Algeria’s military regime going through a thin patch

Algeria's military regime going through a thin patch

In the aftermath of independence, Algerian leaders called for national unity.  The option for centralizing resources and jobs was justified in the name of this accepted without discussion supreme imperative. Accelerating the state process of economic development meant the concentration of political power for the benefit of the head of state. Today, Algeria’s military regime going through a thin patch, looks increasingly closer than ever to its end of life.

This military regime that emerged from the ‘coup d’état’ of 19 June 1965, far from breaking with this concept of concentration of political power, presented itself as the most effective guarantor of national unity, the consolidation of the state, and all aspects of economic and social development of the country. Its hierarchical conception was perfectly in line with the model of the totalitarian state. By combining the management techniques of the One Party and the discipline of the armies, the military state becomes the militant state. This state, which wants to do everything, to undertake everything, wants to direct everything, to impose everything from above; everything must pass through the state, everything must converge towards it, all must act with it and under its control. The construction of a “one and indivisible” state justifies the most authoritarian methods. Can it promote internal development without the participation of people in production and management? Are not the concentration of resources and the monopoly of power to some extent the cause of the failure of public policies and popular revolts?

For a long time, the state has fascinated many observers, who saw it as a potential substitute for the market. For some, the state must intervene directly in the economic field as a full-fledged economic agent, for others, the state is sufficiently busy in its role as a public power to “get bogged down” in management problems that it has forgotten its “essential” mission: the choice of an effective macro-economic policy to mobilize the country’s resources for productive purposes. That is why more and more economists are making the state responsible for performance as well as underperformance here and there. The inefficient state in Algeria characterizes all its public management and related corollaries: internal violence and external dependence. Even in the favourable assumption of relatively stable power, this power proves powerless primarily to achieve the objectives it has set itself, because of the inefficiency of its administration and when it manages to achieve its objectives, it is at a price a frightening waste. This inefficiency of state management is apparent to us due to the incompetence and corruption of leaders, whether political or business leaders.

This corruption is more critical since financial corruption linked to the development of the monetary and market economy combines forms of corruption that have their origins in tribal solidarity. Loyalty to the family breeds nepotism that permeates state-owned enterprises. Clientelism, based on the exchange between people controlling unequal resources, is everywhere king. It is a fact that the state in Algeria is underdeveloped.

Economic underdevelopment is a multidimensional global reality. We can talk about political underdevelopment as we can talk about economic or cultural underdevelopment. The underdeveloped state is not only a dependent state but above all a “minimal” state that bears the scars of all the crises that have shaken it: failed decolonization, unfinished integration, extreme vulnerability to the interference of the powers and foreign interests, all of which are state disabilities. At this stage, the questioning of the dependency relationship becomes problematic. Social crises weaken the structures of the state and make it increasingly dependent on rescue, financial, military or other operations of the developed capitalist world. The precariousness of the state is such that they generally perceive any attempt at self-centred development that exceeds the profit requirements of the ruling elites as a shortfall or a threat.

What matters above all is the maintenance of the status quo, even if this situation generates the seeds of its destruction or liquidation. In Algeria, the state is not an abstraction; it is above all a person, a group or a clan, hence the need to domesticate this power, to establish personal relations with it. This personalization is not the personalization of the public enterprise, but the personalization of public resources.

Each hierarchical position usually involves controlling specific resources; The public service holder manages resources in a personalized way. However, when the customization of resources fades, it is to face the logic of the market. Finally, this legitimization operation also implies that the goals set, and the means used to achieve them are in harmony with the goals and needs recognized by society. It implies that a coherent discourse expresses this harmony by all partners.

By Dr A. Boumezrag