Tu­nisia aims to kick-start econ­omy

Con­fer­ence hopes to per­suade at­ten­dees coun­try is open for busi­ness

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Tu­nisia will host 2,000 busi­ness and fi­nance ex­ec­u­tives from 40 coun­tries this week in hopes of drum­ming up in­vest­ment to boost its strug­gling econ­omy. Six years since the revo­lu­tion that swept away dic­ta­tor Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the coun­try’s frag­ile demo­cratic progress has been threat­ened by eco­nomic stag­na­tion that has stirred so­cial un­rest. As it tack­les high unem­ploy­ment, low growth and a tourism sec­tor ham­mered by ji­hadist at­tacks, the govern­ment hopes to per­suade at­ten­dees of the “Tu­nisia 2020” con­fer­ence to­mor­row and Wed­nes­day that the coun­try is open for busi­ness.

“Tu­nisia to­day needs for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment, and the con­fer­ence will be a chance to restart the ma­chine and cre­ate jobs,” Prime Min­is­ter Youssef Cha­hed told AFP. Cha­hed’s govern­ment took of­fice in Au­gust in place of an ad­min­is­tra­tion heav­ily crit­i­cized for its eco­nomic man­age­ment. That fol­lowed a cat­a­strophic 2015 in which at­tacks claimed by the Is­lamic State group killed 59 for­eign vis­i­tors and 13 Tu­nisians, a dev­as­tat­ing blow to a key in­dus­try.

Strikes and so­cial un­rest have also hit strate­gic sec­tors in­clud­ing phos­phate min­ing. Some 15 per­cent of the work­force was un­em­ployed in the spring of 2016 ac­cord­ing to the World Bank many of them young grad­u­ates, who have seen the hope of the Arab Spring dis­si­pate. The govern­ment will use this week’s con­fer­ence to call for bids on 140 projects - in­clud­ing large-scale in­fra­struc­ture projects - worth some $32 bil­lion.

Of­fi­cials say the con­fer­ence is part of a charm of­fen­sive aimed at the pri­vate sec­tor. “The idea is to leave the con­fer­ence with Tu­nisia as a des­ti­na­tion back on the in­vest­ment map of the Mediter­ranean,” said Fad­hel Ab­delkefi, Tu­nisia’s in­vest­ment and in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion min­is­ter. Ab­delkefi will present the coun­try’s new in­vest­ment code that aims to stream­line pro­ce­dures and cre­ate a “new busi­ness cli­mate” in the coun­try. He said Tu­nisia is “ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive”. “It has al­ready at­tracted more than 3,500 (for­eign) com­pa­nies that pro­duce in Tu­nisia, ex­port, use lo­gis­tics,” he said, also high­light­ing the coun­try’s “deep and qual­i­fied em­ploy­ment pool”.

Cha­hed said he is de­ter­mined to tackle Tu­nisia’s smug­gling and cor­rup­tion net­works. “They are com­plex net­works to take apart, but we will suc­ceed,” he said. French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls will at­tend the con­fer­ence along with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of top in­ter­na­tional lenders - the World Bank, the Euro­pean In­vest­ment Bank and the African De­vel­op­ment Bank. The Euro­pean Union has al­ready an­nounced a dou­bling of its fi­nan­cial sup­port in 2017 to $318 mil­lion. Cha­hed said Tu­nisia de­serves sup­port as it strug­gles to de­fend “univer­sal val­ues”. “The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity should in­vest in Tu­nisian democ­racy,” he said. — AFP

TUNIS: Tu­nisian prime min­is­ter Youssef Cha­hed (cen­ter) at­tends an event to kick off an in­vest­ment pro­ject ahead of the in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence on in­vest­ment, Tunis 2020, in Raoued in the dis­trict of Ari­ana, yes­ter­day. Tu­nisia will host 2,000 busi­ness and fi­nance ex­ec­u­tives from 40 coun­tries this week in hopes of drum­ming up in­vest­ment to boost its strug­gling econ­omy. — AFP

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