Tunisia: Economy, road to recovery still long

Report by central bank sends out contrasting signals

19 April, 16:23

(ANSAmed) - TUNIS, APRIL 19 - Tunisia has not been spared by international difficulties linked to a crisis that for years has dealt particularly heavy blows to the economies of countries that do not produce raw materials. The country has also been marked by political upheaval in the last year, with the transition from dictatorship to democracy, but this may be better interpreted as the crossover from one power system centred entirely on a rapacious oligarchy to another, with Tunisia forced to reset itself almost entirely, as it continues to search for an identity and a position in the region. Tunisia's economic figures for the first quarter of 2012 were awaited with great apprehension, amid hope that the timid signs of recovery seen fleetingly in the last few months of last year could be interpreted as a consolidation of Tunisia's road to revival.

The report by Tunisia's central bank has shed some light on the matter and, though it reported encouraging factors, also confirmed a state of crisis, particularly in certain export sectors.

The bank says that tourism and equipment exports continue to be "positive", while exports in the manufacturing and services sectors (transport in particular) continue to suffer.

While there has been a fall in exports, which have always represented a strategic sector for the economy of a country that specialises in transformation and has few raw materials, imports have risen, particularly in the manufacturing sector, with mechanical and electrical goods, textiles and clothing leading the way, a factor that has worsened Tunisia's payment balance.

The overview is made more delicate by the situation of the country's reserves. In the first quarter of the year, net reserves totalled 9.947 billion dinars (around 4.5 billion euros), the equivalent of 101 days worth of imports, against 113 days at the end of 2011. At the end of 2010, meanwhile, the figure stood at 147 days.

With regard to the banking sector, there was a fall in the number of deposits and a rise in non-performing credits, which has put inevitable pressure on the liquidity of banks and therefore upon their ability to finance the economy.

As a result, the average interest rate on the monetary market has been forced up to 3.73% at the start of April, from a figure of 3.48% in March, despite the "injection" decided by the central bank's monetary system (3.4 billion dinars at the beginning of March).

As far as inflation is concerned, prices have largely remained the same, with the figure reaching 5.4%. (ANSAmed).

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