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Tunisia: Limited impact of global crisis

For the 2nd time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) chooses Tunisia to present its report on regional economic outlook for the Maghreb and the Middle East. The tone is much less injunctive and the approach less prescriptive, even flexible, which has not failed to catch up those whose job is to deal with this international financial institution.

It is worth wondering if this approach is due to the global crisis or to the IMF  new Directorate-General of the IMF? In any case, the Deputy Director of the Department of Middle East and Central Asia, Amor Tahari, while agreeing that this is the case, said without convincing many people that the Fund is intended, since its inception more than 60 years, to provide its members with advice and recommendations.

The point is that the impact of the global economic crisis on Maghreb countries depends on the monetary policy and the economic revival strategy to be adopted by these countries which risk a soaring in unemployment.

This was the major conclusion of the report published in May 2009 by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the regional economic prospects for the Maghreb and the Middle East.
 Amor Tahari underlined at a news conference that the region’s countries have not been spared by this crisis which fallout was translated in a reduction by one half in the forecast growth rate for 2009. According to this report, which ranks countries of the region in accordance with their oil exports’ volume, this rate would reach 3.3% in 2009 in Tunisia and 2.7% for the rest of the whole Maghreb zone.

Thus, the “indirect impact and the extent of slowing down in the Maghreb and Middle East region, will depend partly on the intensity and duration of the global economic recession, that of Europe and the budget riposte and other economic policies of concerned countries,” including oil- producing countries. With regard to the major economic indicators, the report indicates that the lowest inflation rate is recorded in the Maghreb zone.
As for the balance of current transactions, the deficit in non-oil countries like Tunisia should stabilise, compared with a slight increase expected in the budget deficit. The report underlines, however, that economic constants remain solid for the whole region. Mr. Tahari pointed out that Tunisia and Morocco, which continue to have a positive growth rate, might reap the fruits of their cautious policy in matters of management of public funds which allows them some room for manoeuvre to revive their economies as expected starting from 2010.

He argues that the major stake for these countries remains the swift implementation of reforms decided to speed up job creation and cope with unemployment which would increase as a result of the crisis.

These reforms, he said, should be accelerated in 2010. The report points out that the major challenges for the region consist in the short term in the resistance of financial sectors.

Hence, he advocates in particular combating all tensions related to liquidities, continuous follow-up of major risk sectors (housing, concentration of loans), co- ordination of policies of different countries to limit the adverse effects of the crisis and assessment of the mechanisms of banking re-capitalisation and payment of banks’ debts.

In matters of macro-economic policies, non-oil countries could carry out revival plans provided that high debt ratios will not impose prudent budget policies.

Still according to the report, the region should seek in the long term to lay down the foundations of a sustainable growth and promote job creation by further diversifying the economy, focusing spending on reinforcement of economic production, improvement of business environment and strengthening the resistance capacity of institutions and financial markets.

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