News / Africa

Tunisia's Political Deadlock Fuels Economic Frustration

Henry Ridgwell
As the political deadlock in Tunisia continues following the killing of opposition figure Chokri Belaid, there is growing frustration on the streets that little progress is being made in tackling the country’s urgent economic problems.

Tunisia’s revolution was sparked when a fruit seller set himself on fire - an extreme protest against being fined for setting his stall in an illegal place.

Two years later, the dictator is gone but at the market stalls in Tunis the hardship remains. Butcher Mustapha says these days his customers spend less than a dollar a day.

“People can no longer buy a big piece of meat,” he says. “Even chicken is now out of reach for many. It takes 3 or 4 days for me to sell the meat from one sheep,” he said.

Last year Tunisia’s GDP rebounded by 2.7 percent - but high inflation and unemployment weigh on the economy.

The Coficab factory in Tunisia (Henry Ridgwell/VOA)The Coficab factory in Tunisia (Henry Ridgwell/VOA)
x
The Coficab factory in Tunisia (Henry Ridgwell/VOA)
The Coficab factory in Tunisia (Henry Ridgwell/VOA)
The Coficab factory produces thousands of kilometers of electrical cable every day. Its General Manager Hichem Elloumi - who is also vice president of the Association of Employers - says economic problems have compounded.

“Security is not perfect. Also [there are] social problems in the companies. Also the crisis in the European Union was a big problem for us, as you know that the European Union is our first economical partner,” said Elloumi.

Over 80 percent of Tunisian exports go to the European Union and with economic output shrinking in many of the EU’s biggest economies at the end of 2012, the outlook remains tough.

From the street to the boardroom, many Tunisians complain that politicians spend too much time debating the future instead of tackling Tunisia’s urgent problems.

The assassination of Chokri Belaid has plunged Tunisia deeper into political crisis, says Fadhel Abdelkefi, chairman of the Tunis stock exchange.

“I hope that the politicians will find agreement soon,” he said. “Once that happens, the number of people in the Cabinet must be dramatically cut. And above all, the National Assembly must be given a deadline to say you have ‘x’ months, 2, 3, 4 or 5 months, to finish the constitution, and they must only work on that."

Government spokesperson Samir Dilou says not all the criticism is fair.

“This government has made an effort and realized some positive results,” Dilou said. “But it hasn’t succeeded in other challenges. But everybody is accountable for this. In all democracies, responsibility does not only rest with those who govern, but with all their partners - civil society, the opposition and the private sector.”

Tourism is vital to Tunisia’s economy. Visitor numbers dropped after the revolution but picked up last year.

The 14th century souk in Tunis is one of the city’s top attractions.

Lamp-seller Jamel Bengourbha has seen the impact of the recent troubles on his business.

“The image now in Europe is that Tunisia is a terrorist country. It’s made tourists avoid Tunisia. But we still have hope in the future, God willing,” he said.

Many Tunisians had hoped that the political upheaval of 2011 was part of history. Now they want the politicians to bring a swift end to this latest chapter of unrest.

You May Like

This US Epidemic Keeps Getting Worse

One in 4 Americans suffers from this condition More

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: JKF from: Ottawa, Canada
February 16, 2013 11:38 AM
The continued problems in less economically develop countries, like Tunisia and other like countries, needs to be addressed through the rationalization and protection of their internal producers. Help needs to be provided, by international economic orgs like the WB, to ensure each of these nations can in fact produce the basics, that people need, and ensure that the producers generate/employ local people; consideration needs to be given/planned for to ensure local producers can even meet the demand for some of the lower level industrial products, even it is is only at the assambly level. The other aspect is to help them develop their natural resources and ensure that there is an actual distribution of the earnings of resources, through and to the national economy, and stamp out corruption. Foreign resource exploiters need to be forced to train and employ local nationals; the massive numbers of foreign nationals working on many resource projects needs to be gradually reduced, and over time it should be avoided or outright outlawed. It may not be as an efficient economic model, "the globalization model" that has made so many billionares, but it will be cheaper/safer on the long run, than to fight global jihadists.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs