Tunisia’s economic outlook remains highly uncertain. The economic rebound in 2021 was relatively moderate. Debt sustainability concerns remained acute due to elevated fiscal deficits and financing needs. As a net importer of energy and cereals, Tunisia is vulnerable to spikes in global commodity prices due to the repercussions of the war in Ukraine. Fast-tracking the recovery and safeguarding macroeconomic stability will require the swift implementation of structural reforms.
GDP grew by an estimated 2.9% in 2021, as the successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic starting in the second semester and increased vaccination allowed the relaxation of mobility restrictions across the country. The economic rebound was relatively modest considering the strong GDP contraction of 9.2% in 2020, the sharpest in the MENA region. Key factors behind the modest recovery include the relative dependence of the economy on tourism and the limited fiscal space and difficult business environment, including restrictions on investments and competition.
Labor market outcomes remained limited. The already high unemployment rate reached 18.4% by the 3rd quarter of 2021 combined with a slight reduction in labor force participation. The unemployment rate is particularly high among youth, women and in the west of the country.
Growth in Tunisia is projected to reach 3.0% in 2022 supported by a gradual global recovery from the pandemic. This rate would not yet allow output to return to pre-pandemic levels of 2019. Growth is expected to eventually gain ground, but it remains modest at around 3.5% a year over the medium term, dragged by pre-existing structural challenges and the economic consequences of and uncertainty around the war in Ukraine and associated sanctions.
The poverty rate is expected to reach 3.4% in 2022 and 3.1% in 2023 using the US$3.2 line (2011 PPP). The number of poor and vulnerable at the US$5.5 line (2011 PPP) is projected to decline from 18.9% in 2022 to 17.7% in 2023 and is not expected to go back to pre-crisis levels before 2024.