President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali opened, on Sunday morning, the electoral campaign for the presidential and legislative elections.
He presented a new programme which he placed under the motto “Together We Meet Challenges,” a programme for the coming five years (2009/2014), but at the same time one laying the ground for the stages to follow, which extend till the end of the next decade.
In his address , the Head of State expressed confidence in Tunisia’s capacity to resist to the global financial and economic crisis and restore the highest rates of growth at the outset of the coming stage and pursue the action of accomplishment and construction, so as to achieve the major national objectives.
Here are some excerpts:
Employment remains the most pressing challenge of the period
Our motto for the coming five-year period will be that no Tunisian family will remain without a job or a source of income for at least one of its members, by the end of 2014. We will strive to satisfy the additional job demands for the next five years, by creating 425,000 jobs which will bring down the poverty rate by one-and-a-half point at the end of the term. We will also intensify vocational training and integration programmes, so as to make sure no graduate will wait for more than two years to obtain a job or enter a vocational training or an internship programme, by the end of the 2014. The sectors of civil work, solidarity-based economy, and existing and newly-created neighbourhood occupations will play an active role in implementing these objectives. We will establish a new legislative framework for self-promoted small-scale projects, characterised by very simplified formalities in terms of taxation and social security contribution.
We will consolidate this by raising by 50% the ceiling of loans granted by the Tunisian Solidarity Bank and enhancing micro-credits granted by development-oriented associations. We rely on the joined efforts of all parties to implement these measures and initiatives, so that we achieve our objectives and open up the gates of hope for all categories of our youth who will join working life in all fields and disciplines and from all education and training levels.
We will undertake a thorough review of our approach to the promotion of investment and enterprise creation, in order to ensure complementarity and correlation between three fundamental elements: first, consolidating our current orientations that enhance investment in the interior regions of development; second, encouraging investment in promising, environment-friendly sectors with high knowledge and technological content, regardless of the region where the investment is carried out; and third, prompting the existing enterprises to upgrade their production and service systems, by investing in knowledge-based contents and in most advanced technologies that consolidate their performance and competitive capacity, while encouraging the combined use of the three elements.
This will help further concentrate on improving the level of productivity so that it contribute, as set in our Programme, by at least 50% in the GDP growth.
We will continue promoting the business climate and easing formalities related to foreign commerce, which will help adopt a sectoral and geography-based structure for exports that is more balanced and efficient.
We will consolidate our move toward the full de-regulation of foreign commerce, through achieving more conformity with international tariffs in terms of rates and numbers while pursuing the de-regulation of foreign investment in many sectors.
As regards handicrafts and artistic occupations, we will establish a modern commercial pole that is open to innovation and creativity and enhances the value of our national cultural assets, labelled “The City of Handicrafts and Artistic Occupations.” We will also generalise the establishment of “Handicrafts Villages” in all Governorates and devote a space for each traditional product that is specific to a zone or a region.
We will consolidate coaching mechanisms for new promoters in incubators and business centres, through the creation of a new professional corps, that of “Project Coaches.
Given the strategic place of the energy sector in our development plans, we will endeavour to achieve our security in this field, by further optimising the use of our natural resources, particularly natural gas. We will increase the number of those connected to the natural gas grid to 800,000 in 2014, up from 530,000 currently, establish 1,400 additional kilometres of natural gas pipelines, and connect 75 new cities to the natural gas grid by the end of 2014.
We will also pursue action to rationalise energy consumption and develop the use of alternative and innovative energies as they constitute a strategic choice for the coming two decades, while increasing fivefold the percentage of the use of these energies in the total energy consumption by the end of 2014.
We are endeavouring to promote our country into a pole for banking services and a regional financial centre. To that end, we will work to attain a higher level of quality for banking services, enhance and diversify banking activities, and improve remote banking services. We will also encourage the attraction of internationally renowned banking institutions by enhancing non-resident banking activity. At the same time, we will prompt Tunisian banks to assert their presence on the international scene and to establish active banking poles on the national scene.
Our objective is to increase the contribution of banking services to the GDP, so that it reach 5% at the end of 2014.
Achieving full convertibility of the dinar and reviewing the taxation system
Given the large strides our country has made toward the convertibility of the dinar, and as the national economy has acquired a greater capacity to interact with international conditions, we will endeavour to achieve full convertibility of the dinar by the end of 2014, while reviewing the Code of Exchange so that it keep up with this evolution.
As regards the financial and taxation policy, we will continue, during the coming stage, reducing customs duties and decreasing the number of applicable rates. The taxation system will accordingly be reviewed in light of the developments occurring in the world, whether with partner or competing countries, by reducing the tax burden on active enterprises as regards their profit or some elements of their production costs, while taking compensating measures at the level of the taxation system to preserve the State’s financial balances.
The formulae and procedures for the recovery of overpaid VAT will also be reviewed, in order to clarify and simplify them and speed up the treatment of files.
We will also adopt a special taxation system for small- and medium-sized enterprises, based on reviewing the tax assessment system, and extending the 20% deduction from the tax base to small enterprises that join integrated management centres. This deduction applies to such enterprises for five years from the date of joining these centres. This in addition to allowing small- and medium-sized enterprises to deduct an incremental percentage –75% then 50% then 25%– from the tax base during the first three years of activity.
We will also endeavour to alleviate the tax burden of low-income social categories, by raising the tax-exemption ceiling, increasing deduction rates for disabled children and for higher education expenses, and deducting interests for social housing loans from taxable incomes.
We will provide the possibility of remote tax declaration for all physical persons by the end of 2014, and create the position of “Tax Mediator” to help settle questions pertaining to tax declaration before litigation.