State has regulatory role in economy, not actor (Ferid Belhaj)

November 28, 2021

(TAP) - The state has a fundamental and central role of regulating the economy, and should in no case be an economic actor, said Vice President of the World Bank (WB) for the Middle East and North Africa, Farid Belhadj.

'Today, in the region, the common denominator is the extremely heavy role of the state in the economy. We see in a number of countries efforts to widen the way to the private sector but with regulation,' he added, during a webinar organised by the IT Business School of Nabeul under the theme 'The Tunisian Economy where are we going?

To do so, Belhaj recommended guaranteeing more transparency, as well as a new governance and introducing a regulatory economic and social judicial system that gives more confidence to economic actors.

He also recalled that the WB has two priorities in Tunisia, namely the social component and reforms related to compensation, public enterprises and the wage bill.

However, the official noted that Tunisia needs neither the WB nor the IMF, but rather its own people and itself. 'The country needs a real political will to change the way it is managed,' he explained.

He added: 'I am talking about the economic and social dimension. We are not talking about politics but rather about development and reforms'.

For Belhaj, the multilateral institutions, of which Tunisia is a member, have an important role to play because they can bring added value, particularly in terms of international experience and benchmarking...

'It is an interaction between the two parties,' said the official, considering that it is not a question of the WB conditioning its commitment by political and democratic dimensions because the objective is to find the means that will allow the country's economy to open up further.

Regarding the current situation, Belhaj described Tunisia's economic situation as 'chaotic, extremely worrying and without a clear direction'.

'Each time there is a new government in all the countries we work on, the WB proposes a white paper giving recommendations according to the data observed,' Belhaj recalled, adding that this roadmap includes the points that should be priorities.

For his part, the President of the Order of Chartered Accountants, Walid Ben Salah, stressed that the state must play a dynamic role according to a new approach and a clear vision in order to be a regulator while liberalizing the private sector initiative.

The State is considered, today, as an obstacle especially with the administrative procedures, the weight of the State budget on the national economy and the blockages in several essential sectors, he said.

He also recalled that the structural vulnerabilities that have persisted for several years and the COVID-19 crisis are at the origin of the chaotic economic situation.

For his part, former minister and president of the Afek Tounes party, Fadhel Abdelkefi recalled that the post-revolution period was marked by the stoppage of the three main engines of growth, namely the investment budget, the private sector and international investment.

Tunisia has enormous economic potential, Abdelkefi said, adding that the only way out of this situation is to put the country back to work and create wealth. Democracy can only be consolidated by economic prosperity, he said.

He recommended, in this context, the need to upgrade the country's legal arsenal as the current laws are inapplicable, obsolete and can no longer function in a globalised economy. The legal arsenal that affects the Tunisian and international economic agent must be simplified, he said.

For Hedi Larbi, lecturer at the Harvard School of Government, economic and social development is a very complex problem that requires structural reforms and not small temporary reforms.

This development depends on the quality of the economic, political and social institutions that make a country develop or not develop.

In this context, he stressed the need to develop a roadmap and ensure the establishment of economic and political institutions conducive to development.

He called for the elaboration of a programme to revive and rescue the economy and a public investment programme to upgrade public services, infrastructure and enterprises and to boost production.


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