Viewpoint: Beji Caid Essebsi

We are encouraged by the better economic performance achieved by Tunisia during the year 2017. The GDP growth rate reached 2% that year, while in the preceding years it did not exceed the 1% mark. In 2018 we hope to attain a GDP growth rate of 3%. We will continue working to achieve better results despite the constraints we continue to face, and we will pursue even more ambitious goals during the years ahead. Our confidence is built on the entrepreneurship and hard work of the Tunisian people, as well as the continued implementation by the government of deep reforms that are conducive to the building of a business-friendly environment.

Some hard financial measures have been included in the 2018 Finance Law in order to balance the budget. It is our hope that with the implementation of these measures, the country will be able to achieve financial equilibrium by the end of 2018. 2018 will be a decisive year for the country, as there will be many changes, including the effective implementation of the Constitutional Court. It is also the year when the first free and fair municipal elections are set to take place, on May 6. Although these elections have previously been postponed, we have succeeded in setting a final date for them. Ballots are to be organised for a total of 350 municipalities across the country, many of which have only recently been established.

The Independent High Authority for Elections, the authority in charge of organising and supervising the election of more than 7000 municipal council members, is fully operational.

The state has created 12 new Regional Administrative Courts. Beside government institutions and political parties, civil society can play a central role in the creation of an environment that is propitious to the success of municipal elections and all future polls. Political parties and independent organisations can help anchor the bases of a constructive debate so as to ensure greater trust by voters in the political process and in democratic elections.

Every Tunisian has the right to participate in the political life of the country; this is the basis of the idea of inclusiveness that has buttressed our initiative, leading to the formation of the government of national unity. In order to form this government, we brought together different national organisations and political parties rallying around the Carthage Agreement, and the principle that the interests of Tunisia should go before those of political parties.

A wide range of different political actors participated in the drafting of this agreement, which we must now update in order to meet the changing needs of the country.

2018 will definitely usher in a new phase in the democratic project, which has been set in motion since the 2011 revolution. Politically, we have come a long way since then. We are aware that the world is now watching us, and we must therefore succeed in our efforts to ensure that our democratic transition is irreversible whatever the challenges ahead. Besides ensuring economic recovery, we need to continue improving security conditions in the country so that our citizens can always feel safe and secure. Improved security has already reassured our foreign partners, including investors and travel operators. In this regard, I must laud the efforts of everyone working in the security services, including the army, police and Customs officers, who have helped the country to overcome the security challenges it faced in 2015. We need them to continue their exceptional work.

We have earned the right today to be optimistic about Tunisia. We are on the right track and believe our country can be a shining example of success, not only on democratic practice, but also in growth and prosperity. Tunisia’s success will benefit its people and also other nations in the region and the world.