There is no reason for concerns and the state is not on the brink of bankruptcy, Minister Adviser to the Prime Minister, in charge of monitoring public projects and programs, Ridha Saidi affirmed in an interview with AfricanManager.
Nevertheless, he acknowledged the existence of serious financial difficulties which the Government is working to remedy.
Indeed, 2016 was not a positive year. We have seen a decline in the rate of growth since 2014 and this decline continued until the end of 2016. The affected sectors, especially tourism, which fell by 45% following the terrorist attacks that targeted the country, In addition to the industrial sector which is struggling to achieve the expected growth rates as well as investment are the cause.
In this area we should also mention the decline in exports, while imports are skyrocketing, creating imbalances in the balance of trade with a coverage rate that has not exceeded 70% in recent years. All this has directly impacted the Tunisian dinar, which suffered a remarkable fall against foreign currencies.
What is your view about the year 2017 in light of these indicators?
By the end of 2016 and early 2017, we have seen an improvement in economic indicators, following a decline that continued for two years.
It is important to note in this framework a return of investment. This is a positive indicator, especially since the country is also witnessing a gradual return to the pace of industrial production in many sectors, including manufacturing, mechanical, electronic and medicinal industries.
There is some optimism about the prospects for a promising agricultural season. Added to this is the positive return of the phosphate sector, which is not far from the 2010 figures.
One of the positive indicators is the improvement of the tourism sector to 50% after having touched the bottom following the terrorist attacks in Bardo and Sousse. This is a positive indicator, especially as we expect to welcome 6.5 million visitors this year.
Will it be possible to achieve 2.5% growth?
We aspire to realize this rate with reference to the indicators cited, and thanks to the continuation of this rhythm throughout the year, this objective will be realizable.
However, the pressure from the International Monetary Fund on the disbursement of the second tranche of the loan, which should have been disbursed in December, could be put under pressure. What do you think?
That is absolutely false. The government hopes to obtain this second installment after the visit of an IMF mission to Tunisia in April. Indeed, talks with the Fund’s mission are at an advanced stage after the recent video conference between the government representative and the International Monetary Fund.
That meeting is preparing for the expected visit of the IMF mission to Tunisia, the date of which has not yet been fixed but which should take place during the month of April and lead to the preparation of the report on the periodic review that will be presented to the Executive Board of the Fund which will meet to decide on the disbursement of the second installment.
Economic expert Ezzeddine Saidane argued in a recent statement to the press that the IMF mission will not come to Tunisia this month because it has not seen progress in implementing the reforms during its two visits in November 2016 and January 2017
With all due respect to this reading, the author of this statement is not entitled to represent the government and is not entitled to confirm this information. We take this opportunity to say that the mission of the IMF will soon visit Tunisia, although the date of this visit has not yet been fixed.
This is an important step, especially since the national unity government has effectively begun the implementation of the reforms agreed with the IMF mission that visited Tunisia last January.
The goal of this reform is to achieve economic stability, undertake the reform of public institutions and the financial sector, as reflected in the restructuring of public banks, which is progressing at a remarkable pace, focusing on good governance, the effectiveness of financial intervention in economic sectors, particularly respect for international prudential rules.
It is important to note that the restructuring of public banks is part of the reform of the public financial institutions following the launch of the global audit in 2013 and the recapitalization of public banks in 2015 with the injection of 860 million dinars drawn from the State’s own resources.
In doing so, we reject information that has been distorted about the possibility of the sale of public banks and their privatization.
Concerning the reform of the civil service, the decrees relating to the reform strategy will have to be discussed in the Cabinet meeting, besides many other reforms related to the financial sector and public banks, in particular restructuring.
Through its commitment to speeding up and accelerating these reforms, the national unity government seeks during the upcoming visit of the IMF mission to prepare the meeting it will hold with the IMF Executive Board during the month April and that of the World Bank’s Board of Directors in May.
Thus, efforts are now combined not only to obtain the 2nd and 3rd installments of the Fund’s loan ranging from $ 650 to $ 700 million, but also to obtain the other two loans from the World Bank ($ 500 million) and the European Union ($ 400 million).
Does that mean that the government is actually committed to implementing the agreed reforms?
Absolutely, despite the existence of financial difficulties. But there is no reason to fear either a bankruptcy of the state or even its inability to pay its officials.
We are determined to increase the State’s own resources, in particular those derived from taxation by improving recovery, and by restoring the pace of production of phosphate and fertilizers and improving exceptional resources coming essentially from confiscation.
The Prime Ministry and the Finance Ministry are in the process of setting up a special programme for confiscated property, based on the sale over the next two years of all State holdings in such property, noting that some of these assets are in the financial and banking sector such as Ezzitouna Bank and the industrial and real estate sectors.
The program is expected to be ready in April, which will bail the government’s budget and offset its deficit and debts.