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Tunisia: Time for action and for getting back to work – Op-Ed

Tunisia: Time for action and for getting back to work – Op-Ed

It is time for all the politicians and those who are in charge of our public affairs to look to the future rather than keep on staring to the mirror and rehashing the past with bitterness or nostalgia.

Tunisia has to wake up from its  nearly twenty years of  lethargy and inaction which resulted in the current difficult situation.  To that end, multiple, structural  and deep reforms are needed:. The reforms will be neither simple nor pleasant or easy to live with.

They will shake rent situations, set stable, transparent and fair rules, and reconnect with an even stronger growth, promote the inclusion of all those previously left out of the development process, raising the level of education to make “the Social lift” function again for the marginalized parts of the society,  give hope to future generations, put the entrepreneurs in a favorable context  and simplify the decision making process through a decentralization of the administration to bring it closer to beneficiaries.

Regardless of the outcome of the next elections, Tunisian political and social forceshave to find the appropriate conditions for a peaceful and positiveinteraction, in which the public interest overrides individual and partisan interests in order to avoid any divisions or discord within the Tunisian society. Tunisia needs solidarity among all of its components to overcome all the challenges it is (and will be) facing with determination and consistency.

The time of weak consensus, of  passiveness, and of neglect of the key problems the country is facing, is over. The  long history of Tunisia has taught us that the population, which is made of a rich mixture of several cultures from the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, has always found the resources to overcome the challenges it has faced throughout the last thirty centuries.

The political leaders have no choice but to focus on preserving the achievements of the nation and on deepening the benefits to all the population without excluding any segment regardless of social condition, gender, skin, color or religion. This will require institutional stability, restoration of the state authority, a reaffirmation of the simple principle of living together while respecting each other’s differences, which in turn will require both pedagogy and the strict enforcement of the law.

The fight against terrorism is a non-negotiable requirement. It requires the mobilization of every Tunisian citizen, and the eradication of its socio-economic and cultural roots and its international ramifications should be the focus of the next government. The fight will be long and time is in favor of the enemies of peace and democracy. As the threat is global, only a global response based on a strong cooperation with Tunisia’s partners and friends will be effective.

This condition is essential to restore confidence and see national and foreign private investment increase to an acceptable level in order to generate the needed growth for employment and shared prosperity

However; this is certainly not  enough and would fail to boost job creation and reverse the trend of unemployment, unless all the necessary reforms to create more inclusion, solidarity and better performance are simultaneously put in place and enforced.

For nearly four years following the Tunisian revolution, many additional weaknesses have emerged and many bad practices have become part of our daily life. The reconstruction of a new democratic Tunisia that respects human rights will necessarily involve its ability to be effective, to create wealth, to ensure its fair distribution, and to grant all Tunisians, established within its borders or abroad, the conditions of well being.

On the economic side, the reforms to be implemented should focus on tackling major macroeconomic imbalances, controlling and sharply reducing inflation and preserving the purchasing power of the middle class and of the poor and vulnerable part of the society, eradicating smuggling and tax evasion, bringing the informal economy into the formal sphere, introducing a more just and inclusive tax system and developing the social economy to complement  an open economy based on entrepreneurship and the promotion of the private sector.

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Written by Radhi Meddeb

Radhi Meddeb is the founder and the Chief Executive Officer of COMETE Group, a member of the Investment Committee of the private equity fund Altermed Capital, a Board member of BTK bank in Tunisia and a member of its permanent committee, on behalf of BPCE Group (France), a member of the World Bank MENA Advisory Board and member of several financial Institutions in Tunisia. He acted as a board member of the Tunisian National Statistics Council and the Tunisian Central Bank. He is the Chairman of the Board of the Mediterranean Economic Prospective Institute (PEMED, Paris) whose objective is to bring together the two shores of the Mediterranean via economy. He founded in 2011 and chairs, an NGO: “Action et Developpement Solidaire » which aim is to identify and promote an economic and social development plan for Tunisia, based on the values of inclusion, openness, sustainability, solidarity and efficiency. He published a book in October 2011: Ensemble. Construisons la Tunisie de demain: Modernité, Solidarité et Performance”.

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