Reuters International

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika gestures during a swearing-in ceremony in Algiers April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Louafi Larbi

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By Hamid Ould Ahmed

ALGIERS (Reuters) - Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika named new energy and finance ministers on Saturday in a cabinet reshuffle, as the OPEC member tries to cope with a sharp fall in oil and gas earnings that have placed increasing pressure on its finances.

Nouredine Bouterfa, the head of state power firm Sonelgaz, was named as the new energy minister, replacing Salah Khebri, while junior budget minister Hadji Baba Ammi was appointed to replace Abderrahmane Benkhalfa at the finance ministry, a statement carried by state media said.

No reason was give for the changes, but the reshuffle comes as Algeria struggles to revive its economy, with divergent views over how hard to push economic reform.

The North African state has taken some measures to adapt to falling income, including raising subsidised fuel and electricity prices, cutting back on infrastructure projects and trimming budget spending.

But reform has been sluggish, held back by a debate between reformers keen to lessen dependency on oil and gas revenues, and an older guard reluctant to liberalise a state-dominated system.

Economic change is also widely seen as being hampered by uncertainty over a possible succession, with rivals manoeuvring in expectation that Bouteflika will step down before the end of his term in 2019.

Among the changes announced on Saturday was the creation of a new position of junior minister for the digital economy and modernisation of financial systems, to be held by Mouatassem Boudiaf.

Bouteflika also named former foreign minister Boualem Bessaiah as a special adviser, the presidency said in a separate statement.

(Reporting by Hamid Ould Ahmed; Writing by Aidan Lewis; Editing by Dominic Evans)

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