Mohamed Salah Ayari, tax advisor, university professor and member of the Executive Committee of Al Joumhouri gave an exclusive interview to Africanmanager, in which he called the work of the Troika as a fiasco, noting the inability of the opposition to fill the gap.
With regard to the current economic situation, he stressed the seriousness of the economic situation and the business climate, calling, in this context, for a real tax revolution.
To what extent can we say that the current economic situation is catastrophic?
Nobody can deny today the gravity of the economic situation, to say clearly that it is actually catastrophic.
This is due to several factors including mainly political instability which has shaken the country continuously during all the periods of transition, the lack of confidence of Tunisian businessmen in the current powers, especially since transitional justice has not been realized in practice and that the travel ban imposed on some of them has only aggravated the situation.
This is also attributed to the insecurity that has settled over the country, which made citizens confused and created a sense of distrust among foreign tourists who preferred to choose other destinations. Added to this the attack on the U.S. Embassy, the looting of the school of Carthage, political assassinations, the terrorist acts of Mount Châambi and the terror that was sown by religious extremists, all of which was behind the reluctance of foreign investors who do not want to take the risk of investing in a country at risk.
The very difficult economic situation and the climate of insecurity in the country prompted rating agencies and the last DAVOS Congress to revise the ranking of Tunisia down in all areas.
What role can play taxation today? Is corporate tax the right solution like what is envisaged with the offshore?
I personally would have liked a real tax revolution after the Revolution of January 14, 2011, in order to carry out a complete overhaul of the Tunisian tax system to reduce rates, simplify procedures, increase the attractiveness of tax, create tax justice and reconcile taxpayers with the tax authorities.
Currently, the work of the tax reform has been initiated, but I doubt it can come into effect under the current circumstances where everyone is waiting for and where we do not yet see the end of the tunnel at the political level.
As for the taxation of exporting companies from January 1, 2014 at a reduced rate of 10%, as required by the Budget Act for 2013, it remains uncertain as long as the decision of their taxation dates back to the year 2006, but the taxation deadline was postponed from one year to another, throughout all the years.
In my opinion, the corporate tax regime operating under the offshore regime must be inserted into a comprehensive tax reform program.
What do you think the role of the Troika today? And the opposition?
Quite simply, the role of the Troika was a fiasco during the transition period after the elections of October 23, 2011. This finding is confirmed by the high cost of living, the murder of two political leaders, the inflation rate which has continued to climb to 6.4 %, the Châambi events that constitute a true enigma, the climate of insecurity, political instability, the increase of the budget deficit to around 7 %, the debt ratio which is around 48%, the decline of tourists, the high unemployment rate, the blocking of the NCA, the procrastination that has marked the development of the constitution, the plummeting rating of Tunisia by internationally renowned rating agencies, the decline in the competitiveness of the Tunisian economy noted by DAVOS from the 32nd place three years ago to the 83rd place during the current year etc.
And the opposition?
In this very gloomy atmosphere, the opposition has not been a great contribution. It is divided, it has not a very clear vision, it feels diminished, it has not presented adequate alternatives and it was not able to fill the gap that has been caused by the Troika.
The only hope is that the opposition manages to close ranks and form a united democratic bloc that will help the country overcome the political crisis that has only spread in time to complete the constitution, establish the ISIE and fix the date for elections.
Many experts predict that Tunisia is threatened with bankruptcy, what do you think?
Honestly, I think the situation is very difficult and delicate. But since I am optimistic, I remain convinced that the glimmer of hope still exists and that we are able to overcome the political and economic crisis, provided that all the political parties in power or in opposition, really realize the gravity of the situation, to make concessions on both sides and prioritize the interests of the country that must come before self-centered tendencies and very narrow political calculations. It is only in this case that Tunisia will not be threatened with bankruptcy.