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Bayahi: “To maintain the country’s economic fabric, we must first save family businesses”

President of the Arab Institute of Business Managers, Taieb Bayahi, in an interview with AfricanManager, on the sidelines of the 36th edition of Business Days held in Sousse stressed, in particular, the need to establish an investment climate conducive to the sustainability of enterprises, and accordingly to achieving economic sovereignty.


This year’s theme is “Freedom and Sovereignty”, how this choice was imposed?

The company is basically constituted under “freedom” and “sovereignty”. If the company is successful, the economy is successful, the state is successful, and we arrive at this sovereignty. This year, we have tried to define what sovereignty is, which in the 1970s was achieved when a country was able to produce almost all its primary needs. This was no longer the case in the 1980s, except perhaps in the case of China and the United States, which still manage to implement their own policies without external intervention. In view of the situation of the country, the choice of the theme was naturally imposed, in a rapidly growing world, while our country is still in search of balance and stability since a certain January 14, 2011.

Given the country’s critical economic situation, do you think that businesses could resist, face, and survive?

This crisis situation currently underwent by the world is the most serious we have known for several decades. It calls into question the very foundations of the international economic order in which we are settled, as well as many of our most solid convictions. It requires us to think about establishing a new economic model or, at least, to seriously transform it because it is the only to ensure our economic and social stability, as well as our sovereignty and security, and which is the primary factor of sustainability of businesses and the continuity of the State.

On the other hand, this unprecedented situation makes such economic notions and practices as productivism, price control, restriction of market functioning, and even the call to protectionism, resurface.

This state interventionism, even if it is understandable in order to maintain the citizen’s purchasing power, has nevertheless reached the point where the market is no longer allowed to regulate itself. The State interferes too much in the economy and disrupts its operation. This can harm the economic fabric, especially the Tunisian economic fabric, which is, above all, family, given that the large Tunisian companies are primarily family.

Precisely, these companies have not yet achieved this sovereignty, do you think that the loan granted by the IMF could maintain the companies in place?

We are still far from sovereignty, we need donors such as the IMF, because we are not yet independent. Even if these family businesses have a certain capacity for resilience because they create wealth and jobs, they are still at risk of becoming fragile, hence the resort to the IMF.

It remains to be seen whether the objective of this credit is to invest in education, health, the economy, and infrastructure, which will create even more wealth. On the other hand, if the credit is, as some in the administration claim, to be used for wheat imports, this is dangerous and may continue to put us in a bad position.

The Minister of Industry assured, in her intervention to the panel, that the government has undertaken immediate reforms for the security of companies, while the latter, with their resilience, are undergoing this crisis. Don’t you think there is some “ambivalence” in the speeches of both sides?

We would like, as business leaders, to have an idea about these reforms that the government is talking about, there are many decisions that were taken before, in terms of investment, including renewable energy, which is a determining factor in our energy independence. The private sector is waiting for this, because it wants to make investments, but unfortunately, with the blockages that there are in the administration, we cannot do it. The problem is not so much to make the right decision but to enforce that right decision.

The political situation is complicated between the various stakeholders, do you think that the state has taken decisions against businesses?

Obviously, the State has, for example, taken the decision to reimburse the arrears of companies, the least would have been to apply this decision, it puts in difficulty the sustainability of these companies, because some are not intended to finance the state, on the contrary, they expect more assistance from the state, not an additional contribution to state finances.

Concerning the subsidies, will businesses reach sovereignty if the State reimburses them?

Today, there are business leaders, for example in the field of agribusiness, and manufacturers who are waiting for subsidies, such as large producers of milk; this is also the case of the Tunisian Society of refining industries (STIR), which have difficulties in their cash flow. So yes, the condition of the state is difficult, which is certainly understandable, but these difficult conditions will catch up with the private sector, and this will not be a good thing. And it will certainly help the businesses if they get reimbursed.


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