Tunisia ready to get back to business
A high-level Tunisian economic official yesterday declared “mission accomplished” for the country that lit the first spark of last year’s series of Arab uprisings.
Fatma El Ghanmi, of the North African country’s Foreign Investment Promotion Agency, used remarks delivered at Dubai’s Annual Investment Meeting to appeal for firms to invest in her country - saying that last year’s democratic elections heralded a new era for Tunisia.
Asked during a discussion of her country’s economy whether the turmoil seen last year was over, she replied: “We don’t have problems now, we have made a big shift.”
However, she admitted that tracking down the assets held by former Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his family was proving a difficult task.
Speaking through a translator, she said: “Basically they haven’t recovered the money which has been lost yet.” She added that the process has been “quite hard”, but that the country is expecting to reap economic benefits as it “builds a democracy”.
Speaking on the same panel, Daniel Broby, chief investment officer at Silk Invest, a firm with investments in Tunisia, said he was frustrated that the initial result of Tunisia’s tackling of corruption had been that many companies were wary about investing in the African nation.
He said there were many attractions to doing business there, and that the country’s progress since last year made it a “poster child” for other countries which have seen unrest.
“For the whole of North Africa it is interesting to bear in mind that the wages in North Africa are about half those in Turkey; Turkish wages are about half those of Eastern European wages, and those are about half those of Western Europe.”
He said firms must not be deterred buy “mis-reporting” on the country’s new political regime.
“When we look at Europe where in Germany Christian Democrats are the largest party, we don’t spend our time complaining about them in the same way we read in the papers complaints about Islamist parties,” he said.