Magharebia (Washington DC)

3 April 2014

Tunisia: 'Tunisia Needs Marshall Plan'

interview

Tunis — Amid growing discontent with Tunisia's financial situation, many look to experts for a way out of the crisis.

Nabil Abdellatif, head of the Chartered Certified Accountants Society in Tunisia, talked to Magharebia about tax evasion, the parallel economy and offered solutions for unemployed youth.

Magharebia: How can Tunisia resolve the budget crisis in 2014?

Nabil Abdellatif: The solution lies in a Marshall Plan, provided it is based on a participatory approach...

Magharebia: Mehdi Jomaa's government said it would turn to citizens to alleviate the national debt. What's your opinion about that?

Nabil Abdellatif: I think it's a last resort solution; and to ensure its efficacy, it must be directed to achieve a consensus between all parties.

Even better, it should be through a sovereign fund owned by the Tunisian state, which uses it for development purposes.

The state should follow up its performance without integrating this loan into the budget.

However, necessary action must be taken to protect us from money laundering.

Magharebia: What's your opinion of the Tunisia subsidy reform?

Nabil Abdellatif: There must be parallel solutions to protect the middle and poorer working class from the negative repercussions of the subsidy system restructuring, such as improving the minimum wage and focusing on shifting the best part of the burden to institutions with heavy consumption of energy.

Magharebia: Do you support the incorporation of the parallel economy into the mainstream one?

Nabil Abdellatif: Yes, I am with its integration into the formal economic cycle.

So you know, parallel economic output increased to 60 percent and exceeded the 10 billion dinar threshold.

It even turned to smuggling subsidised products, weapons and drugs.

That is why tax free border zones should be established in addition to the creation of a special preferential tax system and a social welfare for street sellers.

This way, we can focus security and military efforts to combat illegal drug and weapon smuggling...

Magharebia: What should the government do to deal with tax evasion?

Nabil Abdellatif: It should launch an economic dialogue as soon as possible and seek to establish a committee similar to the constitutional one with the task to draw a roadmap on sustainable development and the protection of future generations.

This committee will therefore set up a plan to save the economy.

The economic roadmap should then be implemented through a legal text called the Protection and Revival of the Tunisian Economy Law, which would be a shield that prevents the collapse of the economy and helps overcome the current difficulties to complete development projects.

Magharebia: The government announced it would freeze new appointments in the civil service. How can young people find employment?

Nabil Abdellatif: There is a paradox in Tunisia; the unemployment rate rose, but at the same time the institutions complain of lack of efficiency and cost-effectiveness of Tunisian labour power.

In my opinion, the problem resides in the lack of proportionality between the training received by the youth and the requirements of the labour market.

Therefore, the optimal solution is the launch of a national program to improve the employment rate of the jobless, based on plans that are responsive to the requirements of Tunisian companies.

As for young people who want to start their own projects, the solution lies in the creation of regional agencies.

One is the high authority for investment, which specialises in looking for funding for these projects and supporting them, on condition that such a program is backed by the state, which should follow up on the progress of these projects.

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