The financial seism seems to involve more than one party. Outside the economic and financial sphere, the financial crisis was the topic of a round table organized by the Chamber of Deputies. A round table which gathered a big number of deputies from different Tunisian political parties as well as many national experts. Among the participants, there was Foued Mbazzaa, President dof the Chamber of Deputies, Hédi Djilani, President of the Union of Tunisian Industry, Commerce and Handicraft as well as Moncef Dakhli, C.E.O. of the Banque Nationale Agricole, Mohammed B’chiou C.E.O. of the Tunis Stock Exchange and Mohammed Salah Souilem, Director of the Markets and management of reserves within the Central Bank of Tunisia. This session was the opportunity for an animated discussion about the reasons that led the world towards this financial chaos, but the great focus was on the Tunisian context.
« A crisis that is difficult to control » said Hédi Djilani
The topic of the round table was, no doubt, the financial crisis, the reasons for its spread worldwide, but an important part of the discussion dealt with the impact that this crisis could have on the national economy, and particularly on the Tunisian financial market, mainly the health of the banks and the risk that the institutions have to face most importantly concerning their capacities to finance the Tunisian enterprises. Being the first one to take the floor, Chedhli Ayari, politician and economist, developed the different phases and changes until he came to what he called « This financial seism, which must have had a magnitude of 7/10, if there was a scale to measure the financial crises, like Richter for seisms ». Chedhli Ayari specified that that there is, currently, no possibility to recover the amounts lost by the banks and the financial institutions, and that we should expect worse future developments. According to him, there is no method to evaluate the impact, or quantify the losses, or even to forecast the deadlines for the end of the consecutives collapses among the banks and the financial institutions, due to the uncertainty that reigns in the markets and the spread of the crisis to other segments of the real economy. As to Hédi Djilani, his perception of the crisis was different. The concern of the boss of bosses, was its impact on the Tunisian economy. According to him, the reaction of the Stock Markets was strange and without any logic «we watched what was happening abroad on the televisions, and we acted in the Tunis context, while there is no relation between both ». H. Djilani expressed his anxiety if the crisis happened to affect three sectors of the Tunisian economy : tourism, (due to the vulnerability of European households budgets), the textile and the industry in general, as these two sectors are directly related to European countries’ consumption. Hédi Djilani has also expressed his discomfort in front of price increases of the raw materials, which could hinder the work of some industries in Tunisia. He wished that the Tunisian government officials should elaborate some programmes to contain the impact of the crisis on the Tunisian economy, « we cannot control the spread of the crisis at world level, this is why we should, in Tunisia, take measures and prepare different plans to fend it off » he added.
The deputies raise the responsibility of the American government
For the deputies, this crisis was politically manipulated by some forces. Afif Chiboub thinks that this crisis seems to be the most dangerous. According to him, for about twenty years, Tunisia has been implementing development plans, which helped to attract FDIs beyond expectations. According to Afif Chiboub, these gains are the result of reforms which made the economy more attractive. This same reform system could of Tunisia a winner of this crisis : «it is in times of crisis that one can make good deals ». This idea of taking advantage of the current crisis was endorsed by many Tunisian deputies. For them, the present circumstances as well as confidence towards Tunisia, may play a crucial role in attracting new foreign investments, and consolidate the relation between the State and the financial institutions –public or private). For others, the figures disseminated during this crisis are exagerated and the profits made by some Dinosaures of world finance remain dubious. For this category of deputies, it is the irresponsibility of the American government, who had the tools to regulate the market, without ever applying them against the speculators whose sole objective was to accumulate wealth at the expense of poorer layers of the American society. This is for example the opinion of Noureddine Bjaoui who wondered «How can the American government accept the bankcruptcy of many of its financial institutions, while it is only JP Morgan who survive to this horrible Tsunami?» For other deputies,this crisis represents agood opportunity for Tunisia if it looks back to its agricultural sector, « we should expect the prices of agro-food products to increase in several months, why not promote our agricultural sector, Tunisia will get a double benefit, first i twill guarantee its food self-sufficiency then could export these products in the coming years » exclaimed another deputy.
Diversifying the economy is a pledge of confidence and stability
The details of this financial crisis were clarified, during this round table, by Mohammed Salah Souilem, Director at the BCT. He explained that this crisis started for over two years now (the subprimes), and that it is the result of using some suspicious financial tools. According to him, these tools have never been allowed in Tunisia, this is what explains, partly, why the country was not affected by the repercussions of this crisis. The most important thing today, for him, is the confidence crisis in the world financial sector. « The financial markets represent, for the economy, what blood is for the veins » he specified, which explains « that it is almost certain that this crisis will affect the real economy, and that a recession at the level of the world economy could affect negatively the economies of many countries, mainly the developing countries ». According to the Directo of the markets and reserve management at the BCT, « all the world Stock Markets fell by a minimum of 30%, in Tunisia, neither the Stock Market, nor the banks (public or private) have been affected, and the market elements show the good position of Tunisia » he added. The representative of the CBT admitted, however, that he agreed with Hédi Djilani, and that the only ways in which this crisis could affect Tunisia are the sectors in relation with the European Union. Even if « Our economy is diversified, which represents a pledge of confidence and stability for the Tunisian economy» he concluded. We should remember, finally, that this round table, was the start of thinking within the Chamber of Deputies of a project of law allowing the foreign enterprises established in Tunisia, and which are totally export-devoted, to access finance through the Tunisian banks, with the condition that a part of their revenues, in currency, remain in Tunisia.