World Bank Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Inger Andersen announced Friday a US$1.2 billion program of support for the democratic transition in Tunisia. The announcement came at the end of a three-day visit to Tunisia to consult with government officials, civil society and the private sector on how best to seize upon the momentum established by the adoption of the country’s new constitution.
“The consensus built around the new constitution provides a foundation for much needed economic reforms,” said Andersen following a meeting with Prime Minister, Mehdi Jomaa. “We are committed to working with the new government to match political achievements with progress towards an open and vibrant economy that provides opportunities for all Tunisians.”
The financing planned for 2014 would include up to US$750 million in support of government reforms to level the economic playing field and promote growth and job creation, while increasing accountability in the delivery of services to citizens. The level of support will match program performance during this last year of democratic transition. A US$300 million project focused on building up the capacities of local government will support the provisions on decentralization in the new constitution. The remaining funds will supplement ongoing Bank activities. A credit facility aimed at supporting Banks that give small and medium enterprises much needed access to credit will benefit from an added US$100 million investment. An extra US$50 million for a project designed to promote exports will help identify sectors where Tunisia can be particularly competitive. Lastly, as part of a continuing collaboration with the national water authority, a US$20 million project is scheduled for this year that will provide the greater Tunis metropolitan area with another water pumping station.
Over the course of three days, Andersen met with the Minister of Economy and Finance, Hakim Ben Hammouda and the Governor of the Central Bank of Tunisia,Chadli Ayari for further discussions on the country’s economic priorities and World Bank Group assistance in meeting them. A visit to the Constituent Assembly provided an opportunity to hear from parliamentarians on how the vital political consensus was achieved during the drafting of the constitution and to review the next steps in the transition. With mayors from across Tunisia, Andersen discussed local development and the decentralization agenda, recently reinforced in the Constitution. There was also an extended dialogue with a broad range of civil society groups to discuss the new role of civil society in promoting transparency and open government, and how Tunisian youth can expand their role in the transition process.
“For many Tunisians, young people in particular who continue to face high levels of unemployment, change has not come fast enough,” added Andersen. “The time is now opportune for Tunisia to take on economic reforms that will get the economy growing again and create the jobs and opportunities that Tunisians demanded.”