Regional development and inequality between regions are amongst the most important socioeconomic reasons for the Tunisian uprising that forced the ouster of long-time President Ben Ali. The Tunisian revolution also revealed the existence of large regional differences, and unveiled the fact that many people live in poverty and insecurity.
A major problem is that Tunisia’s interior regions do not receive the same rate of investment as coastal regions. In fact, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INS), in 2005, the rate of poverty in Tunisia’s Center East was 5.4%, in the Center West 29.3% and the South East 14.7%. Moreover, the rate of unemployment in the Center East was 13% as opposed to 14.9% in the Center West and 23.4% in the South East.
With regional development being a major problem in Tunisia, the question arises as to how the new constitution and the new government aim to tackle this challenge. How could political parties and independent lists boost regional investment?
Mohamed Abbou, head of the list of Nabeul 1, proposes to give tax incentives to companies in order to encourage investment in Tunisia’s regional areas. He said that the government should decrease investment in coastal areas while at the same time boosting investment in interior regions. The new government should also implement laws that promote equality between regions, and build hospitals, schools and infrastructures in previously neglected regions.
On another note, Mustapha Ben Jaafer, head of Ettakatol in Tunis 1, suggests that the new constitution has to tackle inequality between the regions. For example, right now, Tunis is divided into three regions and there is a lot of inequality in the standards of living, the cultures and working conditions. Ben Jaafer proposes that Tunis should be divided into five regions that reflect agricultural, cultural, industrial and touristic poles. Every region should consist of two million citizens and have a regional council that the people elect. This council has both a private and a state budget to respond to the essential needs and priorities of the region.
Ben Jaafer also said that the government should provide for equal distribution of wealth through both the private and the state sector. According to his point of view, however, regional development is not only about employment, but also involves arts, cinemas, theatres and sports to educate the youth.