Hassen Gayed, financial expert gives, hereinafter, his opinion about the election and its impact on short-term prospects of the current economic chain.
A few days before the election, how do you grasp this event?
It is true that this historical event is much awaited by all the people of Tunisia and all efforts were made to ensure its success. However, personally I look to October 23 with caution, because nothing is clear and I feel that everyone does not share the same vision about the powers and goals of the Constituent Assembly.
Some see it as a way to govern, others a way to project the country to a higher level of democracy…
It seems that there is a tendency to rush things and everyone wants to show he is the best, while in my view, the objective of this election is to provide the Tunisian people with a draft Constitution that will meet their expectations in terms of democracy, freedom, and … that will really avoid past mistakes.
My fear is that once the constituent assembly is elected, a quarrel between various stakeholders will emerge and we lose sight of our goal.
Today, the rallying cry is entente, but it can switch in a second. Hopefully we will not be late for this appointment, and I urge all the Tunisian people, despite this “ambiguity” to vote and let the passivity of the past aside.
With the start of the election campaign, many fears that the situation becomes complicated which could affect our economy. As an expert, can you take stock of the current situation?
I will surprise you. Personally, I do not think that currently the Tunisian economy is behaving badly. Of course, we do not have the growth of previous years, but it’s not as bad as it sounds.
Manufacturers continue to work, service companies too, historical foreign investors are still here and have not packed up their bags and left. Banks provide their support to the economy. We have, of course, cases of default, but, on the other hand, I do point the finger at the irresponsibility of some who try to take advantage of this vagueness by creating a parallel economy that only makes things worse.
Personally, I work in an information technology multinational, market leader, and everything goes normally. We even have plans to expand in Tunisia. We see inflation, but we know that a large part is explained by cyclical considerations.
So what are your recommendations to ensure stability during this period?
I think each of us must try to give their best at work and avoid strikes and union demands too (although some are understandable) and try not to slowdown the economy. I take as example the shutdown of Enfidha plant that forced the state to import, with of course the waste of foreign currency. I think each of us must be responsible and say that this is a transitional period where we must close ranks.
Theoretically, there should not be no problems during these events, except for problems caused by the panic of Tunisians who could unbalance the law of supply and demand and, indeed, this is what we are actually living today.
It is clear that both the current leaders, who, however, are doing what they can in these difficult times, and contenders for future responsibilities, should more than ever be on the ground so as to find practical solutions to all problems facing Tunisia, such as unemployment and regional imbalances. What do you think?
I partially agree with that. We must not delude ourselves; this kind of work is heavy and requires planning and a clear strategy that necessarily takes time.
Take the example of regions. To attract investors and industrialists, it is first necessary to prepare their infrastructure properly, because everyone can set up in interior regions, but what to do when he cannot liquidate his production in time and under the best conditions? To prepare this infrastructure, money is needed, which unfortunately is becoming rare now despite the assistance of various foreign countries and international organizations. But also because it takes time to build a highway or an industrial area. This also takes time too. However, this should not discourage current and future leaders to go on the ground and make their own diagnosis and understand the real problems to find the right solutions and define the right strategies or at least let the elected government after the municipal and presidential elections to conduct an in-depth analysis of the situation that may constitute a good basis for the future.
Do you think there will be a clear vision to address these challenges and serious reforms to bring our economy out of its chaos?
I think with the election of the Constituent Assembly, we will move from a situation of “temporary illegitimate” to “temporary legitimate.” That is why it is necessary that this new period be as short as possible, because starting economic reforms means medium and long term planning and this cannot be done by a potential new government of different political sensitivities with different economic visions. I think the role of this new government, if it happens to change, is to limit the damage and try to stabilize the economic situation and not regress it, which in itself is an achievement if we come not to regress by the end of the mission of the Constituent Assembly.
Do not forget that even if we were in a calamitous situation before, we nevertheless had the groundwork for a state, since it must be remembered that we still continue to work normally and services vital to the economy are well rendered. I would say that a government composed of technocrats in ministries directly impacting the economy: finance, transportation, commerce … would be good, since they will be there to make a deep reflection and will be away from any political influence to direct the economy in one way or another.