President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the South East and Central Director of Kilani Company for Public Works, Ridha Kilani, pinpoints the various problems plaguing the region of Gabes for years and calls on the Government of Jebali to take immediate action to address them.
Can you take stock of your company’s action in the previous year?
The Kilani Company for Public Works is one of the companies that were hit by the Revolution and especially by social claims. But this situation has not lasted a lot and we managed to solve the problems we faced.
Next figure, we can say that in 2011 our business fell 10% compared to 2010. And it is quite normal because of the conditions our country is living through now.
How do you view the situation of businessmen in Gabes?
First, I say that we have, at some point, lived through a gap within the region. It was a political and municipal problem, and then there was actually no gathering of businessmen.
Moreover, people who were part of UTICA, have completely disappeared from the public scene and were replaced by others. Several reasons for this departure: fear, vigilance…
Personally, I find myself between the hammer and the anvil. No one invites us. We are entirely pushed away from the stage though we had never cooperated with the deposed regime. We tried to do the best for our country and especially for our region. This is why men are working secretly in this time. No action to report in this framework and there are no new initiatives to promote development in Gabes. It is clear that these people are wholly excluded from the scene.
A disturbing climate that is becoming alarming?
Definitely, the situation in Gabes requires urgent solutions. The problem does not date back to the Revolution or events that took place in recent months. Indeed, the governorate of Gabes suffers from several development problems. It also suffers from a catastrophic environmental legacy because of the setting up of the chemical zone in Gabes that has generated great misfortunes by daily flows of phosphogypsum and acid waste, in addition to the classification of regions and the unbalanced distribution of wealth. These points are very real concerns for the region and nothing is done quickly to remedy the situation.
We can then confirm that there is some misunderstanding between the government and economic players in Gabes?
The most important thing to say is that Gabes is the exception. It has been without a governor and first delegate for two months now.
Despite these rather critical and fragile economic conditions, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of South East has continued its efforts and actions to address them. Personally, I’m worried and even pessimistic especially with the huge damage caused to the region by sit-ins and strikes.
So, how to deal with this situation?
I think we can say that there is no immediate solution. But faced with this situation, we are constantly reminding that the main challenge is job creation. To meet this challenge, we must first restore security. This is a prerequisite to win back the confidence of investors and even citizens. Businessmen want to invest in a favorable climate, one that encourages entrepreneurship and project creation, knowing that the dynamics of this region is dependent on entrepreneurial dynamics. At this level, I think standards of action should be established to address this situation.
Why did you not think of talks with the government of Jebali, specifically the Minister of Regional Development?
No, the CCISE fell into oblivion. No one invites us. We wanted to meet with officials and ministers but nothing has been done. It looks like we are excluded and forgotten by officials despite the fragility of the situation.
What is your message to the government of Jebali?
He must listen to us because we are the image of businessmen in the region. It is true that there is a social side, but this will be resolved by taking into account the worries and concerns of these businessmen and citizens of the region in general.
Your last word!
The real democratic progress is not to lower the elite to the level of the crowd, but to raise the crowd to the level of the elite.