HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
North African state. The population, according to an estimate of 2005, amounted to 32.854 million residents, With an annual growth coefficient that in the period 2000-2005 was dell ‘ 1, 5 %. Most of it lives in the urbanized coastal plains and in the adjacent mountain valleys, while the density decreases sharply towards the interior, and the desert regions, which make up four fifths of the territory, are practically uninhabited, with the exception of isolated, nomadic communities. or sedentary.
Still in transition from a centrally planned economy to a market-driven liberal one, the Algeria recorded a significant turnaround after the mid-1990s of the 20th century. GDP is growing at a steady rate (6.1 % in 2004); inflation fell from a peak maximum of 20 % in 1992 to 3,1 % (according to one estimate) of 2004, and foreign exchange reserves (43, 5 billion in 2004, compared with 12 of 2000) reached the highest level recorded after independence (1962). The period of fierce clashes between government forces and fundamentalist groups, with numerous massacres of civilians and the use of special squads by the army, which reached its peak in the mid-1990s, seems to be drawing to a close and, despite the persistence of local pockets of violence, security conditions in the country have greatly improved. The main challenges facing the Algeria it faces on the road to development are essentially three: using the proceeds of gas and oil resources for the benefit of social growth, according to a long-term project; create growth and employment in sectors of the economy other than those linked to the exploitation of hydrocarbons, to draw part from 25.4 % in 2004); finally, improve the efficiency of public services, in order to involve all Algerians in the 21st century market economy. It is estimated that a quarter of the population still lives below the poverty line; however, it is a phenomenon mainly linked to rural areas and exacerbated by the lack of work and the limitations in accessing social, health and education services. For Algeria 2001, please check naturegnosis.com.
Food production is insufficient, and the country has to import about half of its internal needs for wheat. The government is pursuing plans that should create 500,000 jobs, expanding arable land by 700,000 ha and investing in irrigation and machinery. Furthermore, the development of agriculture must face adverse climatic conditions, with prolonged periods of drought or, on the contrary, torrential rains and floods (as in autumn 2001), which cause large deviations of cereal yields from long-term average values. Oil and natural gas have been the driving forces of the Algerian economy since their discovery in 1956, and it is foreseeable that they will keep that role in the future as well. In 2004, hydrocarbon production contributed 95 % to the value of exports: according to some estimates, proven oil reserves (70 % located in the Hassi Messaoud fields, in the center of the country) amounted to 12 billion barrels, and those of natural gas to almost 4,800 billion m 3(but the potential resources appear to be far greater). Algeria has become one of the main gas suppliers of the European Union, especially of Italy and France. Most of the exports are transported through a vast network of gas pipelines linking the Maghreb to Europe, the main sections of which are the Transmediterranean line (Transmed) for Italy and the new Maghreb-Europe (MEG) line for Spain and the Portugal. The strong increase in income derived from exports of hydrocarbons, of which the Algeria benefited during the first years of the 21st century, caused a substantial increase in foreign exchange reserves, an appreciable decrease in foreign debt (21.9 billion dollars in the 2004) and easing pressures on government finances. The transformation industries include petrochemicals, with plants in Skikda and Arzew (284,000 t of methanol, resins and plastics in 2003). An important plant for the production of fertilizers (800 t) is located in Arzew, and another in Annaba. The industries of this sector, in 2005 in the privatization phase, they are affected by expansion projects involving new production complexes. In addition to hydrocarbon resources, the Algeria possesses significant mineral resources historically neglected (especially phosphates and iron ores, but also local deposits of coal, lead, zinc, mercury, copper, as well as gold and diamonds), which the government has decided to enhance by resorting to modern technologies and issuing a law that encourages foreign companies to invest in research and mining. The production of iron ore (3 million tons in 2003) and that of steel (1.5 million tons) are on the rise. In 1999 the construction of a vehicle assembly plant was completed, with a capacity of 300,000 cars per year. The privatization process underway in all sectors, including telecommunications and transport, is rapidly integrating the Algeria in the global economy of the 21st century. Tourism, although it has great potential, is still underdeveloped due to the difficulties and restrictions of travel in inland regions, due to the continuing tension between the security forces and Islamic militants. However, the government is taking steps to develop this sector as well.