ALGIERS- Algeria's lower house of parliament on Thursday passed a new energy law to make investment in its oil and gas industry more attractive to foreign companies.
The OPEC member country relies heavily on energy revenues, but they have been falling for years and in January-September this year were $24.6 billion compared to $29 billion in the same period in 2018.
The new law aims to bolster Algeria's energy production capacity by bringing in foreign oil companies to work with state producer Sonatrach.
The legislation, which still needs approval by the upper house of parliament, is opposed by protesters who have been demonstrating for months calling for a thorough purge of Algeria's old guard of rulers.
Foreign companies have stayed away from Algeria due to unattractive contract terms, causing a fall in oil and gas output and export revenue, the main source of state finances.
The new law introduces production sharing, participation and risk services as new types of contracts with foreign companies willing to partner with Sonatrach in oil and gas projects, replacing the old concession contracts.
But the legislation has preserved the main clauses in the current law that limits foreign companies to minority stakes in oil and gas projects.
The law also provides tax incentives, including sismplifying the whole structure of fiscal terms, and removes bureaucratic hurdles mainly by reducing administrative procedures for investors.
"The new law is aimed at achieving goals that serve the economy and national sovereignty. This law is a necessity, not an option," said lawmaker Lahbib Senoussi from the National Liberation Front party.
The opposition and the protesters want to postpone the upper house vote until a new president is elected in a national election on Dec. 12, saying the caretaker government has no authority to draft such a strategic bill.
"We do not know why the government is in a hurry to pass this law right now. The election is only a month away," said Khadidja Boudine from the opposition Workers Party.
Demonstrations, which broke out in February demanding the removal of the ruling elite, forced veteran President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign in April.
(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed. Editing by Jane Merriman) ((email@example.com;))