Global East-West Bulletin
About the current political and economic situation in Tunisia
by Hichem Karoui
Tunisia has been facing a political crisis since President Kais Saied ousted the government and suspended parliament in July 2021. Denouncing this move, the main political parties opposing President Kais Saied in Tunisia gathered into the “National Salvation Front”⁴. It is a coalition of opposition parties, including the Islamist-inspired Ennahda that had dominated Tunisia’s parliament before its dissolution by Mr Saied⁴. Another coalition is formed by four political parties: The Democratic Current Party, Ettakatol (FDTL), the Republican Party and Afek Tounes⁶.
The Islamist Ennahda party, the dominant force in the idled parliament, accused Kais Saied of carrying out a coup. The president dismissed the government and froze parliament on July 25, 2021, in a dramatic escalation of a political crisis that all his opponents labelled a coup. A new constitution was enacted in 2021 after the president suspended the post-revolution constitution.
Since then, Tunisia’s transition to democracy remains incomplete and under stress. Socioeconomic conditions have continued to deteriorate, and risks of unrest have increased. In addition to its chronic political crises, Tunisia’s economy is witnessing massive stagnation that has reached unprecedented levels according to many local and global indexes. GDP growth declined to 1.7 per cent on average between 2011 and 2019.
So the question that needs an urgent answer is how to deal with the situation in Tunisia.
The Need For A Comprehensive Approach to Dealing with Tunisia’s Political and Economic Crisis
Tunisia is a North African country in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It underwent a major political upheaval in 2011 when its population overthrew the long-standing autocratic regime of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Since then, Tunisia should have been progressing steadily towards democracy and economic prosperity. The country was actively involved in multilateral frameworks such as the Mediterranean Dialogue and Union for the Mediterranean, which helped promote growth and stability within Tunisia’s political landscape. Instead, following the upheaval and the takeover by the new political class (former opponents to Ben Ali’s regime), the social-economic situation worsened. The democratic fresh breeze turned sour and violent, with no less than 6000 young people (males and females) “exported” by an Islamist-led government to fight in Syria alongside radical jihadists. Terror exploded in Tunisia itself, with attempts by ISIS to take hold in the South and several bomb explosions and shootings that made several casualties among European tourists and Tunisian citizens. Summary: the results of post-revolution governments were far from bright, even if one should recognise that free speech was allowed, as far as it did not touch the Islamist culture of the country.
The United Nations estimate Tunisia’s population to be 12.0 million in 2022. Tunisia last conducted a national census in 2014, and 99.9% of births in Tunisia are recorded.
The Tunisian economy is primarily based on services, with tourism being a prominent sector. However, recent years have seen an increased focus on diversifying its sources of income, with investments made into sectors such as textiles, manufacturing, chemicals and agribusiness. Tunisia has also increasingly relied on foreign aid from countries such as France and Qatar to support public sector programmes and unemployment benefits. Despite these efforts, Tunisia still struggles with high unemployment rates, which strain government revenues and restricts economic growth prospects in the short term.
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AND EMPLOYMENT DATA IN TUNISIA
LATEST DATA ON UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (%)
LATEST DATA ON EMPLOYED PERSONS (THOUSAND PERSON)
HOW MANY EMPLOYED PERSONS ARE IN TUNISIA?
The number of employed persons in Tunisia increased to 3500 thousand persons (3.5 Million Persons) in the fourth quarter of 2022. The maximum rate was 3566 Thousand People, and the minimum was 898 Thousand people.
Historical Data (Thousand Person) by years
HISTORICAL CHART BY PRESIDENTS (%)
Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali
Beji Caid Essebsi
UNEMPLOYMENT RATE IN TUNISIA BY PRESIDENTS
Corruption and Transparency
Additionally, lingering concerns around corruption and transparency will need to be addressed if regional investment is going to increase over time.
A comprehensive approach to addressing the issues is necessary because not all the causes and effects of a problem can be adequately addressed with a single solution. Any comprehensive approach should look at the problem from multiple angles, allowing for a greater understanding of its complexity and potential solutions. It also considers all stakeholders, including those that may have been previously overlooked or ignored. Finally, a comprehensive approach helps to ensure that any proposed solutions consider both short-term and long-term impacts, ensuring that any proposed solutions are sustainable over time.
I. Ensure the transition to democracy is complete
The transition to democracy is an important task which should not be taken lightly. It requires careful consideration of the needs and wishes of all citizens to ensure that everyone embraces democratic values. The transition process should include building strong institutions and a fair justice system, enacting laws that promote human rights and civil liberties, and instituting a system of checks and balances to ensure accountability. In addition, the transition must guarantee basic economic security for all people, such as access to employment opportunities, essential services like healthcare, quality education, and social safety nets like unemployment benefits or food assistance programs. Finally, a successful transition depends on the active participation of citizens in their government so that they can hold their leaders accountable and ensure they act in the public’s best interests. To facilitate greater civic engagement, governments should invest in public information campaigns about democracy and its importance for everyone.
1- Respect for the rule of law
Respect for the rule of law is essential to a healthy democracy and is fundamental to upholding human rights. Respect for the rule of law means that governments, citizens, and organisations must follow and be bound by fairly applied and enforced laws. It also requires public officials to be accountable to legal frameworks put in place to protect people’s rights and liberties. Respecting the rule of law helps promote fairness, justice, and equal access to opportunities across society. Respect for the rule of law allows freedom of expression to be protected, minorities to be respected, justice systems to remain fair regardless of an individual’s political or social status, and citizens’ safety from violence or discrimination. Countries with more respect for the rule of law tend to have greater economic stability, better living standards, and more effective government institutions. Furthermore, respect for the rule of law creates an environment where international commerce can thrive due to stable rules governing business investments. By adhering to established laws and regulations, countries can foster trust and cooperation among their citizens as well as other nations around the globe.
2- Strengthen governance and reduce corruption
Governance is the way a society is structured, managed and operated. It involves multiple stakeholders, including the government, citizens, organisations and companies. Good governance is key to the success of any society — it ensures that policies are created and enforced in the best interest of all citizens. To strengthen governance and reduce corruption, governments must build strong institutions that promote transparency and accountability. This includes improving laws on public records keeping, strengthening anti-corruption agencies, creating independent monitoring systems, introducing whistleblower protection legislation and establishing robust legal frameworks for elections and appointments. Furthermore, citizens can be encouraged to participate in decision-making through public consultations or by creating civil society organizations that focus on civic participation and advocacy.
II. Invest in socioeconomic development programs
Investing in socioeconomic development programs can have a lasting impact on communities and countries alike. These programs allow individuals to increase their earning potential, gain access to business skills training, and create better opportunities for themselves and their families. Additionally, such development initiatives can bolster local economies by creating jobs, increasing wages, and providing an overall upward boost in living standards. Moreover, these projects often involve investments in infrastructure that can lead to improved access to basic services such as health care, education and sanitation. In essence, investing in socio-economic development programs has a ripple effect of positive benefits that improve countless individuals’ lives.
1- Create jobs and opportunities for the youth and women
Creating jobs and opportunities for the youth and women is essential for an economy to thrive. Doing so helps ensure economic stability and equitable access to economic resources, which builds a strong foundation for future generations. By providing employment and training opportunities, you can reduce poverty and equip individuals with the skills they need to compete in the job market and contribute to their local communities. Furthermore, investing in youth and women would create a more diverse workforce to meet the economy’s needs better while helping close gender gaps. Additionally, it would foster greater innovation and creativity since young people are often at the forefront of new ideas. Lastly, providing meaningful jobs and opportunities to young people will give them hope and promote social mobility, which is key to creating vibrant communities.
2- Ensure social protection for vulnerable populations
Expanding on the previous, vulnerable populations are disadvantaged and may lack access to healthcare, education, or other necessary resources. Therefore, ensuring that social protection is available for these populations is important. This includes providing access to basic services such as healthcare and education, as well as assistance in food security and legal aid. Additionally, social protection can be achieved through policies such as wage subsidies and unemployment benefits to give vulnerable populations financial stability. By providing support and promoting the well-being of those disadvantaged, we can help reduce the disparities they face.
III. Prioritise economic projects that generate jobs and increase incomes
To ensure economic growth and stability, it is important to prioritise projects that not only create jobs and increase incomes but also contribute to the long-term sustainability of the economy. These projects should involve investments in education, infrastructure, and business development tailored to local needs. Funding should be provided for job training programs to equip individuals with the tools they need to succeed in the workplace. Additionally, incentives should be offered to businesses looking to invest or relocate in economically depressed areas. Finally, a strong focus should be given to creating conditions conducive to entrepreneurship and small business growth, as these are often the primary sources of income for local communities. By ensuring that economic projects target these areas, governments can ensure a healthy economy now and in the future.
1- Focus on policies that protect the environment
Focusing on policies protecting the environment from short-term and long-term damage is important. This can include policies such as reducing carbon emissions, protecting endangered species of animals and plants, and conserving natural resources. Additionally, creating incentives for businesses to develop sustainable practices and investing in renewable energy sources can help ensure environmental protection for current and future generations.
2- Open up trade opportunities and access to foreign investment
Opening up trade opportunities and allowing access to foreign investment can have multiple economic benefits. It can create more jobs by providing greater access to markets, both foreign and domestic, while also encouraging competition that can drive innovation and improved productivity. Opening up trade opportunities can also provide a better exchange rate for international transactions and increased sales for exporting products abroad. Allowing access to foreign investment can bring in capital from overseas investors, which can then be used for new projects or investments that may not be available domestically. This influx of funds can help spur economic growth and development in a region or country.
– The importance of a comprehensive approach to addressing Tunisia’s political and economic crisis
. For Tunisia to address its political and economic woes, a comprehensive approach that considers all aspects of the socio-economic situation is essential. The government must consider the political, economic and social forces to implement policy reforms effectively. Political instability has been one of the main drivers behind Tunisia’s economic stagnation, so addressing this issue must be a priority for any reform package. In addition, economic growth will also require ongoing efforts to reduce debt levels, increase investment, and create jobs in key sectors such as tourism and manufacturing. Social issues such as poverty and inequality must also be addressed through targeted interventions to lift those most vulnerable out of poverty while promoting long-term inclusive development. Without a focus on these areas, it will be impossible for Tunisia to tackle the crisis effectively.
– How strong commitment from authorities can build a better future for Tunisia
Strong commitment from authorities can be a powerful force for positive change in Tunisia. It can help create an environment of mutual trust and respect, making it easier to tackle the many challenges that the country faces today.
Investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure projects can give people the resources they need to succeed and thrive. Ensuring all citizens have access to human rights protections, such as freedom of speech and assembly, will also provide a foundation for progress. By creating a free and open discourse platform, authorities can foster more meaningful dialogue about difficult topics, allowing different voices to be heard.
When governments partner with civil society organisations and members of the public, they can enhance their efforts to make Tunisia’s future brighter. Efforts must be made towards improving economic opportunities for all Tunisians. The government should prioritise job creation by implementing policies that promote entrepreneurship, innovation, and investment. As well as this, it should ensure greater access to quality financial services so businesses of all sizes can grow more easily.
In addition, strong commitment from authorities is also essential when tackling issues such as poverty alleviation and environmental protection.
Increased funding for programs that aim to improve living standards in lower-income areas can profoundly and positively impact those communities. These programs can provide access to affordable housing, better educational opportunities, job training and placement services, and healthcare resources. Such programs can also help reduce food insecurity, providing greater access to nutritious meals and grocery stores. Furthermore, they can create social connectedness and foster community engagement, offering support and resources to those in need. With increased funding and support, these programs can have a positive and lasting impact on the quality of life of the most vulnerable. The effects of this investment will be felt far and wide, improving not only individual lives but also the community’s overall health.
(1) Tunisia: Thousands from rival political parties protest against …. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-63271812.
(2) Tunisian parties announce coalition to counter President Saied. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/28/four-tunisian-parties-announce-coalition-to-counter-saeed.
(3) US Democratic lawmakers condemn Tunisian President Kais Saied’s crackdown. https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/us-democratic-lawmakers-condemn-tunisian-president-kais-saieds-crackdown.
(4) Tunisia bans meetings at opposition offices after detaining leader. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/apr/18/tunisia-bans-meetings-opposition-leader-ennahda.
(5) In Kais Saied’s Tunisia, ‘arbitrariness reigns’. https://www.lemonde.fr/en/le-monde-africa/article/2023/04/20/in-kais-saied-s-tunisia-arbitrariness-reigns_6023601_124.html.
(6) Tunisia: Protest marks new coalition against President Saied. https://www.dw.com/en/tunisia-protest-marks-new-coalition-against-president-saieds-one-man-rule/a-61806475.