Seeking to reverse a decline in foreign investment, regional and Western partners have promised Tunisia about $8 billion in aid and loans over the next four years.
The money announced at a two-day investment conference in the capital Tunis included $1.25 billion in aid from Qatar, the biggest single pledge of its kind to Tunisia since a 2011 uprising ushered in a democratic transition but also years of economic uncertainty and weak growth.
On Wednesday the African Development Bank (AFDB) added the latest pledge, announcing that it would lend Tunisia between 1.5 billion euros and 2 billion euros ($1.6 bln-$2.1 bln) over the next five years.
I hope this conference will be the foundation of a new ground favourable to foreign investors and I hope it will ease in the launching of their projects in Tunisia.
Representatives from around 40 countries met in Tunis to participate in some $30 billion worth of projects to support the North African state struggling economy.
Speaking on the sidelines of the summit former Tunisian foreign minster, Mongi Hamdi described the event as a ‘foundation’ for securing the country’s future.
“I hope this conference will be the foundation of a new ground favourable to foreign investors and I hope it will ease in the launching of their projects in Tunisia with the least amounts of bureaucracy possible,’‘ he said.
“We strive to become a country that is able to utilize its competitive assets in order to take a place as an attractive pillar within the regional and international economic fibre,” said Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi.
France and Qatar are the main foreign backers, with the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani, announcing 1.25 billion dollars of aid to Tunisia.
Al-Thani said the two-day conference is a model of what the international community should be doing with regards to lending a helping hand.
“Kuwait was a frontrunner in building a distinguished economic partnership that focused on supporting Tunisia in its developmental efforts. This neighbouring country is one of the top Arab countries to have benefited from aid presented from the Kuwaiti fund, since its inception, and until this very day,” he added.
Tunisia has been lauded as the sole political success story of the Arab Spring for its democratic transition, but the country has made slow progress on economic reform.
Labour unrest and militant attacks have hit investment and tourism, and unemployment is high, especially among the youths.
Under pressure from international lenders, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed’s government is also pushing a package of measures in its 2017 draft budget aimed at cutting public spending and raising new revenue to reduce the deficit.