The President of the CONECT gave Africanmanager an exclusive interview in which he reviewed the current business climate after the parliamentary elections, the economic situation and challenges faced by Tunisia.
What do you think of the business climate in Tunisia after the elections?
Since 2011, the business climate in Tunisia suffered a major handicap in the absence of visibility and clear political and economic strategies.
Worse, economic issues were sidelined. Strictly political and electoral considerations have often prevailed over the real priorities of Tunisians, their expectations and aspirations for a better standard of living, employment and inclusive, sustainable and equitable development in favor all regions and all social categories.
Though this phenomenon can be partly explained by the fact that the country is engaged in a process of transition and the authorities set up and the six governments that the country has had over three years were provisional, the situation has further aggravated by the disruptions and often uncontrolled stoppages that affected many businesses and even strategic services like ports and certain critical services for any external transaction.
The emergence of other threatening scourges like the shadow economy, smuggling and especially the problems of security and terrorism have made the situation even more complex, especially politically and economically.
Therefore, we fully understand the reasons for the closure of some companies, the relocation of others to competing destinations competing and the wait-and-see attitude by Tunisian and foreign investors despite the existence of interesting opportunities and urgent needs of investments, particularly at the regional level.
What worries most is that the country is in its fourth consecutive year of wait! Imagine the volume of missed opportunities, the lost opportunities for job creation, loss of position on foreign markets, the disintegration of certain sectors, laxity in behavior etc…
I personally believe that this was the great adaptability shown by Tunisian companies and the ingenuity of their leaders to find appropriate solutions to meet these multiple challenges. The impact on our economy and our gains, achieved with painstaking collective efforts for decades could have been even worse!
All Tunisians have made sacrifices and have paid dearly for this long period of wait-and-see, especially in the cost of living, investment, economic and financial balances of businesses, employment, regional development and even heavy losses in human lives that affected soldiers and members of security forces.
The success of the recent parliamentary elections is undeniably and for all Tunisians a milestone of paramount importance for the future of the country.
It is a relief, a historic turning point and a strategic starting point to establish a new foundation for rapid and robust economic recovery.
Perception and trends are certainly positive. In practice, however, the business climate will depend on the first messages of the new Government, choices and reforms that would introduce and its ability to restore the authority of the state, the value of work and to mobilize all parties around a national program of rehabilitation and recovery of development.
And what about the current economic situation?
In the economic sphere, there is no miracle or magic wand. The economic situation is very difficult. It is even disturbing. The business community and experts are unanimous on this issue. Just look at the last report of the Central Bank to realize the reality of the situation of our economy and future prospects.
The elections themselves cannot be the miracle solution! They, however, offer an adequate framework for rapidly undertaking reforms and taking appropriate action.
What are the major challenges faced by Tunisia?
The challenges are many, heavy and often very acute! They concern the security, the fight against informal trade, smuggling and tax evasion, the rapid introduction of reforms in all fields of investment, finance, taxation, administrative procedures, decentralization, recapturing our export markets and our position as a preferred site for foreign investment, the resumption of normal work and production pace particularly in the area of phosphates and derivatives, improving the social climate and productivity…
You can see the breadth and diversity of challenges! Without the rapid restoration of state authority and the value of work and the adoption of an approach based on consultation and dialogue with all parties without any exclusion or marginalization, we can in no way meet them.
This is my personal and pressing message for the new government, all parties concerned and all Tunisians.
Successful elections gave us an historic opportunity; we have no right to miss it. We all need to live up to the expectations of our great people, our children and our future generations.
Many business leaders are today upset by low productivity and neglect of the value of work, what do you think?
Effectively. It is a challenge imposed on us by the nature of competition in all markets worldwide.
Markets and therefore job opportunities and development belong to the more efficient; those who work better and achieve competitive levels of productivity.
We must all realize that the competition is not internal! All of us, Government, Administration, Entrepreneurs and Employees are facing this challenge. Our mutual interests and the strategic interests of our country require us to meet this challenge! This is the real battle!
We are all called to change behavior and adopt other responsible and civic attitudes.
It is the vision of the CONECT as employers’ organization of citizen enterprises whose responsibility cannot be limited our days to only the economic aspect but also must include the social and societal aspect for the company to be fully integrated into its environment.