Tunisia has received around $8 billion in pledges of loans and grants from regional and western powers to be introduced over the next four years.
The funds, announced during the two day Tunisia2020 investment conference is hoped to smooth the way for Tunisia’s continued democratic transition and will help the country tackle its widespread unemployment problems and dearth of infrastructure within much of the country’s interior.
“Tunisia has been passing through a very particular phase and requires a level of support that it would not normally need,” President Beji Caid Essebsi told the conference.
Qatar has been the largest donar, pledging $1.25 billion in aid, the largest single donation to Tunisia since the 2011 revolution. The European Investment Bank (EIB) has also said it would lend Tunisia some, 2.9 billion euros ($3.1 billion) by 2020, while the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development committed to $1.5 billion in soft loans over the same period. Saudi Arabia has committed to providing $800 million and Italy 560 million euros ($595 million) in loans and aid. Kuwait said it would lend the country, $500 million, and Turkey announced it would deposit a $100 million zero-interest loan at Tunisia’s central bank.
The purpose of the conference was said to be twofold, to both attract foreign aid and boost investor confidence within Tunisia, which has seen a flight of foreign investment during the volatile years after the revolution. However, economic analyst Ezzdine Saidane told Reuters, “A large number of the announcements were for loans for projects. We didn’t hear that much about investments… Loans are fine but they are also going to deepen Tunisia’s debt.”
France, the main sponsor of the event along with Qatar said it would allow Tunisia to convert an unspecified amount of debt into financing for new investments. Tunisia said it had a pledge from Qatar to postpone the repayment of $500 million in debt.