Monday, 24 January 2011
Algeria: Cevital in the firing line
There was some confusion about the government's position, with El Watan reporting that “Benbada's strange order to Cevital” was inconsistent. “The same people who yesterday accused the group of raising prices, today accuse it of lowering them too much.” Cevital boss Issad Rebrab defended himself in Liberté, a newspaper which he owns, saying that he “strictly applied the agreement of 9 January”. The deal specified consumer prices of AD90 for a kilo of sugar and AD600 for a five litre container of olive oil, he argued, adding that Cevital has introduced lower prices to leave a margin for retailers.
The row may be in part a diversionary tactic on the part of the government, an attempt to deflect blame away from the state and towards the private sector, as well as an attempt by the regime to claw back market control for these two basic foods. There are those in the regime, particularly in President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's entourage who are keen to chip away at Rebrab's empire. As the newspaper Maghreb Emergent points out, Rebrab's relations with the president have been shaky for the past three to four years. The industry chief refused to support Bouteflika's bid for a second term in power in 2004.
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