Former Tunisian Minister and eminent economist Chedli Ayari is frequently asked to give opinions on major policy issues related to economic and political affairs and even more when it comes to the relationship between economic development and democratic transition.
The opportunity was offered to him by the conference held on Saturday by the Think Tank for Development of the Northwest on the theme: “which role for the economic development of inland regions in the success of democratic transition?”
He brought forward a set of proposals and made diagnosis of the current situation.
He addressed them in an interview with African Manager.
If we evaluate the current situation of the new Tunisia 6 months after the revolution and with an emergency program set up by the interim government, what are your comments?
I think we should make an initial assessment that is not done yet. It is necessary to do so. With a budget of 251 MTD for regional development, it is important to make an evaluation.
The problem is that we do not know the length of the transitional period. With October 23, and assuming that all goes well, the transition does not end.
We should wait until the constitutional government is put in place, the Constituent Assembly drafts a constitution and that it be accepted by a referendum and then a constitutional government and a president are elected.
Chances are that by the end of 2011, we remain in an interim process which means that a second provisional programme should be drawn up in the coming months.
In an unstable climate and with an old model of economic development too criticized by the majority of analysts and financiers, is the new Tunisia able to develop another one that is adequate and that would have the capacity to fill existing gaps in a short time?
Intellectually, we are able to do it, especially when human resources are available, including academics, former ministers and business leaders. Those are capable of inventing, knowing that since Independence, all the development systems were invented by the Tunisians.
So, will there be a clear vision to address them?
No, there is not a long-term strategy. For now, we do not know. We are going through the short term: crisis, the unknown, darkness … It is still not known, the next day, who does what, will companies close or will they open. The horizon is dark. So we’re trying to manage everyday life.
Proposals have been made by you to reform the current system. Would you please clarify?
There are four axes for regional development. We must reform the institutional system that is to say the Ministry of Regional Development, the role of the governor, the role of the regional council and the role of the municipal council. We must reform them all.
The second thing we must consider the re-development of the territory, redraw the Tunisian territory into economic regions and not in governorates.
Whereupon, it will be useful to establish a long-term strategy: to make a development plan for the long-term.
Finally, review the system of funding which finances regional development.
Which role could regional development play in the democratic process?
Without democracy, there is no economic development and without economic development, there is no democracy.