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Following the Tunisian revolution, the African Development Bank (AfDB) President, Donald Kaberuka, met with Tunisian Interim Prime Minister, Mohamed Ghannouchi, on Monday, 14 February 2011 in Tunis, where they discussed challenges facing the government and ways in which the Bank could provide support.
Prime Minister Ghannouchi discussed the government’s priorities and the areas where it require support. These would include unemployment, regional inequalities, equipping disfavored regions, investment in infrastructure, supporting governance, and recovery of illicit assets Mr. Kaberuka said that the Bank would work with the Tunisian government as part of the global effort for the country’s recovery and smooth transition.
“We understand the need and challenges facing Tunisia and the context; we, Africa’s leading development finance institution, would like to be at the forefront of helping Tunisia as it enters this key phase of history and we call upon other partners to join us in this endeavour,” he said.
Addressing the media later in the day, the AfDB President noted that Tunisia remained a key partner and the Bank’s second client. “We have various commitments to the country at this time totaling 1.4 billion dollars of which about 80% is already disbursed, including a total of nearly 250 million dollars to the private sector,” he added.
He cited Tunisia’s long-standing challenges such as unemployment currently standing at between 13 and 15%. The country’s economic growth was only able to create some 65,000 jobs per year which were not enough. Besides, one-third of the country’s population lives in rural areas while about a million Tunisians live in poverty.
According to Tunisian authorities, the situation has further deteriorated following the revolution which resulted in losses estimated at between USD 5 and 8 billion. Tourism receipts have been seriously affected, key investments have been put on hold and thousands of jobs have been lost.
“Our projection is that at best the economy will contract or grow at a slow pace of 1.6% to 2%,” President Kaberuka said, expressing his keenness to work with the government in the process of economic recovery, “a recovery that can create jobs and opportunities”.
He cited priority areas to include tackling state budget problems, speedy budget support disbursement to tackle social problems, and support in all areas of governance.
The Bank, he said, has ongoing infrastructure projects in Tunisia, adding that it has, along with the World Bank, received demands of assistance in the recovery of illicit assets.
Mr. Kaberuka said the Bank’s full confidence in Tunis remains intact, explaining that “until the situation in Abidjan normalizes; Tunis remains the temporary relocation and a suitable working location.”
During the demonstration, the Bank remained operational in Tunis, with minimal disruptions and only had to adjust to curfew exigencies.
The AfDB President seized the opportunity to thank the Tunisian people and the authorities for their hospitality in the past eight years and for their support during the revolution.
“It is too early to draw all the conclusions, what is clear though is that greater attention must now be given to the issues of social inclusion, and opportunities for the youth, opportunities in the broad sense, economic, social and political,” he concluded.