Algeria Shelves Oil Reform Law

The Algerian government has halted an ambitious draft law for oil and gas industry reforms, which would have made the country more attractive to foreign investors, according to government-run newspaper El Moudjahid. "Energy and Mining Minister Chakib Khelil has affirmed over the weekend in Algiers that the draft law on hydrocarbons has been frozen at the demand of the President of the Republic (Abdelaziz Bouteflika)," the daily said.

"The President of the Republic has requested that the draft law on hydrocarbons be frozen to a later date," said El Moudjahid, quoting Khelil. The draft law would have ended the Algerian state-owned oil and gas firm Sonatrach's monopoly of the domestic market, set up a regulatory entity to follow up on the implementation of technical and environmental regulations and another body to award exploration and production contracts through international tender.

Under the new law, Sonatrach would have ceased to act as both partner and regulator, and would focus on its core commercial activities on the same footing as foreign firms. No reason was stated for the decision to halt the reform. The Union Generale des Travailleurs Algeriens (UGTA), was the main opponent of the draft law on the grounds that the bill would jeopardize Algeria's sovereignty over oil and gas resources. Other political parties including the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), had supported several protests by UGTA in recent months over the planned reforms.