Muslim community panchayat in Rajasthan on Thursday banned girls from using cellphones and also from dancing and singing at weddings, ostensibly in an effort to prevent incidents like Delhi gang rape.
Boys and girls have also been prohibited from marrying someone against the wish of their family members or someone from a different community, panchayat members said on Thursday.
The restrictions have been imposed on the Muslim community members at Salumbar town in Udaipur district, some 400 km from Jaipur, by the Anjuman Muslim Panchayat, a minority community council.
"We have decided to ban the girls from carrying and using cellphones. The decision was taken with a view that cellphones are spoiling girls," panchayat secretary Habibur Rahman told reporters. He said that a slew of measures has been taken to ensure safety of girls belonging to the community in the area.
The girls would not be allowed to dance and sing during wedding functions. A couple cannot get married against the wishes of their family members," said the panchayat secretary. He added that punitive action will be taken against girls who are found ignoring the panchayat edicts.
According to an immemorial French tradition, ‘youths’ go out on New Year’s Eve and burn cars: this year 1193 of them, according to the Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls. This is slightly more than the last year for which we have figures, 2009, when 1147 were burnt. Thus the burning of cars more or less follows the rate of growth in the French economy – or is it the other way round?
Figures were not published between 2009 and 2012 because, as everyone knows, youth likes a challenge, and it was feared by previous Ministers of the Interior that it would constantly try to outdo itself if annual figures were published. M. Valls, however, decided that statistical ‘transparency ‘ was more important in itself than any increase in vandalism that might result from it. Of course, in the absence of bureaucratic probity all official statistics are suspect, but that is another problem.
In any case, most people mistake entirely the significance of car-burning. Almost everyone takes it for granted that it is ‘a bad thing,’ in the Sellar and Yeatman sense: but is it?
After all, what is the destruction of cars but a stimulus to the economy, comparable to – say – an infrastructural project. Those whose car is burnt probably need it, and therefore will soon buy another. Even if they buy only a second-hand car, they reduce thereby the number of second-hand cars on the market and thus increase the demand for new ones. They also increase the price of second-hand cars.
Nor is this the only benefit. During the riots in 2005, President Chirac announced that insurance would have to cover riot and civil commotion, and therefore car-burning stimulates the insurance industry. Insurance premiums rise; the GDP of the country rises accordingly.
Furthermore, it ensures work for the emergency services who, if they had less to do, might face budgetary cuts, thus reducing aggregate demand at a time when it is weak.
In other words, burning cars in an economically expansionary activity, an adjunct to government spending. Perhaps what M. Valls hopes to do, then, by publishing the figures is precisely what his predecessors feared: increase the numbers of cars burnt.
There is one further advantage to car-burning: unlike most forms of government stimulus, it is great fun. There is no need to persuade anyone to do it. It therefore helps to keep youth, or youths, out of mischief.
Or in ten thousand other lectures, given by people raised to read and to speak the same way. It's an epidemic. It's hell on earth. And even more of the best students, who in an earlier day might have wanted to do something -- study, teach, compose -- with words, will be rushing off to law school. Not say, did you once see Shelley plain but, rather, say, what's the Rule in Shelley's Case?
Tony Kushner's Fashionable Fabrications And Ahistorical Histories
Nobody Said 'Racial Equality' in 1865: The Anachronistic English of 'Lincoln'
By Benjamin SchmidtTweetinShare1Civil War soldiers weren't named Kevin, and "peace talks" didn't exist yet: You can learn a lot from the ways that Tony Kushner's Oscar-nominated script strays from the vernacular of Lincoln's day.
Wikimedia / Touchstone
Audiences and critics have lauded the Lincoln, which this morning received an impressive 12 Oscar nominations, for its dedication to accuracy. From Abraham Lincoln's high voice to Thaddeus Stevens's black mistress, Steven Spielberg's movie shows a commitment to reproducing some of the less-known aspects of the past.
But when playwright Tony Kushner said in an interview with NPR that he checked every word in his script that sounded out of place, it piqued my curiosity. As a historian working with huge textual databases, I've noticed that even the historians, linguists, and writers most invested in the past can be blind to the many ways language gradually changes over time. Last spring, I wrote an article for the Atlantic about the many minor anachronisms in Mad Men. Given that Lincoln is set a full century earlier, I was pretty confident there was no way Kushner could have succeeded. Lincoln must be full of mistakes. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing. Kushner is a master of the English language, and Spielberg has been forthright about both striving for accuracy and his studious departures from slavish reproduction. Unlike some other historical dramas, like Django Unchained or Hyde Park on Hudson, Lincoln seems to really care about giving its audience an authentic picture of the past. If we want to know to know what the limits of historical accuracy are, there's no better place to look than Lincoln.
I'm not the first to look at the historical accuracy of Lincoln'slanguage. But by using massive databases of digital texts—in particular, the Ngrams corpus that Google created in collaboration with the Cultural Observatory at Harvard, where I have a fellowship—I can do it very comprehensively. Kushner relied on his ears to know when to look up a particular word. I lack that sensitivity, so instead I have a computer program that can tackle the problem more crudely: It simply checks every single word and phrase of up to three words (in Lincoln, there are 15,000 of them) to flag places where the script seems to be departing from language published in books. This "anachronism machine" produces dozens of potential leads I can track down in dictionaries, old newspapers, and other sources.Using computers for tasks like this is useful because it gives a completely different perspective. The statistics can help uncover shifts in American language and culture over the last century and a half that no one has noticed—although we still have to decide what they mean.
It turns out Kushner didn't reach for that OED as much as he could have. Mary Todd complains about Thaddeus Stevens's "prosecutorial" interest in her accounts, but the word wasn't used at all until 1934, and not widely until Watergate. As others have noted, everyone said "sneaked," not "snuck," until the 20th century, and the "barrage" of artillery Edwin Stanton plans for Wilmington only entered English around 1900. And the "bipartisanship" at the heart of the movie's narrative? The dictionary says the term only entered the language in 1909, although I've found a few occurrences from the 1890s.
What's really interesting about having scores of errors is that they let us see what kinds of mistakes a historical drama makes. Many are of the sort that only linguists would find interesting: extremely rare noun forms for verbs ("abstention" and "frustrating") or verbal forms of nouns (railroads "switch" in the 1860s, but not much else does), and several misused prepositions (changes to instead of changes in, support for instead of support to, and so forth).
But other anachronisms can remind us how diverse the sources of modern English are. When Congressman Ashley frets that the amendment is "absolutely guaranteed" to lose, he's speaking in the language of late 19th-century newspaper advertisements, not mid-century politics. Every war seems to create hundreds of new words, and Kushner can't avoid them: Two different characters talk about "signing up" for the army, which comes into the vocabulary during World War I. Before the Boer war, Mary Todd would almost certainly have worried about sharpshooters, not about "snipers." Even events "overseas" (another Mary Todd anachronism) shift the vocabulary of the everyday. I was surprised when the program tagged a soldier named "Kevin" as extremely unlikely, but sure enough, the Draft Registration records from 1863-1865 show only a single "Kevin" pulled into the entire Union army, compared to many thousands of "Georges" and "Michaels." According to the Social Security Administration, it wasn't until 1912—seven years after Sinn Fein was founded, when trends in Irish nationalism could spread to the United States—that more than five American families a year named a child after Saint Cóemgen.
No one will be surprised that swears and slang have shifted. Even aside from four-letter words, which are extremely hard to track through print, milder curses like "get the hell out" and "Jeez" are almost certainly out of place. There shouldn't be three characters who say "Yeah" (which most dictionaries don't have until 1905), for example. A more surprising counterpart, though, is that the language of politeness has changed in ways that we tend not to notice; a frequent category of errors in the script, apparently, are pat phrases like "Nice to meet you," "Could you please," and "Good to see you." Same goes for priggish language: Almost no printed books use George Pendleton's phrase "highly unusual" until 1900 or so.
Social changes have transformed the language of the country as well as the city. Lincoln refers to his father as a "smallholding dirt farmer" to emphasize his humble origins. Before 1890, though a "small holding" might refer to the land, but one would not speak of a "smallholding farmer" as Lincoln does. Much less a "smallholding dirt farmer," because while "dirt farmer" is an evocative phrase, it was essential unheard of in the period before farming stopped being the only way of life imaginable to most Americans. Young Mr. Lincoln, the other great movie about the president, makes this sort of mistake again and again. Spielberg and Kushner, though, don't spend as much time in nostalgia for rural America. The only similar mistake is having the Speaker of the House refer to a congressman's ""hometown" newspaper, a word that was very rare before most Americans lived in cities.
Lincoln is less successful in keeping out the language of politics and war. The Confederate olive branch, the movie's major subplot, seems to offer Kushner a minefield of modern language to stumble through. "Peace talks," his favorite, was used widely to describe negotiations involving the IRA and the PLO, but doesn't seem to have much history before Vietnam. "Peace plan" is almost as bad, while "peace offer" and "peace delegation" both appear only a few times before Versailles. These sorts of words are commonplace in any traditional history, so they should appear in printed language as well. Just to see how Americans actually described the affair, I checked 3,700 newspaper pages from the first four months of 1865 to see what words were actually used after "peace." "Peace mission," "peace interview," and "peace negotiations," none of which Kushner uses, would have been closer to the language of the time. Kushner's "peace proposal" was considerably rarer at the time than "peace proposition." About the only phrase that Kushner gets right in this subplot, in fact, is "peace commissioners."
Lincoln has difficulties keeping out the language of politics and war. "Peace talks," Kushner's seeming favorite, doesn't seem to have much history before Vietnam.
The language of political equality has changed enormously as well. Even the phrase "13th Amendment" is out of place. At the time, people just said the "constitutional amendment" or the "slavery amendment": It had been 60 years since the last amendment, and no one was in the habit of numbering them. The same sort of mistake dogs the movie's discussion of racial equality. One particular character makes more than his share of this sort of mistake: the radical Congressman Asa Vintner Litton (Stephen Spinella, playing a composite character who seems most closely based on Henry Winter Davis). In one of the film's key scenes, Stevens refuses to state his belief in full equality to Congress in order to help the amendment on its way. Litton is furious: "You refused to say that all humans are, well... human!" But in 1865, referring to people as "humans" was slang, not an elevating way of being inclusive. Had a real Asa Litton wanted to express the notion of universal equality, he would have, like Thomas Jefferson a century before or Lyndon Johnson a century later, mentioned "all men;" even if he were being gender-neutral, he would have said "persons." In a similar vein, Litton and Ashley each talk about "racial equality" and "race equality" as the eventual goal, but the phrase would have been "Negro equality." Nowadays, that sounds like a completely meaningless difference, but actually, the difference between "Negro" and "racial" equality underscores just how adaptable American racism can be. One of the strangest results of "Negro equality" in Reconstruction was a short period when the California supreme court re-interpreted a law that prohibited blacks, Native Americans, and Chinese from testifying against white men: Thanks to the actions of the Radicals in Congress, blacks were now free from Chinese testimony as well.
This sort of nitpicking is fun enough, but no historical drama set so long ago could avoid having dozens of mistakes. And Kushner got plenty right. Running the algorithm in reverse lets us see what kinds of phrases the script resurrected from linguistic purgatory. The most characteristically 19th-century word is Lincoln's invocation of "flubdubs," while every part of his cry "Old Neptune, shake thy hoary locks" is pitch-perfect.
Besides, even the most dedicated historians agree moviemakers shouldn't place pinpoint accuracy above all other goals. That's why historians who have criticized the film focus on not on minor flaws in language, but on more substantive grounds such as the script's omission of the role that slaves played in abolition, or the ways that Kushner seems to praise the South. It's right that the most nuanced discussions of the film have centered on issues like these, not fact that Lincoln's face didn't appear on the currency.
If we can take anything from the profusion of slips in speech from Lincoln's time to ours, it's that we can't expect the past to answer our present problems for us right away. When Lincoln finishes meeting with the Richmond commissioners in the movie, he gives them a lecture on the "democratic process" and the examples they can give the world (and by implication, future generations). But while veneration for the "democratic process" is at the heart of Kushner and Spielberg's tale, it's actually another anachronism. Contemporary accounts of that meeting—show Lincoln telling another of his strange yarns, less funny than the ones in the movie, comparing Southern planters suing for peace to hogs rooting in the frozen ground. It would make a terrible addition to the film. But it's not the worst reminder how different the past was, and how impossible it is to summon it back.
In the previous post, by Benjamin Schmidt, on the many things the self-satisfied well-pleased pleaser Tony Kushner gets wrong in his Lincoln script, impossible phrases ("racial equality")and implausible proper names ("Kevin") are adduced.
I don't think I am the only one who finds amazing the attention to period fabrics and fashions, and at the same time the inattention to language, in such series as Mad Men (Schmidt has apparently written about the solecisms in that series, and I will now read what he wrote). I've been struck, in watching Downton Abbey, the elaborate BBC production into which so much money, time, and thought have gone, at how certain words jar. At one point, I heard someone, probably one of the daughters, use the word "judgmental."
Now no one would have allowed one of those same Downton Abbey sisters to slip on something as comfortable and alluring as blue jeans. And no one would have allowed one of those girls to be named "Kimberly" or "Stacy." So why should "judgmental" have slipped by?
Was there just so much attention being lavished on the decor and the dress, that less attention was left over -- it being finite -- to be paid to something elsee, and that something turned out to be the language used by the characters?
A 40-year-old Sikh man, abducted over a month ago by a militant group in Pakistan's restive tribal region for allegedly spying for a rival outfit, has been found beheaded.
Mohinder Singh, a herbal medicines' seller, was kidnapped from his shop in Tabbai village of Khyber tribal agency by unidentified armed men on November 20. He was beheaded yesterday and his body was mutilated before it was packed in a sack and dumped at Zakhakhel Bazaar in Khyber, unnamed officials were quoted as saying by the Dawn newspaper.
The officials said that Tawheedul Islam militant group had claimed responsibility for killing Singh. A note left with the body said Singh had been killed for "spying" for rival militant group, the Lashkar-e-Islam.
The body was identified by the slain man's brother Daswant Singh. He said his brother's killing was a "cruel act" against members of the minority Sikh community.
A Blast From the Past: Conor Cruise O'Brien, in 1995, Discussing the Jihad in Algeria
I already knew that the redoubtable Irishman Conor Cruise O'Brien was more clear-sighted about Islam than many. I had read his article in defence of freedom of speech that was prompted by the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, and I had read part of what he said in an article in The Times, 11 May 1989, namely, "Muslim society looks profoundly repulsive...It looks profoundly repulsive because it is repulsive...A westerner who claims to admire Muslim society whilst still adhering to Western values is either a hypocrite or an ignoramus or a bit of both. At the heart of the matter is the Muslim family, an abominable institution". I knew that he supported Israel, and had written a sensible book - 'The Siege' - about Israel's struggle to survive in the face of Arab/ Muslim aggression -
But I still didn't realize what gems I would find when I decided to google the search terms 'Conor Cruise O'Brien' 'Islam'.
Here is one thing that I found, that I believe deserves to be shared here, and spread about more widely, rather than being left to slumber in the archives of 'The Independent' where it was first published, on the 6th of January 1995, 18 years and six days ago, waiting for someone else to try the same search terms I did. I will bold the paragraphs that I found particularly striking.
'Fundamentalist Islam" is a misnomer which dulls our perception in a dangerous way.
"It does so by implying that there is some other kind of Islam, which is well disposed to those who reject the Koran. There isn't. Islam is a universalist, triumphalist and political religion. It claims de jure dominion over all humanity; that is God's will. The actual state of affairs, with unbelievers of various sorts dominating most of the world, is a suspension of God's [i.e. allah's - CM] will, and a scandal to the faithful. The world is divided between the House of Islam, and the House of War, meaning the rest of us.
"For more than two centuries now, the House of War has been in the ascendant, and the House of Islam has been abased.
"The remedy for this unnatural and intolerable state of affairs is jihad.
"Jihad is defined as 'the religious duty imposed on all Muslims to wage war upon those who do not accept the doctrines of Islam'. The Prophet Mohamed himself not merely preached but waged jihad. God's [that is, allah's - CM] word, dictated to the Prophet and preached by him, is binding on all Muslims, and his example is their inspiration.
"in the glorious centuries of expansion, the jihad carried Islam from Arabia, to the west as far as the Atlantic; to the north, as far as Vienna; to the south as far as the Sahara and down the east coast of Africa to Madagascar; and to the east across Persia and the Indian subcontinent into part of China, and Indonesia.
"What is going on today in the Muslim world is not the advent of some aberrant thing called Islamic fundamentalism but a revival of Islam itself - the real thing - which Western ascendancy and Westernised post-Muslim elites no longer have the capacity to muffle and control. The jihad is back.
"The jihad is at present raging in many parts of the world, and shaking many westernised and westernising regimes (and many Russified and Russifying ones as well).
"The front of the jihad that comes nearest to us in Europe, and is of the most immediate danger to us, is that in Algeria.
"The Algerian jihad and the French-backed attempt to repress it, cost an estimated 25,000 lives last year, and the death toll is at present estimated at about 800 a month. Nobody really knows for sure. This is the most unreported of the world's wars, because both sides are in the habit of murdering journalists.
"The French-backed side murders journalists who report things the French don't want reported; the Islamic side murders journalists for being unbelievers, or for being employed by unbelievers. News has become a kind of black hole as far as reporting is concerned.
"The general public in the West only became aware that something peculiar was going on in Algeria when the news broke of the hijacking of a French airbus by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). This was followed by the spectacular news of the French rescue operation, and then by the killings of four Catholic priests in the courtyard of their church in Tizi-Ouzou.
"The GIA announced that it had killed the priests as part of a campaign of "annihilation and physical liquidation of Christian crusaders".
"The GIA added that it would continue its jihad against all who stood in the way of achieving the supremacy on earth of God's [that is, allah's - CM] Sharia (Islamic law) and the establishment of a wise caliphate (an Islamic state, eventually ruling over the whole world).
"The GIA is reckoned to be a relatively small organisation, but its actions and statements are endorsed by the much larger Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).
I am reminded of the goodcop/ badcop game played by Muslim entities in other theatres of jihad, today; as, for example, the MILF and Saif ul Islam division of labour deployed in the jihad in the Philippines; the infidels find themselves facing a largeish group that poses as 'moderate' and pretends to negotiate, and a smaller, ultraviolent group, supposedly distinct from the larger group, that carries out most of the worst attacks, utters open threats and refuses to negotiate. - CM
The FIS has so much popular support among Algerians that it looked like winning the elections scheduled three years ago, which was the reason why the French-backed junta cancelled the electoral process, thus precipitating the outbreak of the jihad. The junta is pledged to the eradication of Islamic fundamentalism, but it looks as if this can hardly be done without eradicating the Muslim population.
"The tragic error of the French in trying to cope with the revival of Islam derives from a conceptual error; the illusion that 'Islamic fundamentalism' is something distinct and separable from Islam itself. If separate, then detachable; if detachable, then eradicable - if necessary, by force.
"So reasoned those Cartesian minds, moving with impeccable logic to an erroneous conclusion, since their basic premise was false.
"That basic error is by no means confined to the French. It is very general in the West, and is affecting American policy, not in the 'logical' French form, but in a more sentimental manner.
"According to a report in the Washington Post: 'Administration officials - like many scholars of Muslim teachings - distinguish between Islam as a religion and extremist political acts carried out in its name'. Or, as President Clinton himself put it during his visit to Indonesia in November: 'Even though we have had problems with terrorism coming out of the Middle East, it is not intrinsically related to islam, not to the religion, not to the culture'.
"That statement was of course made before the GIA's hijacking of the Airbus, and subsequent murder of the four priests.
"But the view that terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of Islam are somehow not 'intrinsically related to Islam' was reflected in the Clinton administration's handling of the news of what the GIA had done and said in December, according to a Washington Post report (29 December).
"In denouncing the hijacking of an Air France jetliner by four young Algerians (that is, by four young Algerian Muslims - CM), the US government has carefully avoided linking the crime to the Muslim religion. The hijacking was 'a grave terrorist crime' for which there can be no justification whatsoever, said the State Department spokesman, Michael McCurry, implicitly rejecting the hijackers' claim to be acting in the name of Islam.
"That the claim of a group of Muslims to be acting in the name of Islam, is rejected by an unbeliever, speaking for other unbelievers, will do little to reduce the credibility of that claim, in the eyes of other Muslims.
"President Clinton's personal approach to this matter appears to be governed by a kind of woozy ecumenism, fairly prevalent among Western liberal churchmen.
"As the president told the Jordanian Parliament in October: "After all, the chance to live in harmony with our neighbours and to build a better life for our children is the hope that binds us together. Whether we worship in a mosque in Irbid, a Baptist church like my own in Little Rock, Arkansas, or a synagogue in Haifa, we are bound together in that hope".
"'All the great religions are the same' is the idea. Only they aren't.
"The Clintonian world view observes [sic: I think this has got to be a typesetter's misreading, and that the word ought to be 'obscures' - CM] the hard specificity of Islam.
"The Prophet Mohamed did not offer his followers a chance to live in harmony with their neighbours. He taught them to fight their neighbours, if they were unbelievers, and kill them or beat them into submission. And it is futile to say of those Muslims who faithfully follow those teachings today that their actions are not 'intrinsically related to Islam'.
"We are facing an Islamic revival.
"The pro-Western rulers of the Maghreb and the Middle East know this, and know that their own stance is increasingly unacceptable to their peoples.
"Representatives of Syria and Saudi Arabia met last week in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak in something resembling panic stations, over the news from Algeria.
"What these three regimes have in common is that all of them supported the unbelievers during Desert Storm. (The fact that Saddam Hussein is not a model Muslim is felt to be immaterial. Under attack by unbelievers he raised the flag of Islam and had widespread support at a popular level.)
"How the West should cope with the Islamic revival is a complex matter.
"But one thing is clear: we can never get it right if we go on trying to believe that there is something called 'Islamic fundamentalism' which is somehow not intrinsically related to Islam itself."
Bravo, Mr O'Brien. Never were truer words spoken, and they need to be heard just as much today as when they were first written.
For the sand-throwers have been busy for years, trying hard to blind us to what Mr O'Brien had no difficulty in seeing.
A classic example of what I mean by sand-throwing may be read by clicking on this link:
where you will find the indignant letter that a swooningly Islamophile dupe identifying himself as 'Alan Pimm-Smith' of Sunbury-on-Thames, Middlesex,wrote to 'The independent' in response to Mr O'Brien's article, a letter which distinguishes itself by making use of practically every talking-point that is still trotted out today by those who wish to deny, evade or to obscure the harsh reality - resurgent jihad - which Mr O'Brien described so incisively.
Algerian Calm in Arab Tumult Threatened as Oil Largesse Dwindles
By Gregory Viscusi - Jan 9, 2013
Ait Allaoua, a 22-year-old Algerian medical student, rattles off why he’s angry with his country: rigged elections, sclerotic politicians, corruption, high unemployment, and a quagmire of bureaucracy.
Yet there’s a reason why Algeria hasn’t been engulfed by the uprisings that started in neighboring Tunisia more than two years ago and spread across the Arab world, he said.
“There is oil here, and every time the people aren’t happy the government gives them money,” Allaoua said in an interview in the capital, Algiers.
The risk for the country of 37 million people is that its ability to buy off discontent is waning. The ruling National Liberation Front is faced with diminishing oil exports, inflation, and presidential elections in 2014 where for the first time its candidate won’t carry the aura of having fought for independence against the French.
While Algeria exported $73 billion of petroleum products in 2011, according to the country’s central bank, figures from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries show oil production declined for a fourth straight year.
“Pacification through finance can’t go on forever,” said Azzedine Layachi, a professor of international and Middle East affairs at St. John’s University in New York and Rome. “Everything is in shutdown mode until 2014 and that’s when we’ll see what direction Algeria takes.”
Memories of conflict in the 1990s between Islamic militants and the army deter Algerians from following the rebellions in countries like Libya, another oil producer, where leader Muammar Qaddafi was deposed and killed in a bloody civil war in 2011. In the Syrian uprising, at least 60,000 people have been killed in the fighting, the United Nations said last week.
“What you see in Syria now, they had every day here, it’s just that it was hidden from the world,” said Benjamin Stora, an Algerian-born historian. “This is an exhausted country that went through 10 years of civil war and 100,000 deaths.”
Angry youths rioted across Algeria in early 2011. The government responded first with riot police, then with higher wages and subsidies that have kept the country largely quiet ever since and left President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front firmly in power.
The government raised the minimum wage by 20 percent to 180 euros ($236) a month. To relieve a housing shortage, the government plans to spend 40 billion euros on 2.4 million new homes by 2017. It will also build 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) of new roads and upgrade 8,000 kilometers over next three years.
About 12 percent of the state budget goes toward subsidies for basic foodstuff. Gasoline costs between 13 and 23 euro cents a liter, about a 10th of its price in most European countries.
“Paying people off isn’t much of a policy, and it only works until people realize that it hasn’t made them better off,” said Kader Abderrahim, a researcher at the Paris-based Institute of International and Strategic Studies.
The International Monetary Fund said on Nov. 12 that higher spending is causing fiscal “vulnerability” and rising prices. The official inflation rate is 7.3 percent. The real rate exceeds 10 percent, Layachi at St. John’s University said. Official joblessness also runs at around 10 percent.
Bouteflika, who came to office in 1999, is now the country’s longest-serving president, following the 13-year stints by his two predecessors.
“We need to have clearer elections, we need to allow the emergence of a new generation of leaders,” said Allaoua, the student, as he waited in the crowd along the Algiers waterfront to greet French President Francois Hollande on Dec. 19. “If Algeria was better managed, we wouldn’t be talking about unemployment. There is the money here.”
Bouteflika, 75, isn’t expected to run in 2014 because of poor health, Layachi said, making him the last Algerian president to have fought in the War of Independence.
France, which annexed Algeria in 1830, largely crushed the 1954-1958 revolt, though civilian massacres and the use of torture undercut support for the war at home, leading President Charles de Gaulle to open negotiations with the rebels and grant the country independence in 1962.
The National Liberation Front took 17 percent of the vote in the May 2012 parliamentary elections, though won more than 40 percent of seats as smaller parties were disqualified because they didn’t reach the 5 percent threshold.
“These fraudulent elections will just be an inside game of the ruling parties,” said Abderrazak Mokri, vice-president of Movement for Society and Peace, an opposition Islamic party.
Freedom House, which monitors democracy, lists Algeria in its bottom group as “Not Free,” unlike Morocco and Tunisia, which are “partly free.” The government limits which parties can run in elections and the president has more power than parliament, it said in its 2012 annual report.
While Algeria allowed some press freedom and lifted a 19- year state of emergency in February 2011, Mokri said the policy is: “We can say what we want; they can do what they want.”
Mokri says the crunch will come after 2018 when declining oil production and rising domestic demand will deprive the government of export revenue. Oil product sales boosted Algeria’s foreign currency reserves to $180 billion in 2011, according to the central bank.
Yet crude production declined to 1.16 million barrels a day in 2011 from 1.37 million in 2007, OPEC figures show. And there’s little else to rely on. Non-energy exports were just $1 billion, and without oil the trade deficit would have been $43.7 billion in 2011, the central bank numbers show.
The World Bank places Algeria 152nd out of 185 countries in ease of doing business in 2012, a drop from 136th place in 2011. Tunisia, where street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010 and triggered the wave of unrest, ranked 50th. Transparency International puts Algeria at 105 out of 174 in its latest corruption index. While that’s better than Libya or Egypt, it’s behind Morocco and Tunisia.
For Allaoua in the crowd in Algiers, it just reflects the hurdles facing his countrymen.
“It takes a full day to register the birth of your child, if you bother,” the medical student said. “Imagine what it’s like to start up a business.”