On November 9th, Islamist party Ennahda told the Tunisian stock exchange on they will promote greater options in Islamic finance. The party did not elaborate much on reforming the current conventional financial system.
In an effort to reassure investors, the moderate Islamist party Ennahda did not hesitate to meet with the different actors of the Tunisian stock exchange. On October 28th, Ennahdha’s leader Rached Ghannouchi met with the manager of the Tunisian stock exchange in an attempt to show the party’s willingness to support a liberal economy. The meeting resulted in an improvement in the next day’s stock trading session.
Ennahda repeated the initiative by meeting the AIB (The Association of Stock Exchange Brokers) on November 9th, in an effort to reaffirm its commitment to an open and liberal economy.
The Ennahdha delegation participating in the meeting was formed by several top officials, namely Hammadi Jebali (Secretary General and possibly the next prime minister), Ridha Saidi, and Ridha Chkoundali (both members of the executive board).
Mr. Jebali reassured attendees about the party’s intentions by mentioning the most important aspect of the party’s program: “The new constitution will ensure the participation all the parts of society – we are not afraid of political diversity. We respect all opinions, whether they are Islamic or not. Our rule will be based on freedom, democracy and respect for human rights,” Mr. Jebali said.
As far as the stock exchange is concerned, Mr. Riadh Saidi pledged for greater representation of the Tunisian economy in the BVMT (Tunisian stock exchange): “The stock exchange should reflect the Tunisian economy. There are only 56 companies participating in the Tunisian stock exchange which is not really reflecting the Tunisian economy.”
Mr. Riadh Saidi also stressed the need for reforming the banking system and the adoption of an Islamic financial system, along with conventional financial measures, to step up the banking system. Globally, there are over 70 Islamic financial products. However in Tunisia, only 3 or 4 product are provided by few existing Islamic banks. Furthermore, Mr. Saidi proposed giving Tunisia a more active role in the region: “We have to make Tunisia a regional financial hub so that we are able to attract foreign investments.”
The meeting did not focus exclusively on the Tunisian stock exchange. Ennahda representatives were also asked about their proposed plan to create 588,000 jobs in 5 years, which was considered impossible by some of the conference’s participants.
Mr. Ridha Chkoundali answered, “588,000 is possible, we have to reach a 7% growth each year in order to deal with unemployment. It is worthy to mention that 1% growth rate yields 20,000 jobs. Tunisian average growth in the last 5 years is around 5%. Mathematically, if we succeed in reaching a 7% growth rate during the period between 2012 and 2016, we should overcome unemployment.”
Mr. Chkoundali added: “Ennahda aims to further partnerships with all regional actors. Indeed, the Maghreb Union is a waste in terms of economic growth. It costs countries in the region 2% a year in economic growth.”