Interview: Radhi Meddeb
To what extent does Tunisia promote energy efficiency in its construction industry?
RADHI MEDDEB: Today, at the international level, there is awareness of the necessity to save energy and to build energy-efficient infrastructure or even construction projects that produce energy. In Tunisia, however, this approach is not yet integrated, neither at the regulatory nor at the construction level. With this in mind, the country recently adopted a law on sustainable energy, and it seems that this field will be further exploited in the coming years.
Which segments of the construction industry most lack qualified labour?
MEDDEB: Over the last few decades, the Tunisian construction and public works sector has been oriented towards exportation. Today many Tunisian companies, especially in public works, have business in numerous markets in Africa. This means that the expertise, the know-how and the capabilities of Tunisian companies are transferable to projects outside the country in very good condition. That does not change the reality that in some segments, training is still insufficient, especially in terms of engineering in the plumbing and sanitary segments and in the high-and low-voltage electrical segments.
How has price volatility of raw materials impacted the construction sector?
MEDDEB: Today, the market for raw materials in Tunisia has a rather rigid behaviour regarding international prices. For instance, the cement industry, which is one of the main components of any construction project, and which is also a high-energy consumer, is facing fixed prices for electricity and gas, which are supplied by the Tunisian Gas and Electricity Company. Thus, when oil prices change on the international market, the energy cost does not change for cement producers in the country, which affects performance.
What is the role of foreign companies in terms of technology and best-practice transfers?
MEDDEB: Until today, the Tunisian market has not been open enough to international companies, thus the sector did not benefit from substantial technology transfers from international companies. The impact of technologies on the national market will necessarily require more cooperation with international companies and more openness from the Tunisian market towards foreign companies.
How can the government encourage investors to join in public-private partnership (PPP) projects?
MEDDEB: The government is aware that PPPs are a necessity, and the country is moving in that direction. In the construction sector, PPPs will facilitate better use of technology, but the private sector also has an important role to play in that area. In order to bring better technologies to the country, there is a need to liberalise the sector and enable international companies to penetrate the market. The presence of international companies on the market will allow local consumers access to better services and technologies. Also, this would give Tunisian companies a boost and encourage them to modernise their operations and increase their efficiency.
What measures are necessary to ensure construction projects abide by international quality and efficiency standards?
MEDDEB: Over the years, Tunisia has developed its own standards, and today those norms have to be aligned with international standards, especially European ones. The adoption of European standards would allow Tunisian companies to move up the ladder and to be prepared to work in Europe in the event of a future free trade agreement. Moreover, shifting towards European norms suggests a shared
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