Mediterranean Tiger Emerges in Tunisia
Marks, Jon, MEED Middle East Economic Digest
With a new development plan promising 6 per cent annual growth and an even larger role for private investment, Tunisia is confident it can emerge as a southern Mediterranean growth point in the next five years. As President Ben Ali approaches his fifth year in power, Tunis remains committed to a policy of maximising economic growth while keeping control on political opposition that might undermine investor confidence, writes Jon Marks
A $10 million commercial bank syndication signed in June marked a return by Tunis to the international capital markets for the first time since May 1986. It was another step in a strategy to build confidence in the country's ability to become a safe haven for capital and offshore business operations. Even more important, senior officials say, is a significant investment Lipturn in recent months, after the Gulf war hiatus threatened to derail Tunisia's strategy of promoting development through investment-led growth (MEED 24:4:92, page 9).
Among recent trends highlighted by the newly appointed Secretary of State for International Co-operation & Investment Salah Hannachi, international companies are starting to invest in high-tech projects as well as in more traditional industries such as textiles and agro-industry.
Encouraged by these trends, the government forecasts 6 per cent annual real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the eighth plan period (1992-96 - MEED 17:7:92).
To achieve this goal, investment must rise by 9.6 per cent a year, the plan says. It is an ambitious but realistic target - and would allow Tunis to achieve its aim of transforming its economy from state domination to a liberal market system with fully, convertible currency by 1996, a decade after initiating a largely successful structural adjustment programme.
The next phase of liberalisation will be in 1993-94, National Economy. Minister Sadok Rabah told MEED in June, He said: "The final phase will be 1995-96: it is then the dinar will be made convertible," after all other conditions for achieving a market economy have been met.
This transformation is seen as essential to position Tunisia to exploit the opportunities offered in a fast-changing Mediterranean basin, where Tunis offers itself as a manufacturing and services base for companies selling into the EC single market, Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and other neighbouring regions.
It is a policy based on more than economic ideology. Tunisia's planners believe that only this way can the 320,000 new jobs …
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Publication information: Article title: Mediterranean Tiger Emerges in Tunisia. Contributors: Marks, Jon - Author. Magazine title: MEED Middle East Economic Digest. Volume: 36. Issue: 30 Publication date: July 31, 1992. Page number: 2+. © 1999 MEED Middle East Economic Digest. All Rights Reserved. COPYRIGHT 1992 Gale Group.
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