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Tunisia: Megaprojects to be finalized

Abdelhamid Triki, Minister of Planning and International Cooperation held, on Wednesday, a press conference in Tunis, to present the economic program of the Interim Government regarding the evolution and prospects of several sectors severely hit during the recent events of the Revolution.

He first said that foreign investors of major projects have reiterated their willingness to resume their activities which have stopped since January 14, 2011 and to complete these projects which include the Sports City of Abu Khater, Sama Dubai’s Gulf Finance Harbor and  the Swiss tree planting project…
 
He further added that the Tunisian government had concluded in recent years investment agreements with several foreign investors to create projects in Tunisia, including the project of Sama Dubai which is estimated at 18 billion dinars.

He also stressed that the department has set up a committee composed of several departments (equipment, transportation, finance, justice…) to study the files of these projects and to respond to the letters the Department has received from these investors.

Replying to a question regarding the interruption of works of these projects, including Sama Dubai, the Minister said there was no clear vision.

The Minister of Planning and International Cooperation also reminded that during the last three months, the Revolution has impacted negatively on a number of economic sectors, namely tourism, industry and foreign investment.

Regarding tourism, the minister said that revenues in the first three months of 2011 reached 303 million dinars, posting a decline of 43% compared to the same period of 2010. 
Overnights dropped by nearly 57%, to March 31, 2011, ranging from 4.3 to 1.8 million.  European and North African markets are, of course, the most affected. They were down 54.2% and 56%, respectively.
Indeed, the first quarter traditionally only accounts for not more than 12% of tourist overnights and 16% of non-residents’ arrivals.

The minister added that despite this situation, a significant improvement was recorded during the last period, namely the increase in power production by 1.8%, rise in
exports by 10.3% and growth in investment in regions by 11.5%.  He also emphasized the need for the international community to combine efforts so that Tunisia would meet its goals of development, justice and democracy.

On the social level, the Minister referred to the interim government’s support through  launching a program designed to step up assistance to needy families. He said the aim is to cover all families living below the poverty line, i.e. 185,000 families and grant micro credits or donations for the improvement of housing for 20,000 families.  Assistance was given once to people returning from Libya, 400 dinars and 600 dinars per person per family plus other facilities for access to finance.

For business support and financing, the Minister noted that the State has established a
program of support and recovery of businesses that face temporary economic difficulties in order to maintain the activities of these units and keep jobs…
The State has also decided to restructure the system of micro credits and SME financing and create banking centers in regions. The aim of this measure is to strengthen coordination between the BTS and the Bank for Financing Small and Medium Enterprises as well as … ensuring coaching of investors and easing financing transactions of all types of projects.

Regarding investment in Tunisia, the number of projects reported in regional development zones totaled 268 to March 2011 against 258 during the same period of 2010, i.e. an
increase of 29.2%. Investment in manufacturing showed an increase of 49.4% compared to the same period.
The number of jobs reached 6,801 in 2010 against 5,707, i.e. an increase of 38.8%.

Investment intentions in industry and the number of projects reported in this sector fell by 6% over the first three months of 2011. Investments grew by 2.2% and the number of jobs dropped by 4%.

Regarding employment, the Minister placed emphasis on the urgent program developed by the Ministry and based, mainly, on creating new job positions in all sectors, developing start-ups, coaching carriers of project ideas by small entrepreneurs, ensuring sustainability and preserving job positions, by supporting businesses that suffered damage. 

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