Tebboune’s May Day speech: hard-hitting truths and propaganda

Algeria

Published on Tuesday 7 May 2024 Back to articles

President Abdelmadjid at UGTA headquarters – 1 May 2024

President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s 1 May speech was the first time he had set foot in the Union Générale des Travailleurs Algériens (UGTA) headquarters since he returned to government as Minister of Housing and Urban Planning in Abdelmalek Sellal’s government in September 2012.

The speech — which was an attempt to give a positive assessment of his four and half years in office — might have been seen as a campaign speech. Most local media commentators, possibly following directions from the Presidency, were adamant that it gave no indications of whether or not he would stand for a second term in December 2024. This was despite the fact that the gist of his speech was that the ‘new Algeria’ of his presidency was a far more positive place than that of his predecessor. This assessment was based on two arguments. One was that, under his predecessor, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the country had been turned into a corrupt ‘mafia state’. Although many commentators, including ourselves, have described it as such, Tebboune is almost certainly the first senior government official to publicly designate the last ten years of Bouteflika’s presidency as the ‘mafia decade.’

His second argument was based on a raft of economic and social data which served to ‘prove’ — at least: in his view; in terms of his management of the economy; and his efforts to moralise Algerian public life — that his ‘new Algeria’ is better off than that of Bouteflika’s ‘mafia decade’. 

Tebboune’s extremely serious remarks were hard-hitting and contained more than a grain of truth. His description of Bouteflika’s oligarch years as ‘wild capitalism’, reminiscent of Russia’s post-Soviet casino capitalism, was fair comment. These years saw: the massive plundering of state funds with some US$300 billion of state revenues unaccounted for; rampant capital flight; and the rich getting richer in a life of what he described as ‘private jets’ and ‘private lounges’. The rich certainly got richer but whether the poor got poorer, as he claims, is debatable. 

Tebboune’s argument that the country is currently better off is patently false on almost every count. Economic data — the inflation rate and cost of living; unemployment rates; assessment of achievements in housing, roads, hospitals and the suchlike — allow us to measure this empirically. If an overview is taken of most economic and social sectors, Algeria was doing significantly better and was clearly more prosperous under Bouteflika than in Tebboune’s ‘New Algeria.’

The attempt to reassure the people and working class that ‘Algeria is doing well today and that things have returned to normal’ is almost entirely reliant on false figures, such as his recent unvalidated recalibration of GDP (Algeria Politics & Security02.04.24 and 30.04.24)

As Menas Associates has revealed on many occasions, Tebboune is prone to acting fast and loose with economic statistics, partly out of ignorance but mostly for propaganda purposes. If he runs for a second term, he would be wise not to push such comparisons with Bouteflika’s presidency too far, because his rivals will have little difficulty in proving that most of his claims are false.

This excerpt is taken from our Algeria Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact info@menas.co.uk for subscription details.

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