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Tunisia: Government’s program sits on the fence

A range of measures were announced Thursday by Interim Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, as he presented the Government’s action program for the year 2012 to the National Constituent Assembly (ANC).

Speaking at the plenary session of the ANC, Hamadi Jebali reviewed the highlights of this program. An ambitious program for a country undergoing intensive care, a step that requires, according to him, the combined efforts of all to achieve national reconciliation, particularly with the media. That is why the Assembly will also be tasked with reviewing the high authority of audiovisual communication.

Before members of the Constituent Assembly, the prime minister announced that the next elections should be held in late spring and early summer of 2013, urging the ANC to better organize and restructure the Independent Higher Authority for Elections (IHAE).

This is a heavy responsibility that falls on NCA members who are called to speed up drafting the new Constitution.

About the supplementary budget law, Hamadi Jebali said the priority was given to regional development, employment and construction. In this regard, 6 billion dinars have been allocated to development, i.e. up 1 billion dinars compared with the initial budget and 75% of which will be allocated to deprived areas.

He also said that 511 million dinars will be dedicated to the promotion of employment to create over 75,000 job positions in 2012.

The Interim PM took this opportunity to announce that the indicators of economic sectors have improved and the growth rate is estimated at 2%.

On the sidelines of the plenary session which discussed the supplementary finance bill, AfricanManager solicited views from some participants on the Government’s action program.

For some of them, the challenges of this program are possible, reasonable and attainable given the recovery recorded during the first quarter of 2012 compared with the same period last year. Others think it is a general and unconvincing program.

Ridha Saidi, Minister to the Prime Minister Responsible for Economic Issues, said “it is a reasonable program that aims to bring the national economy out of the recession of 2011 and achieve a positive growth rate of 3.5% against a negative growth rate of -2.2% in 2011, “noting that the growth rate, currently around 2%, remains” fair “and reasonable.

For his part, Slim Besbes, Secretary of State to the Minister of Finance, told us that the action program of the Government is above all a program of challenges. He explained that the growth rate of 2% is “possible, given the rates recorded in some sectors such as manufacturing industry, agriculture and the oil and gas sector.

A program that lacks clear decisions!

However, Khmaies Ksila, ANC member, said it is a rhetorical speech that is not reassuring, noting that “There are no clear decisions for major problems faced by the new Tunisia, like media and Salafists.”

For Nadia Shaaban (PDM), this is a pre-election program, based on non-mastered assumptions and is developed in the absence of a timetable. “What’s missing in this program is courage and taking the risk to undertake the necessary reforms,” she said before adding that a lack of clarity surrounds the program particularly in the cases envisaged by the Government.

These are unconvincing and unreasonable assumptions given the general climate in post-Revolutionary Tunisia. This is why the Government of Jebali is called to set up an appropriate strategy capable of overcoming the quite difficult current situation. According to Nadia Shaaban, “to achieve a growth rate of 3.5%, the government should take into consideration stability and transitional justice.”

Rim Mahjoub from Afek Tounis noted that the program developed by the government has also good intentions. However, the budget announced is an inflated budget. She questioned, in this framework, the indicators announced and the bases used to determine the recovery.

Approved in early April by the Cabinet meeting, the Government’s program for 2012 must be discussed and approved by the ANC.

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