Tunis/Tunisia — "The state cannot continue to function while devoting nearly half of the budget to the wage bill, to the detriment of development and investment," said Confederation of Tunisian Citizen Enterprises (CONECT) President Tarek Cherif in a statement to TAP.
Cherif criticized the distribution of the State budget for 2020, estimated at 47 billion dinars, saying that 40% of this budget has been allocated to salaries and about 9% to compensation, while only 8% is reserved for investment.
In 2020, wage expenditure is estimated at 19 billion dinars, an increase of 10.9% compared to 2019. This expenditure represents 15.1% of GDP, one of the highest rates in the world, which has provoked criticism from the IMF and all of Tunisia's economic partners, according to several economists.
According to these experts, the problem is not in the wage bill but rather in the considerable increase in the number of employees in the public sector, since the surplus workforce in the Tunisian administration is estimated at 200 thousand civil servants, representing a wage bill exceeding 5 billion dinars.
Commenting on the draft 2020 budget, Cherif said that "the same causes produce the same effects; the initial finance law will require a complementary finance law, and so on. This means more credit, more debt and exit from the international financial market.
He pointed out that "the haemorrhaging of debt in addition to the wage bill reduces the government's room for manoeuvre in promoting development and job creation. In fact, the credits devoted in the draft finance law 2020 to public investments are estimated at only 6 billion dinars.
Devise a strategy to encourage voluntary departure from the administration:
To overcome the problem of the inflated wage bill in the public administration, which has 800,000 employees, CONECT President called on the government to devise a strategy over at least 10 years, to encourage civil servants to leave the public administration voluntarily, while granting them their full rights and granting them significant financial and social benefits.
He also recommended launching investment funds to help people who leave the administration to create private projects and own businesses. The State may also use external funding to support this programme, given the problems affecting social security funds.
"This measure will help reduce government spending and thus enable it to direct the amounts spent on salaries towards other more important and profitable sectors, including investment, development, education, transport and health, as well as to implement decisions made in the digitisation field," Cherif argued.
In this regard, he stressed the importance of investing in education and changing the current education system into an "education for the future," by working out curricula in line with the labour market and technological and digital developments.
It is necessary, he insisted, to "go beyond the curricula of the 1940s that produce unemployed people and develop others based on science, mathematics, research and technology."
Cherif cited the example of India, which has more than a billion and a half inhabitants but a growth rate of more than 7%, thanks to its modern educational system which guarantees a presence in several countries, particularly in the field of information technology.
Need to reduce state supervision of public enterprises:
The President of CONECT considered that the increase in the wage bill is mainly due to the strong State supervision in several sectors, which explains the large number of civil servants in administrations and public companies.
Cherif thus called for a reduction in the State supervision of companies and sectors, indicating that the current public finance situation does not allow the State to support the continuous annual losses of public companies (102 companies). "The State must consider withdrawing or limiting its shareholdings in these companies."
Reducing State supervision would diversify supply, promote competition and improve the level of services in the various sectors, he explained, considering that "privatization aims to prepare companies to operate in a competitive climate, able to boost productive economic activities and ensure complementarity between the public and private sectors.
He added: To "continue" privatization does not mean the total transfer of state assets. The State can retain ownership and entrust the governance and management of these assets to the private sector, which will benefit all parties.
According to him," this solution is easy to apply. It simply requires the will to make the State's interest prevail. "We claim quality of performance, not ownership. The problem in Tunisia is that some parties want to impose their positions, without dialogue or consultation.
Regarding the UGTT's position on the privatisation issue, Cherif said "I do not think that it will reject privatisation as a solution to restore the financial balance of companies in difficulty, especially since it has already used this solution, BY privatizing the insurance company and the Hotel it owned