Tunisia's Trade Deficit Doubles - Tunisia Live Tunisia's Trade Deficit Doubles - Tunisia Live
Tunisia’s Trade Deficit Doubles

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Tunisia’s Trade Deficit Doubles

Cargo such as these are loaded by the hundreds each day in La Goulette Port before heading to Europe and other international destinations.

Over 2,000 years ago, ancient Carthage dominated trade throughout the Mediterranean region, exporting textiles, agriculture, artisanal work, manufactured goods and precious minerals. Fast-forward to the present day and Tunisia “ home to Carthage's proud ruins “ is reeling from an acute trade deficit.

According to data released by the National Statistics Institute (INS) this past Thursday, the country's trade imbalance almost doubled, swelling from 559.3 million Tunisian Dinars (MTD) in January 2011 to 1009.3 MTD in January 2012.  Although Tunisia has generally posted trade deficits of varying severity in its recent history, the latest figure stands out from past ones.

A confluence of factors “ both global and domestic “ have contributed to Tunisia's deepening trade imbalance.

Across the Mediterranean, the European Union, the destination for nearly 80% of Tunisia's exports, is saddled by debt and the integrity of its Eurozone in question.  As European economies contract, the ripple effects will surely reach Tunisia's shores, negatively affecting its exporting industries, said Skander Ounaies, an Economics professor at IHEC Carthage (University of Carthage) and former economist at the Sovereign Wealth Fund of Kuwait.

At home, exporting sectors, such as mining and manufacturing, have witnessed worker productivity and output hampered by frequent strikes, forcing the interim government to act as an ombudsman between management and union workers in several instances.  Even in spite of the widespread exaltation of Tunisia's democratic progress, the uncertainties in the post-revolution economy have led to declines in foreign direct investment (FDI), which stand in the way of developing exporting industries “ old and new, stated Ounaies.

The recent numbers, published by the INS, add to an already long litany of economic woes besetting Tunisia. The state of the economy continues to pose a challenge for the government, which finds itself under enormous pressure to initiate an economic recovery and show positive results to an apprehensive public.

Yet, there is a silver lining in the available export-import data that brings cautioned optimism to Hafedh Ben Abdennebi, a professor at IHEC Carthage (University of Carthage) and expert in Economic Development.

In the past six years, textile exports have increased and eclipsed imports.  Tunisia has beaten Asia to European markets due to its proximity and consequent ability to make on-time deliveries.

Tunisia’s Textile Trade
All figures are in Million Tunisian Dinars
All data from National Institute of Statistics

Electrical industries have seen their exports rising after overtaking imports in 2007.  In the past decade, the sector has streamlined production procedures and retooled factories, translating into greater competitiveness in accessing other markets.

Tunisia’s Electrical Industry Trade
All figures are in Million Tunisian Dinars
All data from National Institute of Statistics

The textile and electrical industries are not the only two promising areas, which could serve as a beachhead to fixing Tunisia's trade imbalance.  The energy sector is set to expand with large investments in Tunisia's first solar energy projects in its southern Saharan region. The prodigious solar resources in the desert “ between 280 and 300 days of the year are sunny in the south “ can open the doors for investment, asserted Abdennebi.  The potential development of a solar energy industry could in effect boost overall exports from the energy sector.

When asked whether Tunisia has the wherewithal to balance the trade deficit by strengthening its exporting industries, Abdennebi points to an intangible feature of the country's workforce.  The advantage of Tunisia is that it has an enormous resource of human capital.  All that is necessary is to improve the vocational training for young Tunisians soon entering industries of all kinds, stated Abdennebi.

 

  • Afif

    This article addresses things that we Tunisians think are silly. Whether we have a trade deficit or surplus, it is the same to us and as such, both sides of the equations are equal.
    Because we have surpassed the Americans, by learning how to live off air and wate alone, the economy is of little interest to us. This is due in part to the wisdom and tenacity of the hand of the prior regime.
    We are rather more interested in the “Niquab”,the “Salafis”, Valentine’s day, the imperialism of Doha and its satellite above called Al-Jazeera, the desire to have the highest number of strikes in the world in the shortest period of time, a debate as to whether we should have a demonstration for or against Syrian’s Assad, and out utmost rush to throw a tampa tantrum for the slightest grievane we may have.
    I think we should simply all stop going to work..the trade suplus or deficit will balance each other out. In the meantime, we should have a debate as to what came first, the horse or the cart. Since will most assuredly disagree, we should also have a horse-or-the cart demonstration day. This way, we may reach the same legendary success and renown of Swift’s famous Laputa. Since we speak Arabic, we will call it the same thing, but it would start with the letter K. Watchathink??

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