Following the revolution, Tunisia revealed two extraordinary assets. The first was the capacity to reconcile between different political, social and religious beliefs to reach a political consensus that respects the society’s pluralism. This stands in stark contrast to the recent turmoil across much of the Arab world.
The second, and perhaps less well-known, is that Tunisians now have an understanding of how even well-intentioned economic policies can get captured by political elites to the detriment of jobs, growth and the welfare of the Tunisian people.
These assets are important to bear mind as heads of state and business leaders gather in Tunisia this week to pledge support for the country’s ongoing transition. Quite apart from its many comparative advantages, such as a young and well educated population and its geographic location, Tunisia has the raw ingredients that could be transformed into a magnet for investments.
It is critical that Tunisia succeeds. Tunisia is a beacon of hope for the Arab region and shows the world that democracy can be successful. It is time to consolidate and to count on a vibrant private sector to deliver jobs as well as on international businesses willing to invest, seek opportunities and support growth. Building on its young and educated population, we call for increased private sector investments to support Tunisia. The World Bank Group has continued and even increased its support at this critical time. Let the world step up to the challenge.
Investors, be they domestic or foreign, typically look for a combination of political stability and economic policies that are conducive to competition and dynamic growth. Tunisia could provide both by drawing on the same vision that forged a groundbreaking constitution to undo the economic legacy of the past.
Three years after the revolution, the economy - and its transition - remains a high priority. Young people continue to face unemployment rates above 30 percent, with rates especially high among college graduates. Tunisia has struggled to bring back investors, restart its tourism industry, and provide the credit needed by the country’s businesses to grow and create jobs.
These are not just short term problems caused by the instability that followed the 2011 revolution. Rather they are result of an economic system inherited from the previous regime that needs to be significantly rethought.