2008 is over. Economically, it was not a bad year. But it was not the happiest one neither. Overall, Tunisia macroeconomic parameters have done well: growth, exports, investment (local and foreign), finance and banks. Except unemployment, employment and inflation, all the rest did well in 2008.
Some will say that this year 2008, was also where the economy has once again demonstrated its ability to withstand external shocks. Depreciation of the dinar vs. euro, soaring oil prices, higher prices of raw materials : the Tunisian economy experienced almost everything in 2008 and have still achieved a good growth rate that won’t go up to 6% as expected earlier this year, nor 5% , but a “sound” 4.5 %, according to the latest official estimates.
2001, 2008: similarities!
This “vintage year 2008”, was not that of all successes. Indeed, according to specialists, the national economy in 2008 is, in many respects, reminiscent of the years 2000-2001. But “the similarities abound: weak exports, industrial slowdown, liquidity excess, credit rapid growth and severe correction in financial assets value. » The most important point of similarity between 2001 and 2008, seems to be the severe slowdown in industrial activity. In 2001, the slowdown hit textiles. In 2008, it affected engineering industries, which were particularly strong during the years 2005 / 2007.
According to these experts, however, “the industrial expansion phase during which the electrical industry acted as a powerhouse reached its peak in mid-year 2007 to begin a gradual slowdown. A slowdown in the technical (or endogenous) level in connection with the industry maturity, but also due to the slowdown in foreign demand… The slowdown is also related to the saturation of telephony and telecommunications equipment market. «The strong link between these two sectors ( textile and EMI) which are the driving force of Tunisian exports), had been once again checked during production halts in some segments of European car industry.
It is worth wondering whether it is not useful now to review the development model of the Tunisian economy. As textiles, EMI should carry out its upgrade in line with the automobile sector new trends.
2009, the year of all the risks?
Due to recession in Europe that may settle over time in 2009, the future of the domestic and world economy could take further turn in Tunisia. For now, the contagion effects of European remain limited. Tunisia growth is led by domestic demand, even if it relies on exports. This demand posts in fact 3.7 points (2.7 percentage points provided by the final consumption) This explains why the international crisis, while turning into economic crisis is not yet quite strongly affecting Tunisia.
However, according to experts, “now, the channels of transmission of the recession global dynamic to the national economy are multiple: simultaneous deterioration of industrial manufacturing and exports, higher cost of credit for businesses and households and a possible downturn in domestic demand which supports the national growth. ”
At the international level, observers focus on forthcoming developments of European consumption in textile & clothing, tourism and car industry. The risks for Tunisia in 2009, are there. But not only there.
The risks in 2009 for Tunisian local economy where domestic demand drives growth, are connected to the decline of consumer credit orchestrated by the financial authorities that are still obsessed by inflation, and to the credit cost for companies which remains fairly high despite excess liquidity in banks. The Central Bank sticks to this liquidity and has just decreased the rate of reserve requirements to “ensure” if necessary liquidity, in addition to the perennial concern of inflation control.
For now and for at least the next six months, the plan devised to support exporting companies (on-shore and offshore) will be in the spotlight. However, it will be necessary to raise all other questions. First that relating to reviewing the development model; then that to resolving the domestic demand dilemma.