Time goes by and every day is different for business in Tunisia. The latest development was the downgrading to ‘BBB-‘ for long term foreign currency and ‘BBB’ for local currency.
According to Charles Seville, Fitch Ratings Sovereign Team Associate Director, “These decisions reflect uncertainties about stability and political economy during a difficult political transition.”
Fitch suggests a growth of only 1 to 2% in 2011, far below the 5% that could create jobs. It suggests also a widening budget deficit and fears its “effects on revenues will extend into 2012, when lower corporate will impact on the level of tax revenues.”
This is another bad news for Tunisia of the Revolution, after Moody’s decision to lower its ratings and even the press communiqué of the BCT itself which sounded the alarm.
According to French news web site, Maghreb Confidentiel, “Washington would have sounded the alarm about possible suspension of payments by Tunisia in the coming months, if stability and security are not restored quickly.”
Add to this, the fear, which is now real, for Tunisia after this succession of bad international ratings for Tunisia’s economy, to be no longer able to turn out to international markets to borrow anything to finance its recovery, or at least to have the opportunity to do it at a cost which is neither prohibitive nor very hard to bear.
Behind this deterioration of the Tunisian economy and finance, a single actor or rather a spoilsport as it is already called by Tunisian employers: UGTT.
Next to the fact that it is the monger of all strikes and the huge wave of demands for wage increases, it would also be, according to more than one source, behind most of the sit-ins and social movements.
Indeed, the UGTT is turning into a political party and is exerting pressure to endorse or undermine any political development on the Tunisian scene.
This in front of a full vacuum to counteract this heavyweight (over 2.5 million members). Just opposite to it, there is a completely adrift Employers Organization, according to observers of the Tunisian economic scene.
UTICA is even looking for a new identity and new leaders, is self flagellating and sinks into settling personal accounts between old leaders and new wolves with long teeth who want to take over the reins of a completely unstructured organization and where we talk already of another one competing it Sfax.
The employers organization, which is rotten, petrified and whose businessmen are abandoned by the current government, is suffering and is no longer able to get into the skin of a true social partner, while the UGTT is still pushing to bring it to social negotiations, which wage increases, in addition to the minutes already signed under pressure from the union’s streets, would imply more expenses for businesses and deteriorate the investment environment in Tunisia, scaring FDI, as Fitch and Moody’s feared.
Note that one of the first meetings of the new Prime Minister Beji Caïed Essebssi was with the SG of UGTT who already faces more than one accusation on “facebook “and may not be re-elected at the next Congress.
“Maghreb Confidential” also asserts that General Rashid Ammar “informed UGTT officials that he would not allow this nonsense [word used by Maghreb Confidential] to continue.
Also note that, even if the tone of its spokesman Abid Briki remained high until Wednesday on another private radio, the trade union’s tone appears to have lowered a notch. That is what one would understand from the interview with Radio Shems. “We should defend our jobs, our businesses and our achievements. We need to reassure foreign investors already settled in Tunisia and attract more.
This is as much important as at the same time we must cope not only with the number of companies that stopped following the damage incurred but also with the massive return of Tunisians from Libya and with whom we must express our solidarity, “said Abdessalem Jrad in this interview just after his meeting with BC Essebssi.
Can we therefore say that the new Prime Minister could meet the challenge of calming UGTT and convincing it of siding with the economic concern? Nothing is less certain for now, tensions around the next government appointments are yet to come and UGTT will certainly use the weapon of strikes and sit-ins to achieve its partisan purposes.