Tunisia to turn $15bn investment pledges into jobs and growth
01 Dec 2016 - 23:20
Tunis: Tunisia received nearly $15bn in pledges of investment and financial support (including $1.25bn from Qatar) at an international conference aimed at energising its fragile economy, officials said on Wednesday.
The task now is to work to transform the promises into jobs and growth, they said.
The conference was organised as Tunisia seeks to shore up its finances and reverse a decline in foreign investment since the country’s 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
By the end of the two-day event, agreements for investments totalling $6.5bn had been signed and more than $8bn in promises of financial support had been made, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed (pictured) told reporters.
“This conference has brought back confidence in Tunisia’s democracy and allows for a strong economic recovery,” he said. “Tunisia is on course and now the work begins to make this financing a reality.”
Tunisia has been lauded as the sole success story of the Arab Spring uprisings, winning praise for the democratic transition launched when former leader Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali was toppled five years ago. Gross domestic product (GDP) is $43bn, according to the World Bank, and the 2017 fiscal deficit is projected to be 5.4 percent of GDP. Before the conference, Tunisia had been expecting to seek nearly $3bn in foreign loans next year.
Economic progress has been hampered by labour unrest, militant attacks, red tape and corruption. Growth is weak and unemployment high, especially among young people. It recently passed a new investment law designed to reduce bureaucracy, taxes on profits and restrictions on transferring funds out of the country. Officials say they have been lining up private and public sector deals for investment in infrastructure, renewable energy, new technology and tourism. Industry Minister Zied Ladhari told Reuters that new deals included investment by US firm General Electric in a health care project, and a vehicle assembly plant planned by French automaker Peugeot. Qatar’s Mejda Group signed a deal on Wednesday to develop a $220m tourism complex.