President Béji Caïd Essebsi, on prospects for peace and development: Viewpoint

President Béji Caïd Essebsi

A year has passed since Tunisia’s first-ever free and transparent elections. The people voted in a president, a multi-party parliament and a government with broad political support. While substantive dialogue was carried out during its transition period, Tunisia still needs to bring its various political and civilian components together to reach a consensus in order to hedge against the drawbacks caused by potential and unpredictable discord.

The Nobel Peace Prize awarded in 2015 to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet is a strong and symbolic acknowledgement of an unprecedented peaceful initiative. It also conveys a message of hope and tolerance in restoring the values of dialogue and unity in a regional context marked by dissent and conflict. It is also a distinction that incentivises us, despite our differences and affiliation, to responsibly engage in the establishment of a participatory and consensus-based democracy. This also tasks us with the responsibility of finalising the process of establishing a civil status tailored to its environment, in harmony with its era and ensuring individual and collective rights and freedoms.

As president and guarantor of national unity, I will spare no effort to promote and strengthen national conciliation, so as to guide the state and all involved parties in the implementation of general policies in favour of stability and social peace. Consensual solutions adopted by Tunisians to ensure the sustainability of the democratic process were not accompanied by an actual process that would allow the country in its economic transition to reap the expected results, promote development, provide jobs for young people and break with the tradition isolating the disadvantaged areas. Despite the five years that have passed, the causes that led to the outbreak of the revolution are still visible today.

The country still faces major economic and social difficulties that can constrain economic recovery despite considerable efforts led by the state to promote development, provide jobs for young people and improve living conditions in marginalised areas.

To bring about a solution to the injustice affecting entire regions and several social categories, 2016 will be the year of economic reform and for bolstering social peace. That is why the government is striving, with the support of the Assembly of the People’s Representatives (l’Assemblée des Représentants du Peuple, ARP), to establish an environment conducive to investment, fair competition and job creation, especially for graduates in remote areas. 

These reforms will focus on the establishment of a partnership between the public and private sectors, reform of the banking and tax sectors, and Customs reform, in anticipation of the new Investment Code to be adopted by the ARP, as well as a number of projects slated under the 2016-20 five-year development plan. Tunisia has the capacity to overcome this economic transition thanks to unexploited assets within its economy, yet it is impeded by the instability stemming from the aftermath of the revolution, as well as from regional and global uncertainty.

Even if we have faith in our own ability to bring our economy back to its feet, we aspire to obtain considerable financial and economic support from international partners and donors, in recognition and in support of projects initiated by our young democracy, and to alleviate pressure on government coffers in this time of transition.

We remain convinced that the presence of our partners at our side during such challenging times is a vital necessity to restore stability. The stability of the region depends on the stability of Tunisia, and in that way, Tunisia’s success will be an example of the region’s success. The impact of the social and economic difficulties encountered during the transition period would have been less significant had terrorist attacks not occurred during the previous year.

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