Friendship betters with age
(VNS) Celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Algeria and Viet Nam, Algerian Ambassador Cherif Chikhi tells of the strong bondAlgeria and Viet Nam will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries on October 28, 2012. During this half-century, the bilateral relations and friendship that were first forged during the harsh periods of the independence wars have grown. Our two countries regained their sovereignty after much struggle and a heavy cost. This common destiny soon boosted closer ties between Algerian and Vietnamese people.
|Algerian Ambassador Cherif Chikhi.
These indelible memories resurface on different occasions. There have been numerous meetings between Algerian and Vietnamese leaders since 1962. I can, for example, remind readers of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's visit to Ha Noi in 2000 and the visit to Algiers of President Nguyen Minh Triet in 2010.
There are symbols in our two cities reflecting the friendship and the solidarity between our two countries and our two peoples. Thus we find an avenue bearing the name of President Ho Chi Minh in downtown Algiers. In Ha Noi, there is a school, built with an Algerian financing, which bears the names of our two countries.
The development of friendship associations on both sides is another illustration of our common will to make durable our historic ties and to constantly promote our economic co-operation.
Algeria and Viet Nam constantly work to streng-then the bilateral co-operation relations for mutual benefit of our two peoples. A rich and varied legal framework was put in place following the establishment of our diplomatic relations. Eleven bilateral agreements were recently signed: eight during the visit to Algiers of President Triet, two on the occasion of the last Joint Commission meeting, held in Algiers in February 2011, and another one, at the end of the visit to Ha Noi of the Algerian Minister of Post and Information and Communication Technologies in September 2011.
In recent years, Algerian and Vietnamese ministers examined, at various meetings, the evolution of bilateral activities and agreed on the launching of new co-operation projects in various fields, such as agriculture, construction, industry, energy and aquaculture. Our trading relations remain relatively modest but our two countries have considerable resources that are likely to increase our exchanges. This conclusion was unanimously highlighted during the Algeria-Viet Nam business video conference held at the initiative of the Vietnamese Ministry of Commerce and Industry on June 26, 2012. On this occasion, I underlined that our two countries have considerable economic potentials which can be judiciously exploited for the establishment of fruitful partnerships. I also recalled that Sonatrach and PetroVietnam opened the way within this framework. These two big companies have been working together, since 2002, under a contract of exploration, exploitation and production of oil in the region of Tindouf, situated in the south of Algeria. They are also committed under a new contract signed with the Japanese consortium JGC Corporation in August 2011, to assist the installation of hydrocarbon processing facilities, oil and gas expedition pipelines as well as an industrial base in Touggourt.
|Grass is always greener: The Jardin d'Essai, one of the most ancient gardens in Algiers, the capital of Algeria. It is considered to be one of the most important experimental botanic gardens in the world due to the diversity of its plants. —Photos courtesy Algerian Embassy
It is worthy to note that Sonatrach is the largest oil and gas company in Africa and the 12th biggest in the world. It is also the fourth biggest world LNG exporter, third for LPG exports and fifth for exporting natural gas. It has operations in several parts of the world.
In addition to this partnership, Algeria and Viet Nam are both engaged in important development programmes. Regarding my country, I recall the implementation of the 2010-14 five-year plan endowed with exceptional financing (US$286 billion). The strengthening of national development capacities is one of the main objectives of this programme.
The macro-economic trends of Algeria remain positive despite the world economic and financial crisis. This assessment is confirmed by the multilateral institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. Thus, Algeria has foreign reserves that will exceed $205 billion in 2012 according to the IMF. This amount places Algeria first in Africa. The non-hydrocarbon GDP growth reached an average of 6 per cent. The inflation rose this year, but the draft finance law for the year 2013 foresees it to be controlled at around 4 per cent. The trade surplus amounted to $27 billion in 2011, an increase of 62.4 per cent compared to 2010. This rising trend was maintained during the first eight months of 2012, with a surplus of $19.7 billion which is $4.6 billion more than in the same period in 2011. The employment rate decreased from 30 per cent in 1999 to 10 per cent nowadays but it remains an area that Government is still paying close attention to. Thus, the efforts are still underway for the creation of three millions jobs between 2010 and 2014.
Recently, Algeria decided to contribute $5 billion to the IMF lending programme. Thus, Algeria contributes to the efforts undertaken by the international community to contain the impact of the global financial and economic crisis. Managing Director of the IMF Christine Lagarde warmly welcomed the Algerian decision.
During meetings with the Vietnamese media, I noticed that Algeria is aware of the severity of the crisis and pays close attention to all economic and financial developments at international level.
Algeria is known to be a large hydrocarbon-producing country. Algerian gas is mostly exported through two pipelines, the first to Italy and the second to Portugal and Spain, both through the Mediterranean Sea. Regarding the liquefied natural gas, it is an essential exported to the US. Algerian crude oil is sought for being lightweight and low of sulphur content. It is especially sold to countries in Europe, given the geographical proximity of the continent (the south of Spain is barely at 200km from the Algerian coast).
However, Algeria is working to diversify the national economy. This is another fundamental objective of the five-year plan which I previously mentioned.
The development of modern infrastructures is also one of the priorities of our development. The East-West highway which spreads from our border with Tunisia to our border with Morocco, along the Mediterranean Sea, with a distance of more than 1,200km will be soon completed. I recall that Vietnamese workers are working in some sites relating to this huge project. In addition, our capital is one of the very rare cities in Africa to be equipped with a metro and a tramway. Another city in the west of the country, Oran, will also benefit from a metro in the near future.
The achievements in this field have always been important considering the area of Algeria which is the largest country in our continent. A Trans-Sahara road connecting the north and the south of Algeria (nearly 3,000km) has existed for several years. It is also part of the road network planned for linking the African countries between them.
I mentioned the Algerian wealth but it should also be noted that the State expenditures are considerable, not only because of the importance of the economic activities but also that of the social transfers. In Algeria, may I remind, the education is free from the primary cycle to the university and post-university studies. Even better, students receive substantial scholarships. In addition, the public medical service is free and supports to certain categories of the population are granted within the framework of various programmes such as the access to housing.
One can easily imagine the importance of the expenses of the State especially when we know that Algerians registered in schools, colleges and universities represent almost a quarter of the total population.
In the political plan, Algeria continually works to strengthen the democratic process. I had the opportunity to recall that after the legislative elections in May 2012, the Algerian Parliament is among the first in the world to have the largest number of women deputies. The evocation of this parliamentary institution awakens in me the evolution of the relations between our two National Assemblies. The president of the Algerian People's National Assembly (APN) came to Viet Nam in February 2010. These relationships developed further in 2011 with the creation of the Viet Nam-Algeria friendship group within the Vietnamese Parliament.
Another event is expected in Algeria, on November 29, 2012. It concerns the local elections for the renewal of the People's Communal and Departmental Assemblies.
To conclude, I would like to emphasise that the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries also takes place the year of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Algerian independence. — VNS