By Moin Siddiqi, Economist
Today, into the fifth year of The Arab Spring, Tunisia, despite stiff challenges offers a genuine success story among the Arab countries in transition; comprising of Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia and Yemen. The country's socio-political evolution stands in stark contrast to many of the region’s tragic turmoil. As the Guardian newspaper in London put it: “One nation that stands as an exception in the Arab world for having peacefully completed a democratic electoral process after the downfall of its dictator is Tunisia. It deserves support.” As post-Revolution Tunisia lays the foundations for a new development model, financial and technical assistance are required on comprehensive structural reforms and a coherent public investment programme.
2015 marked a crucial milestone in Tunisia’s history, with the formation of a new inclusion government in February headed by HE President Beji Caib Essebsi – following the adoption of a new constitution in late 2014, which obligates the state to effectively manage public resources, and serve its citizens with clear transparency and accountability rules. The authorities are now confronted with the task of rectifying the legacy of the Zine el Abidine Ben Ali regime (1987-January 2011) and building the blocks of a new and optimistic Tunisia.
Tunisia’s lack of hydrocarbons resources compared with its vast desert neighbours (Algeria and Libya) is more than offset by other assets such as a youthful, well-educated population; talented entrepreneurs; a traditionally open and diversified economy with huge potential in tourism, agriculture, manufacturing, and services, amongst others; technical sophistication; and a rich natural and cultural heritage; as well as a strategic location – making it an ideal base for re-exports to southern Europe and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) markets. The new Tunisia needs to build on these assets in order to deliver economic opportunity and greater social cohesion. The pre-revolutionary development model failed to generate inclusive growth.
Tunisia, during a September 2014 international conference – Invest in Tunisia: Start-up Democracy – presented a long-term development strategy and 22 new projects open to inward investment, valued at EUR22bn (US$25bn) in strategic sectors (aeronautics, basic electronic components for automotive, pharmaceutical, textile, information and communication technologies, health services and tourism). There are many opportunities for UK expertise, which is needed to assist in reforming the banking sector, developing the capital market and modernising the infrastructure sector.
Excerpt taken from The Tunisia Investment Report 2015 published by DMA and soon to be available here and was presented at the UK-Tunisia Trade & Investment Forum, London, on 20th October 2015.