Algeria to end import ban on mobiles, food, home appliances - minister

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algeria plans to lift a ban on imports of cell phones, household appliances and food and bring in high customs duties instead, its trade minister said on Monday, a new attempt to generate more tax revenue to ease pressure on state finances.

FILE PHOTO: A view of part of the port from a terrace in the old city of Algiers Al Casbah, Algeria October 25, 2015. REUTERS/File photo

The North African country brought in the import ban at the start of this year with the aim of reducing spending after a fall in energy earnings.

The ban replaced a license system the government imposed in 2016 in a failed attempt to ease the imports bill.

“We consider imposing additional customs duties for finished goods. This is part of our search for (a) more efficient instrument,” the trade minister, Said Djellab, told a conference.

“This plan will be discussed by the government in June,” he said. He did not say when the ban on imports would be lifted.

Energy accounts for 60 percent of the state budget and 95 percent of total export revenues for the OPEC member country.

Oil and gas earnings have almost halved since crude oil prices started falling in mid-2014, hitting state finances significantly

“These are temporary preventive measures. The crisis taught us lessons,” Djellab said.

In apparent reference to discontent from Algeria’s partners after the import restrictions, the minister said the government had started talks with suppliers including the European Union.

“We explained to our partners, including the European Union, that we are experiencing a difficult period. They understood the situation. A dialogue is still going on with them,” he said.

Measures regarding imports will be accompanied by steps to boost domestic production and a five-year plan aimed at diversifying exports will be discussed in July, he said.

Algeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo discussed on Sunday possible exports to the African country of some industrial products including buses, household appliances and electrical industry equipment.

“We are targeting African markets but we need to improve the quality of our products,” Djellab said.

Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Editing by Ulf Laessing and Richard Balmforth