The 61st independence day of Tunisia, which fell on March 20, is a great moment for the nation to assess what has been so far achieved and, most importantly, to chart the course of action that lies ahead in terms of economic and social development.
One can ask candidly: what about the political progress and democratization that Tunisia is supposed to accomplish or at least finish up? Such questioning is legitimate and well founded.
As a quick reminder, on the level of political reforms and democratization, Tunisian people are far from content. Democracy is a long and strenuous process.
No doubt, Tunisia has set forth a pluralistic political system, written a new and liberal Constitution, organized parliamentary and presidential free elections and are proud of having anchored freedom of speech and conscience in the Tunisian society.
However, the nation is still in the process of building and debating, in a highly open atmosphere the creation of new democratic institutions.
The Constitutional Court and the Judiciary Higher Council are among the latest instruments we recently put forth to make our democratic system a functional and reliable one. This said, Tunisia has to tackle in the coming months a more daunting task, by addressing the most pending and pressing economic and social issues, without which our success in the ambitious undertaking we set for our nation will be incomplete, if not shaky.
Hence, the international conference on investment convened last November 2016 in Tunis, which attracted lots of world financial and economic decisionmakers, the number of reforms in relation to the banking and financial institutions we introduced and the efforts undertaken by the government to reduce the unemployment rate particularly among university graduated Tunisian youth.
In this regard, it is important to underline that relying on our capabilities and our own means is a determining factor for the success of our endeavors. But at the same time and in times of hardships notably, international and bilateral cooperation are highly instrumental.
This is why, over the preceding years as well as for the upcoming future Tunisia’s cooperation with Indonesia is going to witness unprecedented qualitative progress at all levels.
First, recognizing the success of the Tunisian democratic experience and its resilience despite the encountered hurdles, Indonesia decided to establish a Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) chapter in Tunisia, this year.
This invaluable event will provide the opportunity to both countries’ scholars, politicians and academics as well as their visà-vis from countries in the Middle East to discuss ways and means to further reinforce good governance, tolerance and peaceful coexistence in our region.
It will certainly demonstrate to the rest of the world that democracy and Islam are not at odds in Muslim lands as some would pretend.
Second, at the economic level, as a result of the active participation of the Indonesian delegation in last year’s International Conference on Investment in Tunis, which was headed by Alwi Shihab, special envoy of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to the Middle East and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), a group of businessmen specializing in the fields of furniture, agribusiness and timber industries will soon be travelling to Tunisia to examine the possibility of setting up factories in these fields.
They will certainly benefit from the associate agreement as well as the numerous FTA that Tunisia signed with the European Union along with many countries in the Middle East and subSaharan Africa.
We actually pin much hope on this upcoming business visit for it will instill a new dynamics in our trade relations, which total volume is estimated at around US$100 million, not reflecting the real potential existing in both countries.
Third, the Tunisian Embassy is going to organize in Jakarta in the two coming months a multifaceted trade event. On this occasion, a delegation of great Tunisian businessmen will visit Indonesia. This delegation will represent a wide array of sectors from agribusiness, including oranges and grapes, to electronic spare parts, handicraft, automotives and tourism.
It will have direct contact and business-to-business meetings with its Indonesian counterparts. I am persuaded that such a seminal event will yield positive results for the future and open up new avenues for our bilateral trade and provide new investment opportunities.
Tunisia and Indonesia have, for long, been close friends and allies. This had started at the outset of 1950s, when the late Tunisian great ambassador, Rachid Driss, inaugurated the Tunisian Bureau in Jakarta to defend our independence cause.
This was followed by the Tunisian participation at the AsianAfrican Conference of Bandung in 1955, and later by the historical visit of president Sukarno to Tunisia in 1960 and his meeting with the first president of the Republic of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba. And last, the visit of president Megawati Soekarnoputri to Tunisia in 2003.
This brief historical reminder allows the two nations to observe that time is ripe to start a new chapter in their bilateral ties, that has to be geared, from now on, more for trade and mutual economic projects as the most appropriate means to beef up their cooperation.