Thank you Philippe. Dear Ministers, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am very pleased to be here in Tunis for this extremely welcomed conference which signals the international community’s support for Tunisia. It is critical that Tunisia succeeds, and transitioning from hope to reality is key. Tunisia is a beacon of hope for the Arab region. As Tunisia resolutely engages on a sustainable and stable path, it shows the world that democracy can be successful.
Start-Up democracy, this expression coined by the Tunisian Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa says it all. Earlier this year, Tunisia has adopted a new, inclusive constitution that protects basic freedoms. Consensus and compromise were chosen over conflict. Today, it is our collective responsibility to help Tunisia on the path of sustainable and inclusive economic growth.
WBG support. Since 2011, the WBG has committed more than $1.7 billion. This calendar year alone we made available an envelope of $1.2 billion and we intend to add another $1 billion in 2015, and $1 billion in 2016 [Our assistance is a combination of budget support to accompany key reforms, results-based lending in support of the decentralization agenda, and some innovative investment operations in export development and private sector financing]. The IFC, our private sector arm, has also increased its support to Tunisia's private sector during the recent transition years, especially in the areas of access to finance, infrastructure, and skills. We are working together to improve Tunisia's investment climate -- a key precondition for increasing domestic and foreign investments in the country. This World Bank Group support aims to pave the way for private sector led growth and job creation.
Tunisia can build on 2 extraordinary assets:
- Its capacity to reconcile between different political, social and religious beliefs to reach a political consensus that respects the society’s pluralism.
- Its 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.
Tunisia now needs an economic revolution. 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, Tunisians need increased private sector investments.
This event today is timely and opportune. The reforms initiated in 2012 and 2013 are starting to yield results which you, as investors, should be aware of. Let me mention three examples:
- On the information technology front, opening access to landing stations to other telecom operators has resulted in a decrease of up to 50% in the cost of incoming telephone calls. Similarly, the National Strategic Plan “Tunisia Digital 2018” aims to provide ultrafast broadband accessibility throughout the country;
- The adoption of regulatory simplification measures to create a more competitive environment and promote private investment;
- The publication of the Organic Law on the right for Access to Information is a step ahead on the road to openness.
More needs to be done and can be done. Investors, be it domestic or foreign, typically look for two things: political stability and economic policies that are conducive to competition and dynamic growth. Tunisia has made progress on both counts and we are confident this will remain the focus of the elected Government. As the “Economic National Dialogue” moves forward, let me mention a couple of “to do items”:
- Accelerating the implementation of key reforms in the banking sector and taxation;
- Improving the business environment, with the new Competition Law and going further, to create a level playing field that makes Tunisia an attractive investment destination;
- Furthering the new and excellent procurement legislation that enhances public procurement and transparency in tandem with the acceleration of contract awards.
This will give yet another strong signal to investors in this room and beyond 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.
Conclusion. Mr. Prime Minister, Ministers, partners, investors, and civil society at large, the WBG has been a partner in Tunisia since 1962 with the approval of the Bank’s first education project. Rest assured that we are going to be with Tunisia every step of the way. As we engage in a new country partnership framework with Tunisia in 2015, we will even find other ways to support Tunisia, Tunisian businesses and the Tunisian people at large.