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Tunisia: productivity indicator at its lowest level

The indicator of productivity in Tunisia fell to a level never reached before in the country as a result of strikes that are often unwarranted and social claims exacerbated by the Revolution.

The number of illegal strikes and those without notice has reached nearly 360 strikes in the first ten months of the year compared with 240 strikes in 2010, according to the Tunisian Union of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts (UTICA).

These protest movements and sit-ins contributed to blocking activity of many production units in different sectors such as phosphates, mining and energy, in addition to the stoppage of several industrial and commercial activities directly related to citizens’ interests.

The indicator of productivity in the mining sector fell from 94.1% in the first nine months of 2010 to 39.2% in the same period of 2011. This was the same for the energy sector whose productivity declined from 127.8 points to 120.6 points.

Central Director of the Observatory of Economic Situation at the National Statistics Institute (INS) Mustapha Bouzaian said that it is “normal to see productivity in post-revolutionary Tunisia reach its lowest levels due to strikes and sit-ins that have paralyzed the production system.”

“Large companies and public corporations such as the Gabes and Enfidha cement companies stopped their activities in addition to the blocking of activities in the phosphates sector,” reminded the official.

Difficult working conditions that prevail in several companies, including industrial ones, brought about a significant decline in the rate of production which had negative impact on the country’s economic growth, he pointed out.

Statistics indicate that the overall industrial production index posted a decline of 2.5% in the first nine months (2010-2011).

Worse, the overall indicator fell from 132.7 points in late September 2010 to 129.4 points in the same period of 2011.

Director of the External Trade Observatory at the Ministry of Industry and Trade Lotfi Khedhir stressed the impact of the national political and economic situation on productivity perceived as a major factor in the functioning of the national economy.

He noted that the decline in the productivity of the phosphates sector was the result of strikes and prevented Tunisia from taking advantage of the rising prices of phosphates and derivatives in the global markets.

The value of exports decreased by 35% to end of October (1,129.5 million dinars) compared with a positive growth of over 25% in the same period of 2010 (1,729 million dinars).

Mr. Khedhir also said that the sector’s losses will be revised upward to reach 1,000 million dinars by late this year.

To spare Tunisia greater losses and preserve domestic and foreign investment, Mr. Khalil Ghariani, Chairman of the Social Committee at the UTICA, called on the new Government to take special interest in the phenomenon of sit-ins.

He emphasized the need to address this phenomenon and seek to ensure dialogue and social peace in companies.

He expressed concern over the possible deterioration of the situation and the increase in the protest movements which would “prompt investors and businessmen to close their businesses and stop investing in the country.”

Mr. Ghariani also said that nearly 120 foreign companies employing 40 thousand workers have closed permanently because of repeated protest movements and social claims which he considers as “illegal and unfair.”

It should be noted that the employers’ organization had warned against the gravity of sit-ins and strikes on the business and investment climate.

Interim President Moncef Marzouki had called recently for a “six-month “political and social truce,” to help the economy recover its usual pace.


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