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Tunisia : Despite appearances, private actors are not always involved in strategic decision-making.

A study elaborated by « Tema Consulting » has lately been presented in Tunis. Headed by Abdeladhim  Ennaifer, this study was about « the state of relations between the administration and private SMEs in the sector of services related to the industry ». According to the authors, this study aims at supporting and seconding the growth of the Tunisian enterprises, an element which consists in a crucial stake for the economy competitiveness and job development. One of the basic starting points for the study was the evaluation of the European Commission of this relation public-private, saying that the « public costs » due to complex administration represents 3% of the European GDP. Furthermore, among the main constraints to economic development, we find the lack of permanent and efficient communication between the private and the public sectors. Despite the appearances, the private actors are not always involved in strategic decision-making,  this may lead the decision-making process to be in discrepancy with the field realities and some wastage of time and of human and material resources.

How to improve the public-private partnership ?

The study was based on several problems aiming at the identification of the obstacles and constraints to establishing a true public-private partnership. Among these, providing reflection elements in order to have a franc exchange between the administration representatives and the SME leaders concerning various aspects of the relations between the private sector and the administration. But also give clarifications so as to come out with practical recommendations to establish beneficial exchanges between the two sectors in order to better reinforce the PPP (Public-Private Partnership). The study concerned a sample from both sectors. Concerning the public sector, the questions were addressed to a sample of 87 officials from the ministries and other institutions having relations with the SMEs, mainly those of services related to the industry. Concerning the private sector, it is a sample of 183 representatives of secondment structures of UTICA (federation members and high executives), the members of the National Trade Union Chamber of the Enterprises of Study, Counsel and Training (CSNEECF) and SME leaders, mainly services related to the industry.

A relaxed attitude towards civism, but fraud remains a taboo!

Dealing with a diversified sample, the study raised the questions relating to the general enterprise environment. Asked about the « civic sense of the Tunisian enterprises, most respondents think that the enterprises are civic. Only one out of six thinks that it is not. Some difference between the administrations was noticed. Over 1/3 of the surveyed administrations think that the enterprises are not civic. Furthermore, the economic ministries have more aknowledgement of the enterprises civic sense. This may be explained by the fact that they have more contact than the other ministries, mainly technical with the citizens (60% answer rate).

Other questions were addressed to the public institutions concerning the workers’ rights, as well as the respect of standards in terms of workers’ security. The answers of these institutions were mitigated. Concerning the question on fiscal fraud, many respondents refused to answer this difficult question. Only 1/3 of the surveyed think that fiscal fraud is high. Asked about the importance of fraud in Tunisia, 33% of the surveyed in the public sector think that fiscal fraud  is low or negligible. The surveyed in the central administration are all unanimous that fiscal fraud is not high in Tunisia (low answer rates, sample not very representative), while only 12% of the public institutions think that it is high. 

The level of satisfaction relating to the behaviour of the enterprise representatives in relation to the administration representatives, is only 30%. As to the level of satisfaction relating to the service quality of the Tunisian enterprises, the administration is generally not very satisfied of the private service quality and there are 92% in this case.
 One of the questions asked to the enterprises is also the degree of improvement noticed in the last few years relating to the service quality by the Tunisian enterprises. The administration revealed to be not very satisfied of the quality, but most of the respondents notice some improvement. The technical administrations make some differences, i.e. over  70%.

The future of partnership and jobs needs better collaboration, still weak !  

The vision of the public-private partnership vision in Tunisia, was one of the questions asked to the private sector. The objective being to establish a dialogue between the public and the private to decide a common development strategy and identify the roles between the public and the private in a logic of complementarity and partnership. What are the expectations of the administration relating to the Tunisian private? The answer from the sample a growing will to make more effort to recruit in order to act and reduce joblessness, mainly among the young graduates, and also to have the necessary competences for better competitiveness for the enterprise, improve the quality of the services rendered, choose more sectors with technical orientation, develop research and development and have more transparency in the governance mode. All these facts need, according to the sample, communicating the data and information in order to help the administration create data bases which are fundamental elements to make the prospective studies and the development plans.

In the private sector, the global answer rates is of 20% against 40% for the public sector. The answer rates are between 5% (for other services) and 44% for the ICT. In the first category of questions whose major axis was accessibility and reception in the public services, the  enterprises were asked about the degree of satisfaction concerning access to the administration services, 57% of the enterprises are relatively satisfied. Enterprises active in the ICT area say they are satisfied, for 71% of the respondents. The questions of the survey also dealt with the geographical distribution of the administration services, as well as the degree of satisfaction concerning access to the administration services. The answers of both groups (according to the type) of respondents are similar, the share of the «very satisfied» is still small.      

Unsatisfactory Administrative Steps and Insufficient Public Communication Tools

 The second part of the survey includes some questions about communication, information, e-government and the degree of satisfaction of the economic actors in Tunisia compared to the services presented in a quietly growing sector.  The enterprises found themselves unusually involved in a survey to express their attitudes towards the availability of information on the net. Concerning information on the internet, the enterprises of ITC, and mainly the experts, were not satisfied. 67% of them found out that the information is not up to date in many administrative sites. The level of satisfaction about the quality and exhaustiveness of information and of the documents published by the administration demonstrated that this latter needs to improve since 43% of the interviewees were not satisfied globally and 57% about the TIC. Concerning the question of simplicity of the administrative steps, we found about 51% of people not satisfied as a whole, 57% about the TIC and 54% for the other enterprises of studies, consultancy and engineering. The tools of e- government and their degree of contribution in simplifying the administrative formalities were not really outstanding for the interviewed enterprises, since this service doesn’t really work well according to 54% of the interviewees. About 71% of the TIC think the same. This is true, because “some of the sites and the gates have not been updated for more than one year and even more” commented some interviewees.

Concerning the quality of reception in the public services, the unsatisfied are about 46%, whereas the satisfied ones are about 40%. In response to the question whether they find the right interlocutor whenever they need an administrative service, 54/% of the interviewees gave negative answers, 58% of them were in the sectors of enterprises of studies, consultancy, training and engineering. As for the regulatory deadlines in dealing with files, problems and requests, only 11% found the deadlines acceptable. As for the sector of studies, only 8% were positive about that.

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