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Tunisia: Oil and power prices are not to drop

Oil prices are not to drop during the second quarter of 2009 at the level of the Tunisian market, all the more so that the average decrease on the international markets has not exceeded 10 dollars in the first quarter of 2009, compared to the same period of 2008, said Industry, Energy and Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises Minister Afif Chelbi in a news conference held on Tuesday in Tunis

STEG also will not cut its tariffs, the minister adds reminding that the State has supported this company with 1300 million dinars. He also announced the holding on April 6-May 6, 2009 of the Month of Energy Control which will be crowned with the awarding of the President of the Republic’s Prize for the Promotion of Energy Saving for 2008.

Addressing the national production of crude oil in the first two months of the current year, the minister announced a 5-per-cent rise, compared with the same period of 2008, reaching by late February 2009 nearly 690,000 tons oil equivalent (TOE), compared with 665,000 TOE.

This increase, the minister also underlines, is notably due to the start of production of the “Chourouk” field. By late February, natural gas production reached in turn nearly 610,000 tons, compared with 521,000 TOE, i.e. a rise of 17%.

In another connection, the minister announced  completion of the legal creation of the Tunisian-Italian company tasked with conducting a study of the power inter-connection project between the two countries.

This joint venture between the Tunisian Electricity and Gas Company (STEG) and Italian TERNA company is tasked with studying specifics of the project and selecting companies and investors to carry out power inter-connection project between Tunisia and Italy.

The project consists in the creation of a 1000-MW-powered submarine inter-connection line linking the Cap Bon (Tunisia) and Sicily (Italy) over 200 km, at a cost of 400 million euros (1 euro=1.87 Tunisian dinars).

Chelbi also announced the progress of several projects carried out by his department in matters of energy, announcing the launching of a tender for the creation of two power plants in Sousse and Bizerte.

In another development, the minister said that, in spite of the pressures it has generated, the current financial crisis provides several opportunities which the Tunisian companies are seeking to seize.

He presented three indicators which confirm the views that the economic crisis has caused an economic slowdown in Europe, the first partner of Tunisia.

Among these indicators, the minister mentioned the increase of the exports of several sectors of activities, such as electric cables (+12%) and clothing whose exports rose by 11% in the first two months of 2009.

The minister also underlined the 17-per-cent drop in the exports of manufactured industries by late March 2009, reaching a value of 3806 million dinars.

The second indicator which Chelbi revealed was the 7- per-cent growth in the pace of company creation (legal creation) in the first two months of 2009, compared with the same period of 2008.

The minister also listed further implantation of foreign investors in Tunisia as the third indicator of economic prosperity. Among these projects, he mentioned the recent inauguration, in Beja, of the production site of German Kromberg & Schubert Group, specialised in car cables.

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