Saturday, March 28, 2015

After the elections priority is to the reforms!

by Hans-Heinrich Bass 8/12/2014

In the birthplace of the Arab Spring, it runs better than in many other countries in the region. The first step is made, then the second must follow. Even Germany can help.
The fair and transparent verlaufenen presidential elections in Tunisia last Sunday show that the country where the Arab Spring began three years ago, is a decisive step forward towards a pluralist democracy. This differs from Tunisia almost all other countries in the region.Can achieve lasting stability Tunisia but only if the second, unequal difficult phase of social reconstruction succeeds: the reform of the economy.
Who moves as president in the palace, which rises on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea over the ruins of the ancient superpower Carthage, will be decided in a runoff election on 28 December. With a slim margin grew out of the first round of the supported non-religious groups Beji Caid el Sebsi - a 87-year-old who has connections to the old regime who can take but also many Tunisians in the new era. Opponent in the interim president Moncef Marzouki, which should be supported by Islamic forces. The Agency is however mainly representative. Is crucial for the future of Tunisia, therefore, who forms the government and how she copes with their tasks.
On the new government waits a Herculean task. On one hand, the per capita income of Tunisia is one of the highest in Africa, the industrial sector is considerable diversity and size, the level of education of the younger generation is impressive. On the other hand, the differences in economic performance between coastal and inland areas are huge.Unemployment is extremely high. Bureaucracy, state monopolies and complacency decisions paralyze progress.
Progress, but
Although Tunisian companies are integrated into global value chains and supply the world market, textiles, electronics, automotive and aircraft parts. But it is mainly products are manufactured or assembled by unskilled labor and low wages. Hotels on the coast are a prime destination for European tourists - but it is almost all about the tourist standard business with low added value. In addition, call center services for the French market; this also an industry that has little potential for development.
Therefore put farsighted Tunisian economic policy on science and innovation as the key to further development. Thus, for example, requests Jelel Ezzine, the President of the Tunisian Science Association, national flagship projects for technology transfer. A modern industrial policy is also intended to privatize another state-owned enterprises, cutting red tape and allow more competition. Just as start-ups could be initiated and existing businesses grow.Only in this way more and better jobs could be created.
Even on a reform of the education system is discussed. Large gaps exist between what is taught in schools and universities, and what the economy needs. Many graduates find a job.On the other hand, foreign companies looking for skilled workers in Tunisia and need new employees for months retrained: practical training, teamwork, leadership qualities - this is particularly missed.
Success of economic reforms, then Tunisia could become a model for the Arab world and the African continent. The small country with its barely eleven million inhabitants could be a Mediterranean Singapore. The failure of this attempt, we risk a fiasco: school leavers would increasingly look for a way across the Mediterranean, in order to find the opportunities denied them the home country. Or find simple solutions: Already Tunisians form one of the largest groups of foreign fighters in the militia of the Islamic State.
In addition: As a result of the civil war in Libya live on Tunisian soil more than one million refugees. Libya is stabilized by a positive development in Tunisia, they could form an economic and cultural bridge between the two countries. Tunisia is destabilized by the events in Libya, the refugees could exacerbate tensions.
Partnerships at all levels need
Sandwiched between the deadlocked civil war in Libya and the powder keg Algeria, whose authoritarian government will fall sooner or later, the hope of the modern elites Tunisia to working with Europe depends. More than any other country in the region could be the small Tunisia to an anchor of stability and prosperity in North Africa and in the Arab world - if it would get support from outside.
Europe should not miss this chance to help stabilize the region. Germany could thereby even take a leadership role - based on our strengths in education and technology in these areas as partners welcome than the former colonial power France. However, the German policy towards Tunisia would have to be coherent in itself. Still too many actors with sometimes contradictory concepts are in Tunisia on the go.
A general plan for economic reform in Tunisia in any case should be strongly supported by Europe and Germany - with partnerships at all levels. This could not last also contribute German companies and universities.
The article was written with Karl Wohlmuth, Professor Emeritus of the Department of "comparative economic systems" at the University of Bremen.
Read more reviews of this debate: Anna Fleischer , Sahar El-Nadi , Moshe Zimmermann .