In an interview with African Manager, Trade Minister Mohsen Hassen announced the launch of a series of measures and innovative approaches to strengthen partnership with Algeria, develop border regions and revitalize the Tunisian economy.
What are the areas of cooperation between Tunisia and Algeria?
We are building genuine cooperation between Tunisia and Algeria in the development of border regions, in order to fight against terrorism. To combat this phenomenon, security coordination is not enough, we also need economic cooperation.
Multiple areas of cooperation will be strengthened with Algeria especially in promising sectors such as automotive components, food industry … These projects will be oriented to the Tunisian-Algerian domestic market and to export. Regarding the agricultural sector, a dedicated commission was created to manage the overproduction of goods between the two countries including that of Tunisian milk, particularly milk powder of which Algeria is a major importer.
The Algerian Ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Industry assured us that they will further promote demand for Tunisian milk powder and promised to involve Tunisia in tenders launched by the Algerian government to this effect.
Will there be a program of investment in major shopping centers?
Investment in large shopping centers is one of the mechanisms designed to organize distribution channels in Tunisia for the purpose of price stability, the organization of supply and the reduction of parallel trade. The area of large shopping centers is about 20% against 80% for traditional circuits. It is the opposite in Europe.
Today we have a great opportunity to expand investment in hyper markets. Recent studies point out that this kind of investment has no negative impact on small businesses. We have received 13 applications for authorization for the construction of shopping centers on the whole country. We have accepted seven applications, allowing investors concerned to soon commence work of their projects, and will shortly study other applications.
Clothing professionals believe the used clothing sector is poorly organized, what do you think?
It is true that the used clothing sector is not organized and is dominated by intruders. Corruption is rife and tax evasion totals 100 million dinars. We have prepared a file to restructure the sector in collaboration with all stakeholders. This file will soon be discussed at a Cabinet meeting to take concrete measures for the development and the organization of this unorganized sector
What are the problems of Chambers of Commerce?
Today, chambers of commerce are key factors for the development of the Tunisian regions and economic growth. They also represent a great partner to the government in development. These chambers are absent, they suffer from financial problems and they could not organize their elections.
We are preparing a bill to be presented to the government for the organization of elections of Chambers of Commerce. A full upgrade plan for chambers of commerce will be ready by next October.
Economic experts argue that the country’s economic situation is “catastrophic”. What do you think?
No, this is not true. The Tunisian economy is not in a catastrophic situation. I call on the Tunisian experts to be objective and not to mix politics and economics. I try to be an economist before being a minister. At present, it is true that we have economic problems for many reasons; however, we must be positive .The fundamentals of the Tunisian economy are still strong. We have an open, modern and liberal economy… We have assets and major competitive advantages.
Internationally, the stability and the reconstruction of Libya and renewal of political relations with that country remain a good indicator. Openness to other European markets also provides hope to revitalize our economy.
Will there be a lack of basic consumer products during the month of Ramadan?
I reassure Tunisian consumers that all markets will be supplied with consumer products (milk, eggs, meat, flour, oil, fruits, vegetables …) during the month of Ramadan and this in more than adequate manner.
The Commerce Department has well prepared for this Holy month, in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture. Vast economic control campaigns will be conducted in the whole country during the Holy month. We have also prepared awareness campaigns which will be broadcast on the media on consumption during the month of Ramadan.