Accelerating economic reforms is critical for the next phase of transition
TUNIS, September 9, 2014 – World Bank Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Inger Andersen confirmed today that the economic reforms launched following the 2011 revolution are beginning to yield results for Tunisians. Speaking at the “Invest in Tunisia: Start-up Democracy” conference organized by the Tunisian authorities with support from the French Government, the World Bank Vice President encouraged the interim government to accelerate the momentum for reforms to attract investments needed to bolster economic recovery and job creation.
With the forthcoming national elections heralding the conclusion of the political transition, the conference held in Tunis laid out a vision for the county’s economic transition. A diverse group that included heads of state, business leaders and representatives of international organizations gathered to show their support for this critical phase. In her intervention, Andersen stressed the urgency of remaining committed to Tunisia.
“On behalf of our President, I would like to reiterate the World Bank Group’s support to Tunisia as it reaches the final stages in its historic transition to democracy,” Andersen said. “We believe that it is in the interest of everyone that this vital transition succeeds.”
World Bank Group support since the 2011 revolution has been focused on assisting the interim governments to implement a program of economic reforms to help Tunisia establish the foundations for a more competitive business environment, a strengthened financial sector, more inclusive and accountable social services, and more transparent public governance. Andersen highlighted some of the concrete results of these reforms such as increased access to information, in particular to the internet, lowered communication costs and the modernization of the public procurement system. Citing a specific example, she noted that opening up access to telecommunications infrastructure to all operators had reduced the price of incoming telephone calls by up to 50 percent. The World Bank Vice President also outlined the benefits of picking up the pace of reforms to the overall business environment.
“This will give yet another strong signal to investors in this room and beyond ,” said Andersen, " that the Tunisian economy has changed course as foundations are put in place to foster competitiveness, transparency, and a level playing field for Tunisia to be an attractive investment destination .”
The Vice President reiterated that the World Bank Group was making available US$1.2 billion in support to Tunisia this year, and would provide additional support of $1 billion annually in 2015 and in 2016, based on program performance. The increased 2014 funding was announced earlier this year and includes up to US$750 million in budget support for reforms to level the economic playing field and promote growth and job creation, while increasing accountability in the delivery of services to citizens. Of this amount, US$250 million was made available in August 2014 and US$500 million could be provided before the end of 2014 on the basis of progress with key reforms. The World Bank Group also approved in 2014 a US$300 million loan to support decentralization, a key provision in the new constitution; a credit line of $100 million to support access to finance for micro, small and medium enterprises; and US$50 million to promote exports and private sector development.
During her visit to Tunisia, Andersen also met with Prime Minister, Mehdi Jomaa, and Minister of Economy and Finance, Hakim Ben Hammouda for further discussions on the country’s economic priorities and World Bank Group assistance in meeting them.
“Tunisia has made major political shifts and has secured the success of a political revolution”, added Andersen. “It is now time for an economic revolution. It is time to bring investors back and get the economy growing again at a rate that creates more opportunities for Tunisians. We remain committed to working with the government toward this end, to create an open and vibrant economy.”