Tunisia Should escape from becoming a bazaar economy

Tunisia Should Escape from Becoming a Bazaar Economy

Data de publicació:
Francis Ghilès, Senior Research Fellow Associate, CIDOB

Notes internacionals CIDOB, núm. 82

Five years ago, a report on Maghreb regional and global integration concluded that “the real challenge, which confronts this region of 80m people, rich in oil, gas agricultural products and tourism, is to integrate more fully and faster into the international flows of trade and investment. Were they to do so the five countries would have to adapt faster to international norms of economic, legal and maybe, political governance. Such an evolution can only come about through a process of mutual stake building between the different countries, more particularly Algeria and Morocco, which would suggest cross holdings in equity in the energy and banking sectors, but also in transport and food processing”. At the time of writing (December 2013), intra-regional trade among Maghreb countries was only 1.3% of their total merchandise trade, one of the lowest in the world.

Were frontiers between Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauretania to be opened; were investment flows between these countries given a legal framework; were major players like the Algerian state oil and gas monopoly Sonatrach and Morocco’s state Office Chérifien des Phosphates, one of the world’s leading producers of phosphate rock to set up joint ventures; in other words were measures taken to boost the confidence of North Africans in the future of their region, the average annual GDP growth of 2.5% could be increased to 4.5%.

Other studies noted that the two percentage points were too modest. They failed to take account of the multiplying effect greater confidence would bring, notably where private sector investment was concerned. Indeed, were only a fraction of the hundreds of billions of private North African capital held abroad to be repatriated, that would provide a huge fillip to economic growth in the region. Joint ventures between major state companies would send a strong political message. Many private investors from all five countries would be encouraged to invest in producing a greater variety of goods. Giving entrepreneurs a greater role would have created many jobs but also manufactured a lobby for enforceable contracts, the rule of law and – ultimately – more representative government.

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