The government's measures to encourage the growth of privatesector trade, combined with fluctuating oil prices, have resulted in an erratic trade account pattern, marked mostly by a chronic deficit followed by ups and downs of surplus. The foreign trade deficit of the 1960s was not reversed until 1973-74. The world oil price boom then overturned Algeria's traditional dependence on exports of vegetables, citrus fruit, wine, tobacco, iron ore, and phosphates; instead Algeria substituted massive hydrocarbon exports. However, the authorities continued to retain control over the trade budget process, which allowed them to cut imports in 1991 to US$8.2 billion to meet the IMF's requirements for a standby agreement. The trade balance registered a healthy surplus of almost US$1.6 billion in the first half of 1991. In April 1991, the government introduced a major liberalization of the import system by eliminating the administrative allocation of hard currency for imports at the official exchange rate. Private firms were allowed to join the ranks of state-owned enterprises in purchasing foreign goods directly from overseas markets.
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