Interview: Anis Ghedira

What are the most pressing issues in terms of Tunisia’s transport infrastructure?

ANIS GHEDIRA: Despite past government investment, Tunisia’s transport infrastructure suffers from serious deficiencies in terms of capacity, operation, maintenance and the adaptation of technological advances, all of which have led to additional costs in the transport and logistics sectors. Tunisia’s trains, ports and airports face a number of difficulties. For example, Tunisia has a high degree of gauging heterogeneity that has posed substantial challenges for the development of the country’s inter-urban rail network.

Through its 2016-20 plan, the ministry has created a mid-term strategy to transform the transport sector into one that promotes the following: economic growth, the development of the country’s interior, social inclusion, trade and Tunisia’s status as a global and Mediterranean centre.

How can the government improve the attractiveness of public-private projects (PPPs) in the sector?

GHEDIRA: The inefficiency of transport infrastructure remains one of the main drags on the country’s competitiveness, which has been aggravated by government budgetary constraints. PPPs are essential when it comes to addressing challenges and obtaining the desired results in terms of growth and social development. The only transport PPP in Tunisia is the Enfidha Airport, which TAV Tunisie, a private firm, constructed and operates through a concession.

The ministry’s sectoral strategy aims to increase private sector participation in the country’s transport networks. This involves establishing legal and institutional conditions to finance logistics infrastructure through PPPs, creating a deepwater port through a PPP, establishing an upgrade programme for transport and logistics, and creating a national logistics observatory that will enable better monitoring and serve as a decision-making tool aimed at partnerships.

How does the ministry aim to improve the management of state-owned transport companies?

GHEDIRA: State-owned transport companies such as Tunisair, Transtu, Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Tunisiens, among others, all suffer from structural difficulties due to accumulated budgetary deficits. They have established a diagnostic analysis of their situation to identify actions to improve their financial soundness. On the basis of this analysis, the companies have prepared, under the auspices of the ministry, a restructuring plan that includes a diagnostic of the situation for each company; commitments of the relevant companies (improving activities, reducing costs and ensuring good governance) and government intervention.

What can Tunisia do to reinforce its role as a logistics centre for the Mediterranean region?

GHEDIRA: To improve Tunisia’s positioning as a nearby EU supplier, the country has developed a strategy aimed at improving its role regionally and globally by offering modern transport and logistics infrastructure — including ports, airports, railways, logistics areas, etc — and an investment-friendly environment through legislative and institutional frameworks.

Indeed, Tunisia has adopted an ambitious five-year action plan (2016-20). This plan includes the following: five new logistics zones with a harbour covering about 580 ha; a new deep-sea port at Enfidha, an entity in charge of its management; the issuing of a law that will organise the logistics sector, favouring PPPs and encouraging private initiatives in this field; the creation of an entity in charge of developing logistics with an institutional approach oriented towards PPPs; a new logistics cluster to serve Tuniso-European trade; and the development of advanced training and logistics skills. In addition, Tunisia has recently created an authority in charge of development and management of all the land border posts to improve the quality of services provided to both passengers and goods transit.