot to
attack Los Angeles International Airport in 2002 (ref A);
another was involved in bombings in Paris in 1995; and
another, Mehdi Fateh, had been turned over to Algeria from
Syrian authorities last year. The GoA subsequently
re-arrested the five extremists in early April. The
inadvertent releases occurred because Belaiz's office had not
carefully vetted the list of prisoners eligible for release
under National Reconciliation. Belaiz attempted to pass blame
to the magistrates handling the case, publicly acknowledging
a mistake had been made and noting that magistrates "are not
infallible."

NOT EVEN THE "PRESIDENT'S MINISTERS" SPARED





--------------------------





6. (U) Even some of the ministers closest to Bouteflika,
often referred to as the "President's Ministers," were unable
to escape his recent scorn. Bouteflika criticized the red
tape facing potential investors in Algeria, telling Minister
of Finance Medelci that the GoA should provide clear guidance
to potential investors to help steer them through Algeria's
formidable bureaucracy. He said that he was "distressed" to
see foreign investors hesitate to come to Algeria because of
"cumbersome procedures and the quality of the greeting they
receive." Bouteflika also told Minister of Privatization
Temmar to stop his foot-dragging on the construction of a
business district in Bab Ezzouar.

COMMENT


--------------------------





7. (C) By publicly commenting on his government's mishandling
of so many domestic programs, Bouteflika -- who has received
a half dozen heads of state in Algiers so far this year --
can allay some of the concerns that he has focused too
heavily on Algeria's external affairs. The two-day visit
further proves to his critics and conspiracy theorists alike
that following his hospitalization last year, the President
still has the stamina to conduct his official duties. In
expressing his frustrations with the slow pace of reforms,
Bouteflika is showing a tacit recognition of the recent
criticism posed by prominent Islamists, notably FIS founder
Belhadj, that the GoA -- flush with billions of dollars in
oil revenue and slated to spend USD 60 billion on development
programs in the coming five years -- is not meeting basic
obligations to its citizens such as jobs and housing (ref B).
The President's recognition that the country's oil wealth
should be devoted to human development is an encouraging move.



8. (C) As a result, many Algerians reacted positively to
Bouteflika's at-times blunt rebuke of the GoA record. The
timing of the President's outspokenness -- on the two year
anniversary of his re-election -- is likely meant as a
gesture to show average Algerians that he shares many of
their frustrations and complaints about unresponsive
governance and continues to look out for their well-being.
Embassy contacts noted that it is also an early indication
that the President plans to reshuffle his cabinet. Now having
decried the critical shortage of effective managers in
Algeria, the remaining question is whom Bouteflika would call
upon to run his key ministries in place of his current team.
ERDMAN