Tu­nisia hosts in­vestors to re­vive post-revo­lu­tion econ­omy

Arab News - - BUSINESS -

TUNIS: Tu­nisia is hop­ing to re­verse a de­cline in for­eign in­vest­ment and shake off some of its post-revo­lu­tion eco­nomic malaise at a in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence that opens on Tues­day.

The two-day event is aimed at drum­ming up in­ter­est in projects worth some $30 bil­lion and boost­ing an econ­omy hurt by mil­i­tant at­tacks, la­bor un­rest and po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity.

It comes as Prime Min­is­ter Youssef Cha­hed’s govern­ment tries to con­tain a fresh wave of re­sis­tance against aus­ter­ity mea­sures de­manded by in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors.

“We have to re­vive hope among our youth,” Cha­hed said be­fore the con­fer­ence, in which the govern­ment says rep­re­sen­ta­tives from at least 40 coun­tries are ex­pected to take part. France and Qatar are the main for­eign back­ers, with French Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Ha­mad Al-Thani, due to ad­dress the open­ing ses­sion.

Tu­nisia has been held up as the sole po­lit­i­cal suc­cess of the 2011 Arab Spring up­ris­ings, but its demo­cratic tran­si­tion has been un­der­mined by eco­nomic un­cer­tainty and weak growth.

The govern­ment also faces a ma­jor chal­lenge to pro­vide eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties to young peo­ple frus­trated by high unem­ploy­ment and a lack of de­vel­op­ment.

Some 500 for­eign com­pa­nies have left the North African coun­try due to la­bor protests and se­cu­rity prob­lems, in­clud­ing sev­eral mil­i­tant at­tacks in 2015. New for­eign in­vest­ment fell to 2 bil­lion di­nars ($885 mil­lion) in 2015 from 3.5 bil­lion di­nars in 2010.

Cha­hed’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, in place since Au­gust, points to a new in­vest­ment law that it hopes will re­vive the flow of for­eign cap­i­tal by re­duc­ing bu­reau­cracy, taxes on prof­its, and re­stric­tions on trans­fer­ring funds out of the coun­try.

The con­fer­ence will make the case that with its po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion es­sen­tially com­pleted, Tu­nisia now needs longer-term in­vest­ments to de­velop in­dus­tries and cre­ate jobs.

On Sun­day, Cha­hed re­launched a $3 bil­lion fi­nan­cial park and real es­tate de­vel­op­ment north of Tunis funded by Bahrain’s Gulf Fi­nance House, which had been sus­pended for five years. The pro­ject would cre­ate nearly 1,000 jobs in its first phase, he said, and showed that Tu­nisia was still “an at­trac­tive and com­pet­i­tive site for in­vestors.”

On Satur­day, Pres­i­dent Beji Caid Essebsi re­ceived a group of lo­cal busi­ness­men who he said would launch 1.5 bil­lion di­nars ($650 mil­lion) worth of projects in Tu­nisia’s poor­est re­gions.

But protests against aus­ter­ity mea­sures in­cluded in the 2017 bud­get pro­vide an awk­ward back­drop to the con­fer­ence.

Tu­nisian Prime Min­is­ter Youssef Cha­hed and In­vest­ment and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Min­is­ter Fad­hel Ab­delkefi in­spect the fi­nal prepa­ra­tions for the “Tu­nisia 2020” con­fer­ence. (AFP)

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