Analysis: How Tunisia reached monetary meltdown

Tunis, Tunisia – The shock that adopted the July 25 energy seize by President Kais Saied is gone, and Tunisians now get up to one of the harmful financial crises since independence.

Because the whole lot is politicised in Tunisia, folks prefer to harangue about who’s liable for the collapse of the nation’s financial system moderately than perceive its actual causes and talk about one of the best options to reserve it.

Decades of corruption, clientelism, and the absence of any type of strategic planning will not be the one signs of the persistent financial disaster inherited by post-revolution Tunisia. Some phenomena have been aggravated. Others had been born with the revolt.

Although simply out there, Tunisians hardly give significance to the actual figures about their nation’s funds and exterior debt.

Official authorities information present that Tunisia has about 700,000 public employees, together with faculty and college academics. In 2020, the entire wage invoice was about $5.6bn, thus absorbing nearly 70 p.c of the state’s yearly sources.

Both for respectable rights or merely for political goals, hundreds of strikes and sit-ins have taken place yearly since 2011.

Backed by the extraordinarily sturdy Tunisian General Labour Union, or UGTT, employees in the private and non-private sectors have received various quantities of wage will increase after the 2011 revolution, far more than any time earlier than.

The charges of civil servants’ absenteeism are excessive and industrial manufacturing is near zero. UGTT, Tunisia’s principal commerce union, has performed a serious political and social position after 2011.

“UGTT has closely and strongly contributed to all the stages of the political process in Tunisia since 2011,” famous Adel Samaali, a Tunisian banker and monetary professional.

“This organisation was represented by ministers and high officials in all the governments constituted after the revolution. Their views and decisions were always heard and taken into consideration.”

Historically managed by Tunisia’s Marxist events and extreme-left unionists, UGTT is usually criticised for forms and corruption and blamed for hindering any plan for social and financial reforms.

The shopper items distribution sector is managed by highly effective and corrupt intermediaries who’re neither the producers nor the sellers however the ones who determine costs.

Bureaucracy, systematic corruption within the customs and public providers, and decaying laws discourage any type of funding by Tunisians or worldwide firms. Hundreds of international companies that had been right here ended up leaving the nation.

A handful of households and enterprise teams have managed the entire of Tunisia’s financial system since 1956.

Although wealthy in pure sources – phosphate, oil and fuel, salt – and agricultural merchandise – wheat, olive oil, dates, fish, fruit – these sectors contribute little or nothing to the gross nationwide product.

Added to political instability and safety incidents, primarily since 2014, manufacturing and export reached their lowest charges ever.

The devaluation of the Tunisian foreign money has led to a rise in costs and an unprecedented inflation fee estimated at 6.2 p.c immediately.

While Tunisia’s unemployment fee reached 17.eight p.c in March, a further 600,000 Tunisians have fallen beneath the poverty line following two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demonstrators carry flags and banners throughout a protest towards Tunisian President Kais Saied’s seizure of governing powers on October 10 [File: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters]

Enormous exterior debt

Ideological disputes and political preparations prevented all of the elected governments, parliaments, and presidents since 2011 from tackling the actual sources of the disaster.

Tunisia’s complete exterior debt immediately exceeds $40bn.

In the quick time period, the newly appointed authorities has to take care of a price range gap of greater than $3bn for the remaining interval of 2021, mentioned Georges Joseph Ghorra, of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Ghorra, IFC’s Tunisia nation supervisor, warned this price range gap “could get bigger” due to the dinar’s fall and the rise of oil and wheat costs on worldwide markets.

Filling this hole requires a complementary price range legislation and a parliament to debate and vote on it, which isn’t the case immediately in Tunisia.

Until the tip of the present 12 months, Tunisia must borrow 15 billion dinars ($5.3bn) for salaries and debt repayments.

Ridha Chkoundali, a monetary professional and college lecturer, hyperlinks the monetary disaster to “the post-revolution economic situation”.

“The public sector has supported the biggest part of the social unrest while the private sector has shrunk due to investors’ fears from political and security instability,” mentioned Chkoundali.

Samaali defined that Tunisia “inherited the biggest part of this debt, $22bn, from the Ben Ali era”.

“Debt instalment repayments and considerable par increase for public workers since 2011 have contributed to the current situation,” Samaali mentioned.

“The different governments that followed the fall of the Ben Ali regime were compelled to regularly borrow money to pay the older debts.”

How July 25 aggravated the disaster

Since his election in 2019, President Saied has added extra issues to Tunisia than he introduced options.

Promoting populist politics and one-man rule, Saied doesn’t imagine in international help to Tunisia and rejects worldwide cooperation.

In May 2020, whereas on a go to to France, Saied shocked Tunisians and others when he declared the scenario in Tunisia is “not good for foreign investment”.

He even slammed the work of worldwide establishments and score businesses. “The rating agencies cannot give us any grades they want. We are not their students and they are not our teachers,” the Tunisian president mentioned.

As talks with the International Monetary Fund over a 3rd mortgage had been suspended after Saied’s measures, Moody’s latest downgrade of Tunisia’s credit standing to “C” make clear the current and future repercussions of Saied’s energy seize final July 25.

“This downgrade did not surprise me and it means that Tunisia urgently needs deep, structural reforms,” defined Samaali.

“Without these economic reforms, Tunisia will enter an unprecedented crisis and will be soon unable to get new loans unless at very hard conditions.”

‘A clear road map’

Chkoundali famous the worldwide score businesses – equivalent to Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings – are intently watching political developments in Tunisia.

“[They] take into consideration the political aspect and use scientific data to assess and rank the countries,” he mentioned.

“Saied’s comments about the need to change the sovereign ratings approach of international rating agencies are not based on any scientific principle. Saied has to set a deadline for exceptional measures and disclose a clear road map for the period to come.”

At the financial and monetary stage, Chkoundali urged new Prime Minister Najla Bouden Romdhane’s authorities to “do their best to convince the International Monetary Fund to relaunch negotiations with Tunisia” on new instalments.